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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Hearthfire review

So you’ve travelled the countryside, slayed countless beasts, and saved the world. What’s a Dovahkiin left to do? Build a house and raise a family, of course! The newest add-on to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim allows you to do just that with Hearthfire. Upon first glance, you may assume that Hearthfire has the depth and mechanics of Minecraft, the game that most evidently inspires this pack, but unfortunately much more time is spent at the carpenter’s workbench than at the drafting table. With its limits and its small additions, this new DLC may not be a must-have for every Skyrim player.

Hearthfire’s content is available right from the get-go, regardless of how far along you are in the main storyline. Enter a town, and a courier approaches you with a letter from a Jarl, informing you some property is available for purchase. Visit the Jarl who sent you the letter, jump through some hoops, and you’re on your way to becoming a proud landowner. However, the only land you can own are specific plots near the towns of Falkreath, Morthal, or Dawnstar. Choosing between the limited options isn’t an issue--not only because you can purchase all three, but because the only difference is the view.

Above: Check out this house building gameplay for Hearthfire!

Beginning the project is simple. There is one design available on the draft table, and once moved to the carpenter’s workbench, the process becomes very similar to smithing. It’s rewarding to see the finished small wooden house, but once you realize there is only one pre-made model to build up to, the sense of satisfaction fades quickly.

The addition of eastern, northern, and western wings allows a limited amount of customization. For each wing, there are three different additions to choose from, like a trophy room or enchanting tower. Hiring a steward eases the burdens of building such a large estate, as he or she can purchase, and deliver, materials directly to the site. Stewards can also furnish the house for you. This helps reduces the tediousness immensely, considering wandering around for raw materials isn’t exactly the most fun task in Skyrim.

Don’t worry about the steward arranging the house without guidance. Each item has a predetermined space which it is destined to occupy. Disappointingly, even if you create every piece yourself with the workbenches inside, the furniture still ends up in that same predetermined spot. It makes things move along more quickly, but there is little in the terms of interior design going on, other than item arrangement. Maybe you’d like a shelf with a cabbage, or maybe a sack of potatoes. Those possibilities are endless!

Once the house is furnished, you can adopt a child. If you owned a house prior to this point, you would have already received a letter with info on how.It’s an interesting addition that completes the family dynamic that marriage started, but there is little to it. You can give gifts to or play games with the adopted children, but once you’ve exhausted the dialogue options, there is little reason for you to interact with them again. Their presence, along with the spouse if you have one, simply make your house feel more realistically inhabited.

The additions are nifty, but Hearthfire isn’t for every Dragonborn. If you want to create a unique house in Skyrim, this add-on won’t provide that for you. If you want an easily accessible hub with everything you need in one place, or you’re an avid collector who needs space to display your ever-growing lot of treasures, Hearthfire was made with you in mind. Even if it may disappoint, the bitterness won’t linger for long, thanks to the relatively low price tag compared to bigger DLC packs.

Our Verdict

Proceed with caution

18 comments

  • BottleBank - September 13, 2012 5:07 a.m.

    It's fairly cheap. But since i killed my wife (in the game), i think i'll pass, as i don't fancy adopting a demon spawn child all on my own, and the building aspect seems limited. At least it is something a bit different though.
  • lazer59882 - September 9, 2012 12:54 p.m.

    "thanks to the relatively low price point" soooo...how much is it? am i missing that info somewhere on this page?
  • tichtat - September 11, 2012 12:07 p.m.

    Five bucks.
  • mbavalo - September 9, 2012 6:57 a.m.

    And PS3 owners still do not have Dawnguard while Bethesda makes new DLC? Shame Bethesda.. I was almost liking you, until you did this to me and countless other PS3 owners
  • Blazdav - September 9, 2012 11:02 a.m.

    Because I'm sure you wouldn't complain if they released it in its current, buggy state.
  • mbavalo - September 12, 2012 12:47 p.m.

    I wouldn't complain if they actually finished making Skyrim for the PS3, and not release a half baked slide show. Skyrim is an awesome game, and I hate it when playing it alone get's frustrating
  • Chronicus_Pr1me - September 8, 2012 9:49 p.m.

    I love it. I've been getting sucked back into Skyrim slowly but surely. There's craploads of stuff to build. Each room you create gets it's own dedicated furniture selections. Run out of materials? Mine it,buy it, kill it & build it. Now if they could only fix the way you move items around. Holding down A or X (PSN) is not cutting it.
  • talleyXIV - September 8, 2012 7:44 p.m.

    So how about that Dawnguard DLC for PS3, eh Bethesda? No excuses anymore, they can't make a port happen within 3 months, but they can make a brand new DLC... Terrible lying right there, I guess they don't like money.
  • zelta38 - September 9, 2012 3:21 a.m.

    Based on the news so far it looks like Bethesda is having serious technical issues preventing them from releasing Dawnguard for PS3. Seeing how much they botched the PS3 port in the first place it is possible that even their DLC infrastructure for the PS3 version cannot handle Dawnguard as it stands and they are working with Sony to try and solve this problem. Of course, Sony will help as much as they can to ensure the viability of their platform but Bethesda should be taken to task for producing a technically broken port to begin with. That's what users get for accepting this for so many years.
  • zombi3grim - September 8, 2012 2:17 p.m.

    400 MSP aint bad at all. I'll buy it for the cheevos.
  • Jacko415 - September 7, 2012 7:29 p.m.

    Can we get Divorced yet and Remarry? that would be nice.
  • Fenderstat - September 7, 2012 5:59 p.m.

    I'll only get this is if it's a requirement for future mods, I believe it has potential if your into role playing and only own a console but it hasn't got the grab power for your regular mod whore PC man like myself and most other Skyrim PC guys who still play the game regularly.
  • SpookMeister - September 7, 2012 5:45 p.m.

    Isn't this Completely useless for pc users?
  • TechnicalFart - September 7, 2012 5 p.m.

    Looks interesting, but it's not something that will get me to jump back into Skyrim.
  • Cwf2008 - September 7, 2012 4:26 p.m.

    Looks rather disappointing but at the same time I might actually get this since it's not too pricey...
  • Child Of Death - September 7, 2012 3:28 p.m.

    I was really disapointed when I heard what Hearthfire was about. I was hoping for another epic adventure like Dawngaurd. I will most definetely pass on this.

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