The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Dawnguard review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim already has a seemingly endless amount of secret caves, quests, and magical weapons, but the title’s first DLC pack, Dawnguard, adds another huge chunk of adventuring to the already massive world. There are new powers, quests, shouts, spells, weapons, and summons. It’s everything a Skyrim completionist could want, plus an engrossing storyline that takes you to new mysterious locations. Dawnguard delves deeper into the Elder Scrolls’ paranormal side, exploring the role of vampires, werewolves and a secret order of vampire hunters.

The content is accessible as soon as you download it, and there are no level requirements. If you are level 10 or higher, a conversation with any guard in any major city or town triggers a waypoint to the small cave that leads to a relatively small, isolated valley housing Dawnguard Keep. Once there, you’ll meet the rag-tag group of vampire hunters, called the Dawnguard, led by the vengeful veteran Isran. They’ve noticed that the vampires have been up to something and, naturally, they send their newest recruit (you) out to investigate.

The primary mission will take about 15 to 20 hours to play through, but if you take the time to jump into the rewarding side-quests, look at another dozen or so to clock in. In Dawnguard, vampires take center stage from the dragons in the core game. Once the vampire hunters set you up with a brand new crossbow and shoo you away to fight the blood-sucking undead, you'll eventually stumble upon an your second possible future home, the vampire castle Volkihar. Without going into too many story details, you're eventually given the choice between remaining a human, Dawnguard vampire hunter and fighting to stop the vampires’ devious plans for world domination or taking a pair of fangs to the neck from the Vampire Lord Harkon, one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in Tamriel, and becoming a Vampire Lord yourself.

The latter not only grants you the powers and weaknesses of becoming infected by Vampirism but also enables you to transform into a Vampire Lord. The transformation works similarly to changing into werewolf, except with an on/off switch rather than a time limit. You'll be forced into third person mode, you'll be attacked on sight in towns, and you're unable to interact with objects in the environment, except doors – which becomes slightly annoying when you are constantly switching back and forth between man and monster. 

In the Vampire Lord form, you'll have access to powerful magic abilities that suck the lifeforce out of your enemies, raise the dead to fight for you, or telepathically force-choke victims. You can bleed victims dry using the bite attack or Drain Life spell, which earn points to spend in the Vampire Lord skill tree, which grants you even more powerful abilities like Poison Talons, Summon Gargoyle, or Mist Form. It’s immensely satisfying to embody an all-powerful Vampire Lord. You feel almost invincible one-shotting bandits and teleporting around the battlefield as a swarm of bats, but there is also a price for your newfound powers. 

Daytime combat is out of the question as a vampire. Stamina, health and magic pools do not regenerate, so venturing out at night is your best bet at remaining alive – er… undead. The restriction grows annoying, since it handcuffs your ability to do something as simple as killing some bandits in a cave. 

If you want to walk on the hairier side of bestial transformations, werewolves also get an ability tree of their own – but it’s less intricate than the Vampire Lord’s. By feeding on your victims, you’ll earn perks that add to stamina, as well as health and damage attributes that help your beast get stronger, but the most interesting unlockable abilities allow your werewolf to summon wolves and eventually other werewolves. Unfortunately, vampire and werewolf blood doesn’t mix, so you will have to choose one or the other.

Dawnguard adds a massive amount of content to the world of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The choices made in the main questline demand multiple playthroughs, there are entirely new, open areas to explore, and the story has more than a few epic moments. If you’ve seen all Skyrim has to offer and are looking for yet another adventure or you just want be an all-powerful badass, Dawnguard has what you are looking for. It’s a hefty purchase, but the quality you’ll get out of Dawnguard is well worth the investment, both in points and time. 

Our Verdict

Buy it

This downloadable content was reviewed using the Xbox 360 version of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Dawnguard.


  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - July 6, 2012 7:57 p.m.

    I love Dawnguard, but I've encountered more glitches/freezes in the first few hours of gameplay than I have in the entire game.
  • zombi3grim - July 4, 2012 4:37 p.m.

    This is one of the best DLC's released in a long time. Its huge, you get your moneys worth. Who cares if its not on PC. NOTHING comes out on PC first anymore. Get over it.
  • FauxFurry - July 4, 2012 6:59 a.m.

    If it means anything to anyone ever, the Dawnguard expansion also provides a new type of jewelry to craft. Oh, and one can make a Shellbug Helmet just because.
  • usmovers_02 - July 3, 2012 8:57 p.m.

    As a PC player, I don't even understand the point of DLC. Mods are free and add far more interesting things that any paid DLC Bethesda has ever done. Sure, 99% of mods are garbage, but that 1% is totally worth it.
  • AuthorityFigure - July 4, 2012 12:53 a.m.

    If the modders could charge you to play too, they would.
  • usmovers_02 - July 4, 2012 4:04 a.m.

    I've had this discussion with many modders. Almost all modders wouldn't charge. even has a donation button for modders now.
  • zombi3grim - July 4, 2012 4:33 p.m.

    Because you talked to almost all the modders. Okay. I will gladly pay for DLC and get quality gaming from actual game developers then some free mod from a teenager with too much time on his hands that plays like shit.
  • xXxsilentassassinxXx - July 6, 2012 9:17 p.m.

    Then you are missing out since every mod Ive used has worked with little to no problem. I and my friends are friends with some of the folks that make some of the mods and not all of them are teenagers. Second the folks that make the mod are very open to feedback; something not working they'll find a way to fix it, maybe you don't like the way something works they'll either change it or make another variant of it. I can go on the Beth forums and ask them to change something like the way a piece of armor or something looks until my fingers bleed, but the chances of them doing anything about it is low; if I and a group of people ask for something most modders are more than happy to oblige.
  • zombi3grim - July 7, 2012 7:18 a.m.

    The mods are tacky, 90% of them are shit. The 1% that ARE good, usually break the game in some way. You cant have too many on one game or it'll make it run slow as shit...its just a pointless waste of time. Hardly a reason to get into PC gaming. Actually, theres NO reason to get into PC gaming nowadays, as everything comes out for consoles first and the difference between the two now is minimal.
  • Shep - July 9, 2012 1:43 a.m.

    Wow, do you have any more sweeping generalizations there buddy?
  • zombi3grim - July 9, 2012 8:08 a.m.

    Just my experience.
  • ObliqueZombie - July 17, 2012 9:10 p.m.

    Looks like you had a shit experience. That's like getting the Red Ring of Death one time and deciding to discount console gaming forever.
  • zombi3grim - July 17, 2012 9:27 p.m.

    Listen, boy. I've been gaming since the days of LAN parties. I know about the mod scene. I know people who mod. I think its a waste of MY valuable time.
  • usmovers_02 - July 9, 2012 5:20 a.m.

    Sounds to me like you haven't actually tried modding Oblivion or Skyrim on PC. With Oblivion I ran over 400 mods(the max the game allows is 255) with no noticeable FPS hit and a non-monster PC. And there are MANY amazing mods that don't break the game. Just because you can't find them doesn't mean they aren't there.
  • zombi3grim - July 9, 2012 8:11 a.m.

    I have tried it. My PC isnt a monster either. I dont like hunting and looking around for random shit that MIGHT make me like the game better. I have other games to play and other things to do. Play the game the way the devs designed it and move on. Mods to me will always be something designed for people who have way too much time on their hands, like 15 year olds on summer break. Fuck that, dude, my time is valuble. Between my wife and my two kids and my job, I get maybe 2 hours to game a day. You think I wanna waste that blowing up ogres for no reason in Skyrim? No.
  • xXxsilentassassinxXx - July 10, 2012 12:10 p.m.

    You not having a good computer might have a lot to do with it. Like I said before I have yet to use a mod that has made my game crash. I have over 60 mods, and my game loads in less then 7 seconds normally 3 to 5. I own a 360 and skyrim on 360 and the quickest I've had it load is 20 seconds. And there is a difference in performance if you have a good computer over consoles. Don't get me wrong I own a console to play things likes halo,gears and other exclusives. With the exception of me buying skyrim on console, if I can get a game on PC I'd rather wait.
  • xXxsilentassassinxXx - July 10, 2012 12:13 p.m.

    I forget to mention; Bethesda released the Creation Kit for us to make mods, so it's pointless to say to play the game the way the devs intended in this case.
  • zombi3grim - July 10, 2012 5:50 p.m.

    I know this. They released the kit for modders to create shit, yes. But the things the modders create doesnt have to LITERALLY be shit. Because thats what 90% of it is. Shit
  • zombi3grim - July 10, 2012 5:48 p.m.

    I never said I dont have a good computer. I said I dont have a beast. My computer is fine. I also never said my game crashed. I said there is a limit to how many mods you can have, and there is. Even if I could have ALL the mods all at one time, it wouldnt make me feel any different. I dont have time for it. Mods are a waste to me.
  • Shep - July 9, 2012 1:55 a.m.

    Uh, no they wouldn't. Most of the time there is something in the ToU that states that you can't do so, but that doesn't stop some in the Sims modding community from charging for their mods anyway. But that is kind of an exception, it's pretty rare to see modders charging for their content. As a modder you want to encourage people to download and try out your work, not chase people away.

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