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.


  • JDHutch - July 3, 2012 1:50 p.m.

    Loved this expansion and what it had to offer. Agreed, it is worth the money! =P
  • db1331 - July 3, 2012 1:52 p.m.

    "...there are no level requirements. If you are level 10 or higher..." Wat
  • JDHutch - July 3, 2012 1:56 p.m.

    I think they meant there is no level requirement to start the expansion, but for you to get a marker from a guard you have to be level ten. You can still head to the fort and start it though.
  • Viron - July 3, 2012 4:02 p.m.

    It is recommended that you be at least above level 10, that's what Bethesda said anyway.
  • avantguardian - July 4, 2012 12:34 p.m.

    that got me too:)
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - July 3, 2012 2:24 p.m.

    If you're already a werewolf, I take it you can't be a Vampire Lord?
  • sveini22 - July 3, 2012 6:02 p.m.

    No you will get a choice after the fisrt quest to either become a vampire lord or keep your lycanthropy (werewolf) You can at any time become a werewolf again by talking to Aela and with Serena to become a Vampire Lord again.
  • Moondoggie1157 - July 3, 2012 2:43 p.m.

    Maybe I missed something, but have we now gone from a 5 star review system to a "buy it" or "don't buy it" system?
  • Cyberninja - July 3, 2012 3:12 p.m.

    No dlc is the only thing with this system normal games will be out of 5 stars
  • Dman3981 - July 3, 2012 4:27 p.m.

    DLC has always been a buy or don't buy system for Gamesradar I believe.
  • EdDeRs1 - July 3, 2012 4:05 p.m.

    much more generous than what OXM gave it, but what really pissed me off was the random vampire attacks on towns, i lost my favourite blacksmith that way
  • Viron - July 3, 2012 4:05 p.m.

    Where the hell is my PC release? PS3 I can see being delayed because bethesda can't do shit right on the PS3, but statistically more TES games have been released on PC's than on Xbox. And, last I checked, Microsoft sells one of the major OS's that run on computers. So why wouldn't all of their sellout money that they give to Bethesda not count toward the PC too? Or do they just hate Windows that much?
  • Travia220 - July 3, 2012 8:43 p.m.

    Microsoft has an exclusive deal with Bethesda to release DLC First on the 360 for a month. Thus PS3 and PC get screwed over, even though the PC Crowd is easily Bethesda's biggest fan base and most dedicated fans. Money > Fans.
  • NullG7 - July 4, 2012 12:18 a.m.

    Look on the bright side, IF you have a high operating PC you will probably have more fun in the long term anyway with mods and faster patches and all
  • BishopofHippo93 - July 6, 2012 6:36 a.m.

    Saying that they're the most dedicated fans may be pushing it, there are just as many people who are devoted to the game on both 360 and PS3. As for screwing over PC gamers, the creation kit, something not available on consoles, has been around since February. Sure, not all the mods are spectacular, but I could just as easily say that the consoles are getting screwed over because we don't get the creation kit. Money is definitely a factor, but the time the folks over at Bethesda have put into this expansion shows that your statement about how money>fans could not be further from the truth. Besides, isn't the creation kit free? This was a smart business decision on the part of Microsoft, for sure, and honestly, it's not going to hurt sales on the other platforms at all. Those who say they're not going to buy it and boycott Bethesda are full of shit. They're going to buy this because it's fucking awesome. Complaining isn't going to help, though it may make you feel better If you can stand to be patient for another couple of weeks or so, the expansion is definitely worth it.
  • 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.

Showing 1-20 of 35 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000


Connect with Facebook

Log in using Facebook to share comments, games, status update and other activity easily with your Facebook feed.