So, I've finished Dawnguard, the first Skyrim DLC, on Xbox 360. Boo! Hiss! But I'm looking forward to playing it again on PC, for two reasons. One, there won't be a 20 second loading break every time I go through a door, and two, Dawnguard's main quest has two distinct branching paths. You either join a group of vampire hunters, or become one yourself. Both paths will grant you access to some stupidly powerful weapons and a bunch of new abilities. Here are ten things to look forward to when Dawnguard finally arrives on PC.
“But you could be a vampire in vanilla Skyrim!” I hear you say. Yes, you could, but it was half-baked. Dawnguard fleshes vampirism out and makes it a worthwhile choice. Now you can reach the fourth stage of vampirism without people instantly fleeing or attacking you. Blood potions can be carried around for a quick, fuss-free fix of the red stuff, and you get access to 11 vampire-specific perks, including summoning a gargoyle to help you in battle.
Joining Harkon's coven of bloodsuckers grants you the power to transform into a vampire lord. This gruesome alternate form makes people bolt in terror, and you get a powerful primary drain spell, and a secondary raise dead power. You can hover, or land on the ground and slice people up with your claws. It's loads of fun, but don't switch forms in an enclosed space: you won't fit back through the door. Let's hope they patch that before the PC release.
It's not just vampires who get their own set of unique perks: werewolves do too. The lycanthropy skill tree offers a selection of interesting powers. Totem of the Moon allows you to summon a fellow werewolf during combat; Animal Vigor gives you a 100% boost to health and stamina while in beast form; and Totem of Terror (sounds like a metal album) makes enemies flee, regardless of their level. Careful, though: becoming a vampire lord will cure your lycanthropy.
This unique weapon is found in one of Dawnguard's best quests, 'Touching the Sky', which Elder Scrolls lore fans will love for reasons too spoilerific to reveal. Auriel's Bow isn't just a powerful ranged weapon, but it can launch two special arrows. Bloodcursed arrows, when fired into the sky, block out the sun. Perfect for vampires. Alternatively, Sunhallowed arrows turn the sun into your own personal orbital air strike. It's well worth seeking out.
Dawnguard has been eight months in the making(!), so it's a fairly hefty chunk of new content. It's not just the Dawnguard vs. vampires quest you'll get to enjoy; there are some other side ones too, each throwing up new loot, dungeons, story, and characters. At a leisurely pace, it took me almost 30 hours to do everything the DLC has to offer. The only letdown is that some of the dungeons are made up of reused assets from the main game.
When I first heard crossbows were being included in Dawnguard, I didn't expect much. But then I used one. For stealthy characters, it's perfection itself. They're faster and more precise than bows, and lodge in an enemy's head with a satisfying /thunk/. They're the preferred weapon of the Dawnguard, but vampires can use them too. There's also an even more powerful Dwarven variant that you can get the schematics for in a new quest, 'Ancient Technology'.
The most dramatic new area in Dawnguard is the Soul Cairn. This is a plane of Oblivion, and is accessed via a mysterious portal in Castle Volkihar – another new area that appears off the coast near Winterhold. As well as being visually striking, the Soul Cairn is huge, too. It's full of angry Daedric spirits and cracks in the ground that, when touched, will fill any soul gems you have in your inventory. It's one of Skyrim's most surreal environments.
If you've played vanilla Skyrim for a hundred hours, you're probably sick of your character's face, or regret giving them that stupid scar. Well, the good news is that Dawnguard allows you to change your appearance – but not your race or sex. The DLC makes a woman called Galathil appear in Riften's Ragged Flagon who will change your appearance in exchange for 1000 gold. You can do this as many times as you like, providing you have the coin.
So vampires get to transform into bloodsucking demons, but the Dawnguard have some perks too: namely, being able to recruit armoured trolls as AI companions. These hulking brutes are formidable in battle, and will rush head-first into groups of enemies. Sadly, this means they die a lot when facing tougher foes, but don't fret: you can hire another for 500 gold back at Fort Dawnguard, the vampire hunters' HQ, as many times as you want.
Crafters will be pleased to know that a whole new set of weapons can be forged in Dawnguard from dragon bones. Dragonbone weapons are the strongest in the game, even more so than Daedric, but you'll need plenty of ebony ingots, bones, and leather strips to create the whole armoury. They look fairly ridiculous, especially the bulky dragonbone warhammer, but when they cause so much damage, you'll find it hard to care.