The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s first DLC, Dawnguard, has arrived after 8 long months of waiting and speculation. We’ll be posting our full review of the game in the coming days, but leading up to that, we’ll be taking a look at both sides of the action – the Dawnguard and the vampires.
It was a day like any other in the city of Markarth. The vendors were out, the weather was nice, and the town guards gossiped with citizens. Only today, the gossip was of a more alarming nature – vampires. Word had spread that the Dawnguard, sworn to defend Skyrim from a growing vampire menace, was looking to recruit some new soldiers into its ranks. Eager for another adventure, and the chance to slay some blood suckers, I made my way to the large and imposing Fort Dawnguard.
Isran, the leader of the Dawnguard, informed me that vampires had taken over a nearby temple, slaughtering its inhabitants wholesale. As a newly initiated member of the Dawnguard, it was my job to find out why. Well, after arriving at the temple and slaughtering a cool dozen of the faithless scourge, I found out. It turns out, they were searching for a woman named Serana, who happened to be in possession of an Elder Scroll. Oh, and she’s a pure-blooded vampire, hidden away in a stone sarcophagus for centuries.
I could, and perhaps should, have taken Serana straight back to Fort Dawnguard, but instead chose to listen to her and return her to her father, Lord Harkon, at Castle Volkihar north of Solitude. For returning his daughter to him, Lord Harkon offered me a gift – the gift of immortality as a vampire lord. How could I refuse such a tempting offer?
As it turns out, being a vampire lord is pretty much all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, you have to deal with the usual vampire problems – namely the sun, and feeding – but it’s worth it to be able to transform into an imposing, winged beast at will. And unlike vampirism in the base game, vampire lord status comes with quite a few perks and special abilities.
You begin with only a few powers – life drain, reanimate dead, and bat form. Life drain and reanimate dead are fairly self explanatory, but bat form serves as a short range teleport, allowing a vampire lord to move quickly or across gaps that would not be accessible otherwise. As the vampire lord increases in strength, abilities such as detect life, slow time, cloud form, and my personal favorite, vampire grip, become available.
One of my favorite pastimes in Skyrim is to use the Unrelenting Force shout to send things flying off of cliffs and other tall structures. The vampire lord’s grip ability put a fresh spin on this activity for me, since it allows you to pull any living creature toward you, move to the desired location, then launch them 50 feet into the air. I don’t know why, but somehow bears are always particularly fun to chuck around, and I did so at every possible opportunity.
I hate using the world “epic” to describe things that happen in games, but there were some moments that could definitely be described in such a way. For example, Dawnguard contains a couple of new types of dragon – Revered, and Legendary. My first encounter with a Revered dragon took place out in a relatively open field. I had spotted its approach and activated the vampire lord form, ready to fling life drain spells at it.
As I pursued the dragon, firing spells at it all the while, the battle had come within firing range of an Imperial fort. The garrison there, at least a dozen strong, didn’t take kindly to a dragon in their vicinity, and joined in the battle. What I soon discovered is that they like vampire lords about as much as dragons, and soon began to divide their attention between myself and the winged, fire breathing menace. By the end of the battle, the dragon lay defeated, along with every member of the Imperial garrison at the fort. Some had perished at the hands of the dragon, but most met their fate at the end of my fangs.
By the time I’d finished the main quest line, I knew that the vampire lord is something I intended to stick with. Even though I’ve gone and reloaded an earlier save so that I can begin playing through on the Dawnguard side of things, I’ll likely reload my vampire lord save as soon as I’m done. I simply can’t imagine it being more fun without the vampire lord form. But you’ll just have to wait until Part 2 of the Dawnguard Diaries to find that out. Stay tuned!