Fans eagerly awaited the third expansion for Bethesda's "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" since its first teaser trailer. "Dragonborn" was slated to be even more epic than the original game, adding new enemies, items, and even a new facet to gameplay. Bethesda has, since the fan favorite "Oblivion," endeavored to make expansions that significantly added to an already impressive experience. While the "Hearthfire" expansion was definitely outside the normal method of that goal, the developers certainly achieved it by giving players an even more customizable homestead (something that had been requested and suggested since "Oblivion"). Dragonborn returned to the storyline add-on style, and the final product was something reminiscent of another fan favorite.

"Dragonborn" almost seems to be an emotional successor to the "Shivering Isles" expansion for "Oblivion." In each case, the add-on introduced an entirely new area into the game, as well as an entirely new plethora of enemies and items. Speaking from experience, the size of the Shivering Isles was as much painful as it was impressive, and many will be glad to know that Solstheim, the new area in this expansion, isn't quite so large. Solstheim does feature a few new landscapes, from the ashlands to the somewhat familiar icy northern coasts. Those who have played "Morrowind" will experience a pretty intense nostalgia kick, as much of the locations and enemies harken back to the game. New weapons, armor, and rare items are well worth the hunt, and there's plenty else to do on the island. A relatively short questline can earn you a house in Raven Rock, and another will make you the chief of a small tribe of the blue, gnommish Rieklings. Still, the main plotline is where most of the glory and intensity lies.

With this expansion you're given the opportunity to face down another dragonborn, long trapped in the realm of Hermaeus Mora, Daedric prince of knowledge. Along the way, you must delve into Mora's realm, Apocrypha, in pursuit of knowledge as to how to match your ancient rival. The first visit is an unavoidable shock quickly offset by awe, as Lovecraftian beasts protect the massive libraries of all the world's knowledge, seated deep in the murk of Mora's void. As you prgress through the use of Black Books, you can further augment your abilities with knowledge discovered deep within. Mora's final reward for usurping the ancient dragonborn is one you probably won't expect, but will most likely greatly appreciate.

Bethesda stressed the introduction of dragon-mounted travel and combat in this add-on, but it wasn't quite what it could have been. With the help of a new Shout, dragonflight is limited to a relatively small area around enemies you can target and areas to which you can fast travel, and for the most part the new mount will simply circle like a buzzard and swoop down to attack any hostiles nearby. Once you have had enough and command the dragon to land, it will shortly abscond and return to whatever it may have been doing before it saw you. It's a novelty more than anything, for while the dragons are quite powerful, their use detracts from much of the inherent fun of combat. Still, the addition is a fan service, and the new Shout allows you to command almost any enemy for a time. Between that and the addition of a few extremely choice pieces of armor and an entire new smithing material, "Dragonborn" brings well upwards of a solid twelve hours of entertainment. It's not perfect, but it really is a great add-on, and I feel I should thank Bethesda for giving fans what we've been asking for all along.

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