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Published on September 15th, 2012 | by Cameron Woolsey

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Skyrim: Hearthfire DLC Review

Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2012
MSRP: 400 MSP ($5)

I’ll go ahead and get the obvious out of the way: the Hearthfire DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is not your typical content pack. There are no epic quests to complete, no weapons of ultimate power to wield and no dungeons to explore and plunder.

Hearthfire is a small content pack, which is reflected by the cheaper price tag, set at 400 MS Points (or $5). In Hearthfire, your quest of quests revolves around home ownership and, possibly the toughest adventure ever, parenthood. You read that right, in Hearthfire you build your very own manor, complete with furnishings and an area to build a child’s bedroom to house your very own little adopted adventurer or adventurers.

Back when I played The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I guess you could probably call me a compulsive hoarder. Like a pack rat, I collected and coveted all things sharp, pointy and unique, forcing many trips back and forth between towns to sell or store much of my ill-gotten goodies. Somewhere along the line I discovered that simply killing the NPC owners of a building–in an act I liked to call aggressive home invasion–I could use their boxes, chests and drawers to hold my collectibles by the tonnage. Until that stupid overflow loot bag appeared, anyway.

Oh! Just where shall I keep all my pastries?

With Hearthfire, you can now have your very own place to store your stuff by building one using the sweat of your brow–not the blood of some useless linen salesman.

To start your very own Hearthfire building adventure, you must either travel to one of three cities or speak with the Jarl about buying property near the outskirts of their respective holds. There are three areas to choose, and each one is varied in environment. The available cities near the building sites are: Falkreath, where you can build your manor in a forest near a lake, Morthal, which puts your home in some marshlands and finally, you can purchase a plot of land near Dawnstar. This will however force you to hunker down and brave the cold Skyrim winters.

After purchasing some land for 5,000 gold, you are then able to pick a housing plan and get to work. A drafting table is set up near the work site, and, much like the workbench at a blacksmith, parts of the house–walls, roof, foundation–can be crafted using raw materials. Quarried stone, clay and sawn logs are some of the materials at your disposal. An anvil and storage chest, with some raw materials already prepared, are also there to help get you started with your project. Clay and quarried stone can be mined at nearby deposits, which hold an infinite supply of both materials. The anvil can be used to form nails, hinges and locks from iron and corundum ingots.

The first housing plan available to you is the Small House, which is erected piece by piece using the drafting table. The inside of the house is empty, save for a carpenter’s workbench. With the bench you can use materials to create furnishings such as a bed, drawers, a fire pit, a weapon rack and more. After the first house is out of the way, you can start putting in some real work and begin building the enormous, two-story tall Main Hall, which can hold a long table, fire place, two bedrooms, chests, drawers, alchemy lab, arcane enchanter–the works.

Yes, this should be more than enough room for my vast collection of cheese wheels.

After you finish the Main Hall, you are then able to add wings. This is the only point where you’re allowed some measure of customization. The types of wings you can choose to add include an armory, trophy room, bedrooms or greenhouse. However, if you choose to build an armory as your east wing addition, then you opt out of building a library or kitchen. And once the wing is built, you can’t tear down and replace if you realize you don’t like it. My suggestion is to save first, then build the wing. Then, create some furnishings and decide if it fits “you.”

Most people will choose wing options based on their character’s fighting style. Warriors will no doubt shoot for an armory, trophy room and bedroom, while mages will go for the library, alchemy laboratory and enchanter’s tower or greenhouse. And if your character is more like a medieval, sword-swinging Gordon Ramsay, then I suppose having a kitchen will suffice.

As I said, beyond the wings, there are really no other options to customize. You can use the carpenter’s workbench to build furnishings, but you can’t choose where or how to place them. Once they’re built they automatically pop up where they’re designed to go, and no amount of “Fus Ro Dah” will budge them. This is a little disappointing considering that Skyrim allows heavy customization of your warrior.

Once your house is built and you’re all settled in, it is time to hire staff such as a bard, a carriage driver and your own personal Housecarl, who can then become your Steward if you choose to buy new property elsewhere. Of course, having a staff is completely optional. But how can you say no to your own personal carriage driver? A carriage driver!

When your house is able to support them, you can adopt orphans to come live in your new digs. The quest bring squealing little hellions into your manor. These children come when a letter is sent by Honorhall Orphanage, which should be familiar to you Dark Brotherhood members out there. You can buy clothing for the kids, which are now available at any general goods store, as well as toys such as a doll or wooden sword. You will even be subject to the “can I keep it?” routine, as creatures may follow one of the kids home. Now, what good parent would say no if their child brings home a new pet? There really shouldn’t be. Well, unless the thing happens to be a skeever, fox, mudcrab or even a freakin’ frostbite spider. Seriously. A frostbite spider. Just try to avoid the instinct to stab it between the eyes when you see it sneaking up behind the kid.

On top of building your own manor, Hearthfire also allows you to upgrade an existing home you may already own. To do that you ask the Steward of a town, in which one of your homes stand, to upgrade the house. As an example, you can transform your alchemy room wing at Breezehome into a child’s bedroom for an adopted orphan.

The quest to defeat Ergletch, the Great Mudcrab, terror of Riften, will be eternally told in your trophy room.

Final Truth:

I feel a little at odds trying to place a score on Hearthfire. It’s really not a pack that I would call “fun,” but that’s because there is no campaign here. Building your manor takes time and more iron ingots than the land of Skyrim can provide at any one time. As far as entertainment value goes, consider this on the lower scale of things.

This pack, however, really isn’t aimed for those lone wolf, live off the land, adventurer types. Hearthfire is a pack designed for console players who feel envious at PC gamers who are able to download house mods for their stuff. It’s a pack that will satisfy those like me, who travel from city to city, dumping off copious amounts of extra books, weapons, armor, jewels and everything else that we just have to keep for some reason we have yet to see ourselves. Hearthfire will give you that storage chest, that mannequin and that weapon rack so you can show off proper.

For everyone else, however, Hearthfire is a $5 bill they don’t need to spend.

Rating: 5/10 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

+ Build your own home for all your stuff
+ Have a staff to take care of your house
+ Raise orphans that bring home creepy things
+ Reasonably priced
- Not much else besides building a manor and stabbing your pets
+/- At least it’s better than horse armor

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About the Author

Video game journalist since 2006, and gaming since he was old enough to use an Atari joystick. Follow me: @Cam_is_16bit



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