X360A Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC

X360A Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC

Dan Webb

Thanks to the fact I was out of the country for most of August, whether on vacation or at PAX and Gamescom, I had little idea what Skyrim’s new Hearthfire DLC actually was before I put in the game and downloaded the small file earlier this week.

“It’s 400 Microsoft Points,” I thought to myself, “It can’t be that life-changing.” It wasn’t, and it was arguably a little underwhelming considering the potential new ideas we could be getting our hands on instead. Was that because it’s effectively a Sims 3 add-on for the monster retail title or was that it didn’t really add much to the game? Well, a little of both actually.

Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC adds the ability to buy plots of lands, build houses on them and adopt children to Skyrim’s already huge roster of far-ranging and wide-reaching tasks. Once players have bought a small sliver of land from one of three major towns – Falkreath, Morthal and Dawnstar – players are able to use the accompanying Drafting Table and Carpenter’s Workbench that comes with said land to build their dream house.

I say dream house, but The Sims this is not. Using a handful of resources, players can build a small house, extend it to be a larger house and then add three wings of their choice – whether that’s a library, storage cupboard, alchemy wing, and so on. Sure, players have to build the foundations, walls, floors and so on, but they function very similarly to building a piece of armour – gather the bits, click on a piece of text and wham. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but once inside, and having the chance to furnish it, players don’t really get much choice or a chance to add their personal touch. The predetermined furniture choices go where they’ve been programmed to go and you can only place a limited number of items, all of which are, again, predetermined.

Adding a house building add-on to Skyrim isn’t necessarily a bad thing, had there been a point to it, but ultimately there isn’t. In fact, using it to store items and what not isn’t as effective as using one of the houses already situated in the various cities, for the simple fact that there isn’t a merchant anywhere in sight of these new plots of land. It’s an expensive affair too and rather time consuming, but thanks to your own Housecarl, you can just pony up the extra gold and have them do everything for you. They’ll also fetch you supplies so you don’t need to scavenge yourselves. I guess being able to buy all kinds of crafting benches – whether alchemy, arcane enchanters, and so on – does mean you can put everything in one place, as well as being able to garden to you heart’s content, it does mean there are advantages, but honestly, not that many.

It’s unfair to call Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC the horse armour DLC of this instalment, but it almost feels like it. Sure, it’s fun to buy a house and adopt kids for about 5 minutes, but after all is said and done – and after you’ve spent a boatload too – all you have to show for it is a house that you only visit to drop shit off at. Skyrim’s wide-open world is magnificent, why the hell would you want to stay indoors? Answer: you don’t. Hey, it’s 400 points, so it’s hardly going to break the bank. At least you’ll get a pretty house out of it and will have killed a few hours, but I’d much rather have killed a few hours slaying Draugr in one of the hundred dungeons I’ve not been in to already. If you want to see all that the DLC has to offer, why not check out the video of our house above... a house that we ploughed way too much time and gold into, you know, so you don’t have to.

Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC is out now for 400 Microsoft Points.

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