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Skyrim Hearthfire Review

by William Schwartz

The second expansion for Elder Scrolls V: Skryim recently arrived on the Xbox 360, and it’s taken a less traditional approach to DLC.  Hearthfire is a building themed expansion that focuses on buying land and building a home in Skyrim.  Unlike Dawnguard, the Hearthfire expansion is less focused on telling a story, and geared more towards giving Skyrim players more to do within the game world.  Adding a deeper crafting system into the mix allows players to harvest raw materials to build their virtual abode.

Depending on your circumstances and level within your Skyrim campaign, you’ll have to take different steps to begin your home building journey.  Upon installing the new content and firing up your game, you’ll be greeted with a courier bearing the news of your new abilities.  Our courier brought news that the Jarl in Falkreath wanted to speak with us.  Once there, a simple task of clearing out bandits gave us access to the Jarl’s steward and the ability to buy a plot of land for $5000 gold.  If you don’t have the gold, you’re gonna need to do some grinding to get started in Hearthfire,  but most Skyrim players should have this in their coffers.  However, it’s probably a good time to note that our save was around level 15.  After selling what valuable items I had to the town’s merchants, and taking the Barbas quest in the region, I came up with the cash pretty easily.

For players that are continuing with Hearthfire with longer game saves, you may be prompted to go to other areas, and speak with different people when the courier arrives with the Hearthfire content.  Though once started, you’ll find all the tools that you need to start building straight away.  There’s a drafting table, a bench for carpentry, an anvil for blacksmithing and the materials needed to get started.  Wrapping it together, a book that details some basic information about your new crafting tools will help to get you aquainted. Eventhough Bethesda said they were inspired by Minecraft in this building and crafting system, it’s not quite the block by block experience that you’ll find in that game.  In Skyrim Hearthfire, you become more focused on finding the necessary ingredients to build your home and its ammenities and not on the actual building process.

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The guide book that is found at your first land plot will lay out some ground rules for your building process.  This starts with first building a small house, and transforming this house into a bigger and better home with up to three wings and numerous amenities inside and out.   The interior and exterior options are wide ranging, but you’ll likely need to seek out many of the materials that are necessary for specific items.  You’ll be given just about enough materials to get your first small home built, after that, you’ll need to search for what you need.  Thoughtfully, there are natural material deposits around your build-site that you can farm some of the more basic ingredients needed for structures, these include the likes of iron, clay, and stone.  A pickaxe is also readily available to start collecting these ingredients.  Making life a little easier will be the ability to craft a smelter on your construction site, instead of having to travel to convert or purchase ignots.  Once you get past the main building process, Hearthfire does offer a deeper customization for your home.

Broken into three wings, you can choose from three options in the east, west, and north wings of the house.  Depending on your character, you may want to dedicate one wing to an alchemy tower, or if you are a collector, you may fancy a trophy room instead.  This part of the customization process is definitely geared more towards the collectors in Skyrim.  You now have the tools to build libraries, armories, kitchens, and other parts of a home to store all of your items found in the realm of Skyrim.  There are plenty of Skyrim players that have already done many of these thing with the standard purchased homes from the main game, but the customization aspect of this expansion is definitely something that ramps up the personalization of your home to a new level.  While it would have been nice to see more placement options for furnishings and other decorations within your home, there are plenty of set-ups to choose from, but if one thing was missing from this expansion that was it.

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Going forward with the Hearthfire expansion, I couldn’t help but think how much better this would have been in my first go through the game. It gives you a reason to examine your surroundings more closely for potential ingredients that you need.   Having already seen many of the sights of Skyrim can make adventuring for materials somewhat laborious, if just for the ‘been there done that’ factor.  On the other hand, I’ve already come across a few things that I missed in my time with Skyrim, which seems like the point here in Hearthfire.  The expansion definitely sparks that interest for players to come back to the massive world with a more acute reason to scour the land outside of a quest-line.  If you are rich in money and materials going into the game, you can build your home and amenities rather quickly.  If not, completing your ideal homestead could offer a considerable amount of additional game time in Skyrim, and that’s at a bargain of a price at 400 Microsoft Points.

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Skyrim Hearthfire DLC

  • Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
  • Published By: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developed By: Bethesda Game Studios
  • Genre: Role playing game
  • US Release Date: 09/04/2012
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "If you needed a reason to come back to Skyrim, this is it. At 400 MSP it gives a greater value than story based DLC, and enhances the game immensely for the Skyrim collectors out there. "
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