Home Sweet Home – Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC Review

So, Bethesda’s come out with another round of DLC for it’s utterly fantastic The Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim – and this time they’re throwing us a curveball. Instead of focusing on new adventures, monsters and the like, Hearthfire’s got more of a “The Sims, but with fireballs” theme going on, opening up more land-purchasing, home-building and family-maintaining aspects to their open world RPG. I’ve got to admit, the choice is interesting… but is it worth the five bucks they’re asking for this expansion? Good question. Have a read and find out for yourself!

Make no mistake – there are no echoes of the infamous ‘Horse Armor’ DLC going on here, such that for five dollars you get a house added to your game and that’s the end of the story. Instead, Hearthfire offers some true and bonafide content to your Skyfire game, presenting you with the ability to buy land in multiple locations throughout scenic Tamriel, build and customize your mansion new room by room, and even adopt a pet. Well, an orphan anyway. Same basic thing in this case. The point is, you’re actually getting quite a substantial amount of things to do with Hearthfire – even if rather distinct from Dawnguard’s addition of vampires, deeper character customization, storyline and monsters.[singlepic id=9494 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Now, when I say substantial, I’m talking relative to the price of this DLC – and remember, that’s five bucks USD. So while you can buy multiple plots of land and build your house in roughly different ways, don’t expect supreme depth, much less serious customization. You can choose a few different upgrade paths and layout types for your house, but you’re by and large locked into pre-arranged floor plans for your eventual home, right down to pre-selected locations for furniture. Buying and building your home is a relatively straightforward process, with the ‘crafting’ portion feeling more like an extra step added onto an otherwise automated process, as opposed to a true addition to Skyrim’s gameplay. The orphan-pet you can adopt knows a few tricks, but once you’ve seen those tricks, you’re pretty much done with them.

On the flipside, while this doesn’t sound like much, there’s definitely some appeal here. When I acquired my first home in Skyrim’s base game, I remember finding myself wishing I could expand on the whole thing in some way – make it grander, more impressive, and basically provide yet more furniture for myself so I could neatly organize my treasure horde. I’m certain I’m not alone in this, and for people who found themselves yearning for at least some additional land-building options over what Skyrim itself comes with, Hearthfire is probably worth the investment. Admittedly, console gamers may get slightly more value out of this than PC players who have access to the modding community, which has already seen the addition of some real-estate options to their game. Still, there’s something to be said for straight-from-the-dev supported options.[singlepic id=9493 w=320 h=240 float=left]

In addition to the home and adorable orphan-ward you can acquire, Hearthfire also provides a few other enticements, though they’re on the meager side. While you can’t arrange your furniture, it still affords the opportunity to display your acquired trophies prominently. If you’re the marrying type, you can move your spouse into your new home… though there’s little to do with them beyond that, so “convenient spouse-stashing!” sums up this bit of content. Most redundant of all is the ability to buy a carriage which will let you travel around the world… but the game already has fast-travel built in. The only use I can think of for this is for more serious Skyrim roleplayers who would consider fast-travel cheating, but not if they use a carriage. I am not sure players like this exist, but I can imagine them – if you qualify, please speak up in the comments so I can upgrade you from ‘possible hallucination’ to ‘confirmed reality’.

And that’s where things stand with Skyrim: Hearthfire. It’s a worthy, if niche, addition to Skyrim – it won’t appeal to everyone, and it isn’t supremely deep. But what you’re getting in exchange for the five dollar price tag seems justified to players like myself who enjoy having a more impressive home to store trophies and hoard treasures in.

Victor Grunn has been a gamer since the days of single-button joysticks and the Atari 800XL. When not lamenting the loss of the Ultima series or setting people on fire in Team Fortress 2, he's an aspiring indie game developer and freelance writer.

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