Containing roughly 15 hours of content, Bethesda Games Studios’ Dawnguard for The Elder Scrolls V will give you an all-new way to play. The main conflict involves vampires, as they attempt to put an end to the “tyranny of the sun.” You’ll have a choice to join up with the anti-vampire Dawnguard faction, or side with the bloodsuckers to gain the ability to freely transform back and forth between your human form and that of a Vampire Lord.
Once your vampiric powers are activated you transform into a snarling, spiky winged creature and can hover across environment, disappear into a cloud of bats, and gain access to an all-new perk tree. This form can be held indefinitely, and can be used anywhere in Skyrim, so you’re not limited to only the new content if you want access to its benefits.
This content is integrated into the world of Skyrim, so it’s not a completely separate adventure. With a high level character or one as weak as level 10 you can hear about Dawnguard’s questline by eavesdropping on guards. Considering some of the content, including Castle Volkihar seems to be set to the northwest of Solitude, that’d likely be a good place to look.
If you happen to have a strong aversion to vampires, you don’t have to side with them. Choosing to work with the Dawnguard means you’ll miss out on the Vampire Lord form, but you will gain access to a number of other bonuses, including the ability to summon an armored troll. The Dawnguard are particularly interested in weapon and armor crafting, and by befriending them you’ll gain access to multiple tiers of crossbow designs, as well as armor and other weapons. Though crossbows can’t be reloaded as quickly as standard bows, they do have other advantages, such as higher damage output and a chance to knock back targets struck by bolts. Crossbows won’t have a dedicated skill tree, but their functionality can still be modified through the Archery tree.
Perhaps you’re reading all this and thinking, but wait, I’m a werewolf, where do I fit in? According to Bethesda, werewolves can still acquire the Vampire Lord form, but you’ll need to sacrifice your lycanthropic tendencies in order to do so. It’ll be possible to reclaim your werewolf abilities afterward in case you discover the Vampire Lord isn’t really your style. Though it wasn’t on display, there apparently will be a new werewolf perk tree, making that style of gameplay much more interesting.
What’s not really clear yet is how lasting the effects of your decisions in Dawnguard will be. The footage released so far shows a reddish-black energy blocking out the sun at the end, and Bethesda was unwilling to comment about how this is related to the ramifications of progressing through the Dawnguard questline as a vampire hunter or undead beast. At the very least you’ll gain a bunch of cool new abilities to move across Skyrim, which could be especially useful if you’re starting a new character.
New explorable zones and quests will be included in Dawnguard as well, including a nether realm referred to as Soul Cairn that’s filled with purple fire, wild fiery horses and crackling thunder. During a brief play session I learned a few story details, which involved everything from sacrificial Molag Bal rituals to hidden Elder Scrolls and some especially warped family values. When you choose a side, your path through the content will be altered, so it sounds like one playthrough might not be enough to see everything this add-on has to offer.
Dawnguard will be released first on Xbox 360 this summer, with PlayStation 3 and PC version to follow sometime afterward.