Review: Hearthfire DLC for Skyrim

Skyrim Hearthfire DLC
Genre: RPG
Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Release Date: 9/11/2012

Hearthfire is the most recent DLC for Skyrim, adding in the ability to purchase land and make your own house. For $5 is it a worthwhile attachment to last year’s huge open world RPG? Or is it the new horse armor?

Like the joke about whether your grandpa crapped his pants or not, it depends.

One of the reason I enjoy the Elder Scroll games is for the sense of exploration and to see what might be over the next hill. Hearthfire does not really fit with the reasons why I play Skyrim. If you are the type of person who really enjoys more personalization in your video games, then this DLC might be for you.

Hearthfire allows you to purchase properties in different lands, and then on those properties build a house. Building a house is sort of simple, you get plans and then get the materials needed to build different parts. The basic materials are available right away in a chest or around the property you purchase. Additions to the the basic model require a little more hunting on the part of the player in order to craft the objects needed to expand your household.

Because some of the materials require different types of ore to craft or specific items that aren’t normally found in every store, while there are no additional quests in the Hearthfire content, building a house does become a wild goose chase for materials. While obtaining the materials is not really my idea of fun, watching your own house develop and choosing different wings that suit your play style does feel rewarding. Whether you want to set up your own pimp pad, a skooma den, or a hunting lodge with trophies and weapons everywhere, you can do it. The pre-existing houses in the game do not really have a personal feel to them, though having your own place to dump loot and relax between quests is nice. Playing as an alchemist, mage, enchanter, and so on, you can build add-ons that support those classes instead of finding a random place in the world to do so.

Aside from just the house there are other additions. You can hire a NPC followers to be a steward, which I recommend since they can buy certain items and hire things like a bard. You can adopt children, which can add perks, and they can bring home pets. After dying to mudcrabs several times over in Morrowind, the idea of having one skittering around the home as a pet sort of appeals to me.

For $5, Hearthfire is worth it to those who not only want to play Skyrim, but want to add their own mark to the game world. In some ways it’s like the Oblivion DLC content of the Bandit’s Cove or Mage Tower and so on that added bases specifically for those classes, this time it’s flexible enough for all classes. I can certainly see the appeal, but it’s not really the DLC for me. I often found myself searching for materials and end up going on other quests to the point I forgot entirely about the HearthfireSkyrim, and the problem with the DLC. It’s not very expensive and adds content that will certainly appeal to some, but it is not for all.

I want to also mention that there are significant bugs with the content as well. One property was not available for me; I never got a notice where I could buy land and had to look it up online. There was some issue with my steward taking a bed in my house, decorating is kind of a pain in the ass, and with both marriage and raising children in Skyrim there is kind of a disconnect. I mean, is the Dragonborn impotent?

Basically, if building your own house, having your own garden for alchemy, adopting kids, and so on sound like a thing you want in Skyrim, for $5 it is fairly fleshed out and worth the price. If you don’t like the idea of savaging for materials and already are fine with the pre-made houses the game gives you to dump loot in, then it is not worth it.

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