5 Lessons Learned Being a Vampire in ‘Skyrim’s’ Dawnguard

Published 3 years ago by , Updated June 29th, 2012 at 1:40 pm,
Dawnguard Vampire Details Skyrim

5 Lessons Learned Being a Vampire in 'Skyrim's' Dawnguard

We're deep into our review for Dawnguard - the first (and formidable) expansion for the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - and there's no mistaking the central focus of Bethesda's DLC: the immortal life and times of the blood-drinking undead. Dawnguard's epic questline introduces players to the aspirations of the vampire lord Harkon, a centuries-old creature intent on harnessing an Elder Scroll and bending the sun to his will. Players, of course, can join up with the titular vampire hunting outfit, The Dawnguard, and stamp out this menacing threat from the world of Tamriel. But with the tantalizing perks of crossing over to other side - the abilities and powers of a vampire lord, the status as a paragon among the resurging deadly race - many will find the venture too alluring to brush aside. That being the case, we've detailed our five strongest impressions from our playthrough of Dawnguard's vampire questline. Consider them the hors d'oeuvres of a blood-soaked, 15-hour Skyrim feast.

Feasting on Blood Has a New Feel

Skyrim Dawnguard Vampire Lord SkillsThe thrill of the hunt. It’s ingrained in every vampire’s primal instincts — and not just for pleasure; human blood is your lifeblood. But just as new obstacles will arise from these survival needs — blood potion fills in for healing potion, the sun burns away at health, increasingly with each feastless day — the wealth of combat abilities afforded to Dawnguard’s central specimens are appropriately befitting an apex predator. Vampirism is no longer the tedious curse from the base Skyrim experience; town guards keep their steel sheathed upon seeing your 'human' form. Now, a vampire’s true power is realized in the mold of a monstrous vampire lord (which will, without pause, be engaged on sight). Transforming into the creature at will, players are equipped off the bat with vicious melee abilities (power attacks are capable of tearing open an enemy’s neck for a mid-battle blood fix) and potent spells (the right-hand drains an enemy's life while the the left-hand raises the dead). The sprint button activates the wings, lifting the lord slightly off the ground for high-speed movement. One power even enables lightning-quick bursts, enshrouding the player in a swarm of bats and dashing them forward by a considerable distance. The longer you go without feeding on human blood, the more enhanced your powers become, and added skills such as Vampire Sight and Vampiric Seduction come in handy if the flesh cravings grow too intense.

Home is Where the Severed Heart Is Served

Castle Volkihar Syrim Dawnguard DetailsOnce hidden under the blanket of a blizzard, Castle Volkihar stands off the Northern edge of Skyrim’s coastline and serves as the player's new home (in lieu of Fort Dawnguard) after choosing the Undead pill. Grey and ghoulish and replete with sharply accentuated towers, its ominous facade gives way to an interior that’s half the royal-gothic extravagance expected of a septi-centenarian dark lord, and half the decaying disrepair that stems from his extended bout of manic paranoia. The castle can be slightly upgraded  as we delve through Lord Harkon's crusade to control the sun, however, and the comforts build on the furnishings already in place: There's a grand dining hall where indoctrinated human “cattle” serve their own enslaved as meals; a gruesome dungeon feeding chamber, stocked end-to-end with said cattle; and a rear balcony overlooking a scenic steel-grey skyline and Volkihar's shipwreck-strewn dock. Lord Harkon even installed an everlasting blood fountain in one of Volkihar’s chambers, which either aims to convey the hypnotic power of the sanguine libation, or put the Golden Corral into a little more perspective — it’s hard to say.

It's a Cold Land Full of Cold Receptions

Dawnguard Skyrim Combat NavigationEven in a province home to the feral-looking Khajiit, reptilian Argonians and emerald-skinned Orcs just to name a few, the populace of Skyrim doesn’t take kindly to the winged, fanged, beastly anatomy of the common vampire lord. Neither does architecture. Strolling through the streets in your newfound form prompts the town guard and armed citizenry to attack on sight. You’re a monster. An aberration. A pestilence. Evil. There’s no quarter for your kind in its most heinous form, and fortunately, the game allows players to morph in and out of the visage on a whim. Less convenient is navigation through the many cramped quarters of Skyrim’s structures: dungeons, caves, doorways, stairways, low-hanging arches. The vampire lord’s enlarged size — especially when hovering in magic-equipped state — is a burden in far too many of these interior environments, almost as if Bethesda didn’t plan on the transfiguration having much of an impact. It’s nothing gamebreaking, thankfully, but it is an unfortunate counterweight on such an imposing physique.

Eat From the Skill Tree; You Won’t Regret It

Skyrim Dawnguard Vampire Skill TreeLeveling up, honing your skills, molding a force to be reckoned with — it’s all central to Skyrim and its custom perk philosophy. Smartly, the vampire lord power (in toe with its werewolf opposite) is imbued with an 11-leaf skill tree as players to grow to master their new form.
  • Power of the Grave: 50 point bonus to health, magicka and stamina as a Vampire Lord.
  • Detect All Creatures: Detect all creatures (requires Power of the Grave).
  • Mist Form: Turn into an invulnerable cloud of mist while regenerating health, magicka, and stamina (requires Detect All Creatures).
  • Supernatural Reflexes: Move faster while enemies move slower (requires Mist Form).
  • Blood Healing: Killing a person with a power attack bite fully restores health (requires Power of the Grave).
  • Unearthly Will: Night powers and Blood Magic cost 33% less (requires Power of the Grave).
  • Poison Talons: Melee attacks deal 20 points of poison damage (requires Unearthly Will and Blood Healing).
  • Night Cloak: A shroud of bats feed on enemies within melee range (requires Poison Talons)
  • Vampiric Grip: Telekinesis draws a foe from a distance, suspends them in the air and applies choking damage (requires Power of the Grave).
  • Summon Gargoyle: Summon a Gargoyle (requires Vampiric Grip).
  • Corpse Curse: A paralyzing magical blast (requires Summon Gargoyle).

Powers are Delicious — Controls are Pernicious

Skyrim Dawnguard Vampire Controls CombatWhile the vampire lord form is delectable in concept — and combat does have its moments of pure, ferocious excitement — its practice is an entirely different beast, one often equally untamed. Just like the unsteady close quarters traversal, control design of the transformed state feels awkwardly hasty for the time Bethesda spent on Dawnguard. There’s no way to interact, much less speak to other humans (unless we count tearing out their larynx in combat). Items can’t be picked up or moved, and chests are equally unresponsive. The first-person view is strangely off-limits, hindering the perceptive abilities so crucial in a dark, cramped cavern or dungeon. The only thing not allergic to the “interact” button seems to be doors — but only if they aren’t affixed with a lock to pick. Reverting back to your fully-functional human figure at will is incredibly handy and makes the experience enjoyable on the whole. However, even this ability isn't immune to a cumbersome and vulnerable delay while the transition takes place.


Dawnguard Vampire Details SkyrimWith Dawnguard, Bethesda has remade a once-staid character choice, flexing its muscle and giving it a new standing on the Skyrim food chain. A smattering of new perks, an arsenal of lethal combat options, and a terrifying alternate persona blend together to form an enticing pathway should it be chosen. The execution might not be seamless, the edges not polished to perfection, but in the end the sum of its parts, as anyone who knows Skyrim will attest, can comprise hours of immersive and rewarding gameplay. It also can't understated that there's plenty more than bloodlust to Dawnguard: the vampire hunting questline, the DLC's entire overarching narrative, new locations visited along the way - and crossbows! Be sure to stay tuned for our review to see how it all plays out. Dawnguard is currently available on Xbox 360 and will release later for PC and PS3. Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

TAGS: Bethesda, PC, PS3, Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls, Xbox 360