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

Published 2 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

  • Jasca Ducato

    #4 – I don’t know where you got the impression that we could help Harkon rebuild Castle Volkihar. I only got one upgrade option (or repair, rather) and it certainly was from Harkon.

    Apart from that, bang on!

    • ZindroVokun

      You can get 2 upgrades: By asking to have rubble to the courtyard cleared and by getting Valerica out of the Soul Cairn (causing her to re-plant the garden)

      Other than that, the ruins all stay, which sucks.

  • Xigbar

    Khajiit aren’t feral…I’ve never encountered a Feral Khajiit, unless you’re referring to something from the expansion

    • http://gamerant.com Brian Sipple

      *feral-looking :)

      • devin woody

        I’ve Recently baught the video game skyrim, I’ve played as the vampire lord and i have to say that is epic, its flawless. I love it.

  • ATG

    I bought GR Future Warfare on impulse instead of this! On PC!! Anyone who has played the PC version knows it’s plagued with bugs and even without them, it’s not that good (so far). Should’ve rented it, I’m very disappointed with Ubisoft.

    Will be picking this up next week.

  • Eli53

    How much is Dawnguard?

  • jgamerz

    What can i say vampire lord is just so f***ing amazing quite over powered but who cares 😀

    It costs 1600 Microsoft points probably around $20 it actually worth it. However was is it worth the wait? I can honestly tell you know. I found the Shivering Isles DLC 100 times better to be honest.

    • Falop

      to be fair, SI was an expansion whereas Dawnguard is a simple DLC

  • Greg

    I don’t care about being a vampire so 1600 ms points is definitely not worth it. I’ll wait another year and buy GOTY edition used for 15 bucks with all the expansions.

    By the way, all the “vampire lord” pictures I see show a male looking creature. Does a female character turn into that too or a feminine version?

    • DrBarrelRoll

      It’s worth it, actually. You can be a vampire hunter instead and you get cool werewolf perks. Also, there is a feminine version.

    • david

      Uh yeah the females do get a femenine version I play a female nord vamp and the vampire lord is essentially skinnier with some form of bra 😛

  • Lord_Malum

    In my opinion, this DLC kinda really sucked. I spent $20.00 at gamestop for about 15 hours of bullcrap Bethesda spat out at us. The game’s bugs are still pretty prevalent in the respect that I can’t place items randomly in my homes because they fall through floors and sometimes teleport to the other side of the room. On top of that, the vampire lord transformation makes my character’s feet (upto his knees)fall through my Whiterun floor.
    I honestly feel like this game is, in general, lacking very very much.
    This being said, the game is still fun, but I’m one who doesn’t play for story-lines, I play for the joy of making my own little slice of hell on Tamriel.
    If there are patches I can download to my 360, someone please let me know where to find them.

    -Lord Malum

    • Tannen

      “The game’s bugs are still pretty prevalent in the respect that I can’t place items randomly in my homes because they fall through floors and sometimes teleport to the other side of the room.” What homes, Dawnguard didn’t add any. “vampire lord transformation makes my character’s feet (upto his knees)fall through my Whiterun floor” Are you actually fighting in your whiterun home? “I honestly feel like this game is, in general, lacking very very much.” And that’s why most people get the PC version.

  • Hightower

    Actually its kinda worth it the storylines pretty good ive only played vampire but dawnguard looks okay to. I almost wish id played the dawnguard side because of that stupid glitch with serana, apparently you can become a vp after you do the questline for the dawnguard to( i read serana will turn you later even if you pick other side. So maybe going dawnguard will get you both sides benefits. But watever overall its a solid 8.5/10 worth 20 bucks and hopefully the overpowered vampire stuff will pay for itself overtime :)

  • Will Ritter

    My game freezes whenever I start to load my last save or the earlier ones. It also gives me an infinite loading screen when I try to make a new game. Ideas?

    • Informationholder

      To the guy with the corrupt game saves… im gonna guess you tried an put a pc save onto your xbox 360… i did this and it got my whole hardrive corrupted let alone my skyrim saves. But at first it was just the save my advice delete save from skyrim and start over and dont mod the xbox version or you will end up like me getting your whole hard drive reformated. when i turned my 360 on it just kept telling me to reformat my hard drive and i could not do anything else because everything was corrupt it did register my xbl profiles game saves downloaded games nothing. so GOOD LUCK with that

  • Duedum55

    My BIGGEST problem with being a vampire lord is the fact that you cannot drink blood from dead bodies.

    You seriously should be able to do this.

    I wonder what the Vamp Lord thinks: “Hmm, I’m getting really thirsty and I might become hated a feared soon and there are a number of fresh bodies lying around me, oh well, I shouldn’t drink from them.”

    • will0894

      you understand if anything that drinking blood should only make a vampire immensely stronger. Bethesda screwed dawnguard up completely. why would the vampiristic qualities become stronger when you don’t drink blood? (when blood is the one thing that vampires technically need to survive)??? you try going without water for 3 days tell me how you feel.

      • Mannyprime

        Maybe the Vampire mechanics are modeled similar to the movie “Daybreakers” where vampires only drink human blood to keep human form. If you go too long without drinking human blood, your vampire side becomes more prevalent (loss of rational thought, super speed, strength, grotesque appearance.)

        Vampire mechanics have changed over the decades. Remember there used to be no such thing as a vampire walking in the sunlight?


    Vampires can’t drink the blood of the dead. Watch an interview with a vampire. And they seemed to base all of this dlc off vampire movies, i mean come on the vampire form is pretty much ripped straight from Brams drac. My overall feeling is $20 for this dlc is abit steep considering how freaking big and jam packed the shivering isles is.

    That being said being a vampire lord is very cool, the two homes are very nice for either a good guy or bad guy whichever way you like it served, and it adds some fun stuff, which is more than call of duty’s million expansion packs at organ prices for 2 regurgitated maps.

    However the big pitfall of Dawnguard is pitifully boring storyline. I dont want to spoil it but honestly their isn’t a whole lot to spoil. In the end you come out with a new home. Thats it. You cant make choices, you cant decide who lives and dies. Maybe I don’t like this vamp girl. Maybe I would rather blot out the sun. Maybe I like the evil elf guy. Why cant I choose that? Im the guy who sought out every daedric artifact and has literally murdered hundreds of people as a vampire. Your gonna tell me that it fits that I choose to side with some bimbo over taking over the earth? Bullshit bethesda, bullshit. When I get a gaming pc im getting a goty edition for $10 on the PC for the $40 I just made on the xbox version, modding this vamp girl nailed dead to the table along with her mom in castle volkihar and turning off the sun. Thats what I would have done.

    • Unknown bored kid

      my opinion is that u enjoy apocalypse-like movies too much.True,bethesda should have given us more choices but but no sun would have eventualy renderd humanity doomed so good luck playing TES 6!

  • dragoneater

    The vampire lord is amazing looking & can hover also.. makes me kinda bummed i made a high elf heavy armored sword & sheild loud & proud style warrior.. if you made a stealth/illusion magic build your vampire skills would stack with your base skills and make you god-like probly.. to late for me.. im just going to murder all vamps.. & protect tamriel i guess :(

  • Trondz

    I feel the Vampire Lord ability fails in combat. When I’m in combat, I’ve often experienced that it’s just easier to go in normal mode and just use the shit I’ve always used.

    Can toss in a quick comment that I just have played dawnguard for a couple of hours

  • maric’sghost

    I downloaded this dlc last summer and just now got around to playing it over the winter holidays. While I do enjoy getting back into Skyrim and experincing the Dawnguard dlc, being a vampire Lord seems pretty lame compared to what I can already do with my high level skills as a warrior. I got rid of that vampire ability as soon as I could.

  • PaulG

    Hey, that’s not the only way to become a vampire lord. *Spoiler coming up* If you help the Dawnguard and defeat the vampire lord, Serana will be able to turn you into a vampire lord also, so no matter what you do, you still have that option!

  • dragoneater

    Yea i put alot of time into my dark elf to be the perfect stealth illusion conjurer & archer.. its good news to me i can help the dawnguard & after destroying Harkon & his flesh minions.. become a vampire lord with serana.. i play as a good guy really so it feels good to kno that ill be one of the last vamp lords and everyone will thank me for destroying them lol.. my secret agenda.. destroying my competition lmfao

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  • devin woody

    I dont know why people are fussing and B******* over everything in the dawn guard storyline and vampire lord looks, Ect. theres nothing wrong with it. That may be my opinion but what everyone needs to do is just be quiet and be greatful that they even put the vampire lord storyline in the skyrim video game.

  • James Clavin

    Vampires is not at all like in the movies or books. Sure, I understand. You are young; you have the whole world open to you. You can be anything that you choose if you apply yourself and try hard to work toward that goal. But being a vampire is not what it seems like. It’s a life full of good, and amazing things. We are as human as you are.. It’s not what you are that counts, but how you choose to be. Do you want a life full of interesting things? Do you want to have power and influence over others? To be charming and desirable? To have wealth, health, and longevity? contact the vampires creed today via email, vampirescreed11 @ hotmail. com or call +23464210522

  • JB

    Revisiting skyrim while thinking about buying tes online, I bought DG & HF and so far I really like it. Where vamp form shines is being mage class — the aoe life drain bomb is better than most mage spells, and the zombie skill is better than the mage ones as well (lasts longer, and higher level targets). On top of that the vamp form is very durable, and with your attacks healing you and a couple of other healing options as well (mist form perk, power attack heal perk, shroud bats, etc). With alteration perks and necromage, you are nearly indestructible BUT your damage is still meh (same as any mage build without mods). It is also extremely fun and potent at lower levels; you can become a vamp lord at level 10 or so… that will carry you into the 30s at least without breaking a sweat.

    For anyone not a true (no armor, magic only for offense) mage, a high level character that wears good armor and uses good weapons is going to feel like turning into a werewolf: damage cut down to a tiny fraction of normal and armor removed — no good at all. Vamp form compared to a level 45+ warrior type char doing 400+ damage per sword swing while having 85% resist to all magic while wearing 1500+ armor rating … yea, its not that good. However the high level vamps and dragons actually can reduce the health bar on my warrior (level 60 or so) which is something that has not happened in a long, long time. Legendary difficulty with these guys is actually making it worthwhile even if there were no other content additions.