Skyrim’s city housing contractors can gouge no more; players can officially ply their own skills in architectural design (and family planning) now that Bethesda’s latest DLC, Hearthfire,” is available for download on Xbox Live.

Coinciding with the DLC’s launch – the second featured offering after this summer’s Dawnguard expansion – the developer released a brand new sliver of screenshots modeling the ways a player might construct his/her residence. It turns out domesticated Dovahkiin know their way around a floor plan quite well.

Hearthfire releases at a bittersweet time in Skyrim’s post-launch life. Xbox 360 and PC owners are plenty ready for more content after foraging through the enjoyable Dawnguard expansion. Thanks to the same expansion’s eternal development struggles on the PlayStation 3, however, players on Sony’s platform have been left out to dry, their only post-release support consisting of patches for occasionally-cringe-worthy bugs. (Reading through the lines of the latest Bethesda statement, it’s possible Dawnguard may never release for the PS3.) It was only last week that Bethesda announced the Hearthfire DLC with a trailer and some rudimentary details, mustering a modicum of fanfare and anticipation, and yet it was all they could do to shout down the controversy swirling above its system-shunning predecessor like a newly awakened dragon.

But Hearthfire can’t be judged by its troubled peer, say what you will about its developer or Sony’s complex hardware. Its features – highlighted in part by the screens above: buying land; designing and building a private home; customizing your residence with trophies, trophy wives, children, and a plethora of different rooms (think kitchens, bedrooms, armories, alchemy labs, balconies, etc.) – build on a wealth of existing content and place even more creative tools in the hands of the player. Better yet: they arrive at a mere 400 Microsoft Points ($5).

Bethesda hasn’t detailed exactly how in-depth the new home-building features are. We know house size can range from a tiny cottage or a prodigious mansion (that the picture of the unfinished larger structure above was simply titled “Main Hall” is a little intimidating), but how much control we’re afforded over the finer craftsmanship bits – materials, colors, and styling, for instance – remains unclear. Furthermore, platform uncertainty remains an issue, with Hearthfire releasing as a 30-day minimum 360 exclusive and future platforms unannounced. Hopefully, though, its smaller size will prove more hardware-friendly.

Ranters, for Skyrim PC owners, creation kits and modding tools have turned features like home building and child herding into boilerplate add-ons by now (check out our ongoing “Rebuilding Skyrim with Mods” feature for proof). How well do you expect Hearthfire to handle the same concept?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Hearthfire is now available Xbox LIVE for 400 Microsoft Points.

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