Skyrim players have established a sense of ownership over their characters. With an amalgam of abilities, magical spells, armor, and quest decisions, wanderers of the northern lands have shaped their Tamrielic personalities to such a fine point that it would seem absurd to delve even deeper. With Bethesda’s newest DLC add-on Hearthfire, this sense of ownership extends beyond the character and into the world of Skyrim itself.
Hearthfire allows players to construct their own homes outside the walls of each hold’s primary cities. Customization of these houses surpasses that of the city homes, imparting upon players the ability to shape the very structures of their retreats. By speaking to (and possibly completing favors for) individual Jarls or stewards, players can acquire up to three plots of land spread between Falkreath, The Pale, and Hjaalmarch. Customization options will reward the player with personal forges, alchemy tables, arcane enchanters, and more, all in the name of convenience. A fair amount of gold is required to realize one’s dream home, so new characters will have a little saving to do. However, higher-level characters with ample money will often find these new homes superfluous, as they most likely already have all the gear and crafting apparatus they could ever need. This catch-22 relationship between funds and necessity makes Hearthfire a bit obsolete for players seeking a worthy successor to the stellar Dawnguard
As far as personalization options, Hearthfire offers up a host of new chores and activities to the player. The ability to adopt up to two children (who can be found throughout Skyrim) imparts a higher level of attachment to one’s character. Protecting each house (and possibly each family, if monogamy isn’t your thing) from skeevers, giants, and dragons will add even more to the colossal quest lists of Skyrim.
While the sense of ownership does grow in this DLC, the individualism the game is known for does not. Each house starts as a cottage, and more wings can be added on with more materials and gold. The unfortunate thing is, everyone’s houses will look the same. This isn’t a huge problem considering the single player nature of the game, but it would have been a blast to customize several unique houses across multiple characters in order to see everything the add-on has to offer. The three plots of land also seem limited after a while. Ideally, plots could be purchased anywhere across the province of Skyrim to fit the character. I would have loved to build a house for my Argonian in the stagnant marshlands near Riften, while my Nord would feel at home closer to the ice of Winterhold. I would undoubtedly have forked over another five or ten or fifteen dollars solely for this option. The design constraints of such a massive world are enough of an excuse to forgo this option, but it would have increased the longevity of the Skyrim real estate scene remarkably.
It’s just as hard as ever to jump back into Skyrim without spending an extra ten hours wandering the world. New players may find the houses optimal for a fallback crafting and recuperating location, while more experienced players will enjoy the characterization associated with one’s own plot of land. The inexpensive DLC does exactly what it was meant to: entice players with even more ways to lose themselves in the best open world video games have ever seen.
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