The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Hearthfire DLC
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Price: 400 MSP ($5) – Available Here
While players can do a lot of things within the lands of Skyrim, there are a few things that they cannot actually do. Sure they can come close to these things, like finding someone to marry, buying a pre-built house and settling down, but what about those who want a house of their very own that isn’t within a city? Better yet, what if you could even adopt a child or two to help establish your own homestead in the frozen tundra of Skyrim .
Well with the latest piece of DLC released by Bethesda, Hearthfire, you can do just that. However does Hearthfire inspire the builder within or should it simply sputter out and be forgotten?
As many of you have probably already assumed, Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC will allow players to create a home of their very own out in the wilderness while also allowing them to adopt a few children and move their family into the house. Now how does this all go about you ask? Well… a little too simply and too quickly.
As the player begins Skyrim for the first time since downloading the DLC they will eventually be tracked down by a courier who will provide them with a few letters that notify them about land going up for sale in one of three different areas and the fact that the orphanage is now allowing children to be adopted. It is worth noting that players can actually acquire up to three different pieces of land from the Jarls of Morthal, Falkreath and Dawnstar, though these require some quests to be done in these holds while the first one is given for free (minus the cost of purchase.)
After acquiring a piece of land, the player will be shown where it is on their map, so unfortunately the player cannot simply choose wherever they would like their house as the plots are pre-planned. Upon arriving in your plot of land you will find a number of things already set up for you, such as a drafting board and a carpenters bench and even a few materials that will help you build up your initial house.
This is where one of the major drawbacks of Hearthfire kicks into play however. Just like not selecting your own plot of land, players are unable to provide much customization to each building. In fact, the only minor customization options the player has is what three wings they want to add onto their house, with things such as a kitchen, additional bedroom, smithy, alchemy room, storage, trophy room and more able to be chosen. However even these cannot be undone once the player has started building them.
Some of these wings are rather enjoyable to use, such as the kitchen which adds a few special baking recipes and the Trophy Room that allows the player to create stuffed versions of creatures they’ve defeated. It is worth noting though, that it is incredibly easy to build nearly everything in your house with the use of money. Since most players will be jumping into Hearthfire with a Skyrim character that is already well-established in the world, money and materials are probably a non-issue which means that even some of the rarer items may already be stashed away in the player’s previous house, allowing for almost instantaneous house building and decoration.
This also happens to be true with all furnishings inside the house as it is all pre-arranged when you build it and there is no way to get rid of something you dislike. The only minor customization option is re-arranging shelves and display cabinets with your own goodies. In fact, each plot of land’s house will have a similar appearance to one another, with the scenery and extra outside selections such as a small garden, bee-keeping area or fish hatchery varying between land.
Now that you’ve built your three relatively similar houses that look similar to what everyone else’s look like, you can now choose to occupy your house with a number of people. As already mentioned, if the player has married someone already or wants to marry someone, their wife can be told to move to their newly built home. Also it is worth noting that almost any follower can also become your house carl, who you can tell to buy various items, decorate your house for you or even hire on a bard to sing in your house.
As mentioned before, players will also be able to adopt a child and have them come live in their newly established home full of arcane magic, swords capable of killing dragons and sweet rolls. Players can interact with their child in a number of ways, such as playing simplistic games with them, make them do chores or simply talk with em.
Players can experience a number of issues in their house as well, such as bandit attacks and the like, though these feel random at best. So unfortunately most of the time they will find themselves simply leaving their house as a larger and fancier storage shed for their equipment. It is also worth noting that around these new plots of land, the game’s performance can take a significant dive, with long load times, an occasional freeze and even a nigh-impossible to move slow-down.
While Skyrim’s Hearthfire does offer exactly what it says it does, players will find the constrictive system far from adequate for their experience. While it may be a cheap add-on at only 400 MSP ($5), the extra additions to the player’s world feel rather slim. Still, players who do acquire Hearthfire will be able to carve out their only little niche in their world of Skyrim and begin a family in what can be the fanciest houses in the game, that look the same as everyone elses. Ultimately with a lack of customization and extra additions to these houses, Hearthfire is a bust, even at its budget price.