Published on September 9th, 2012 | by ~G~1
DLC Review: Skyrim: Hearthfire
Too Long; Didn't Read
Summary: Perhaps not everyone's taste, but Hearthfire does exactly as advertised - allow players to build their own properties in Skyrim and raise a family. But perhaps only newcomers to the game and die-hard Skyrim fans will really appreciate it.
Ooh where to begin with Hearthfire? It’s perhaps not the DLC fans of Skyrim have necessarily been hankering for, but it does add something to the engaging experience that makes the Elder Scrolls games so great. But is Hearthfire more ‘Horse Armour’ than ‘Dawnguard’?
A home from home.
I think that the majority of Elder Scrolls fans will tell you that this Bethesda franchise is almost a ‘home away from home’ – allowing you to live and breathe in a whole new fantasy world, with depths of ‘realism’ not seen in any other game. And with Hearthfire that saying becomes a tad more literal,
Because the whole point of Hearthfire is not to go on any fancy new quest for glory or some ultimate weapon, it’s to build your dream home… or several dream homes in the lands of Skyrim.
When I say that Hearthfire is about building your home, I mean it. There are no long winded quests to be done before you can buy your land to build your house – though there is one Jarl who asked me to kill a bandit, which took all of 10 minutes to accomplish (that includes travel time). Other than that, it’s a case of having enough money and knowing where to go.
After downloading Hearthfire, you will be visited by a courier with a letter from the Jarl of Falkreath – letting you know of your ability to purchase land owned by said Jarl. You’ll then need to go speak to him and his steward to purchase a plot of land for 5,000 Gold. Alternatively you can head towards Dawnstar and/or Morthal directly and speak with the Jarl’s there.
Once you have the deed you head to your land and find a crafting table and a chest filled with some starting resources such as clay and stone.
The crafting process is very basic. You are given set pieces of your home to build, bit by bit, starting with a very basic small one-room house, then adding a larger two-storey hall. To that main hall you can then add a wing to the North, East and West. Those extra wings are yours to choose from a small selection, such as: Armoury, Library, Kitchen, Greenhouse, Bedrooms (and a few others).
A heart home of iron
Each part of the house is built up in segments, from foundation to supports to walls and floors and with each segment you need to make sure you have enough resources to build them.
Up until now, one of the least valuable and handy items in Skyrim has been iron and iron ingots. After your first few weapons in the game, you soon pick up better steel weapons and armour, then iron becomes pretty much useless. But with Hearthfire, you’ll soon learn the value of this cheap metal and when the shops run out and the mines are depleted, you’ll be kicking yourself for not stocking up more.
You see iron is used to craft a lot of items needed for house building, such as hinges, locks and (most importantly) nails. Fortunately you can buy iron ingots in most towns, but if the stores run out you will have to wait some time before they are restocked and that can really slow down your house building dreams.
Other materials – as mentioned earlier – are clay and stone. Luckily the plots of land you buy feature unlimited spots of clay and stone to mine. Or, if you are feeling flush with cash, you can order in these items.
Also, those lumber mills you see in some of the towns finally have a role to play. You can make orders of lumber to be sent to your home – another resource which is needed in almost all of your house building (though more readily available than iron it seems).
Lucky there’s a family guy:
One other aspect of Hearthfire is having a family, as you now get to ‘raise’ kids. I use raise in the loosest sense, because unfortunately you don’t get to see any kinky love scenes, ala Mass Effect. Instead, once you have built a house and married (that’s very important) you will be given a letter from the orphanage in Riften, asking if you have considered adopting a child.
You can adopt up to two children, as long as you have enough space in your house (i.e. built the bedroom wing of your house) and then you can purchase children’s clothing and even little toy wooden swords.
Now this is where my review falls down a bit – as I haven’t adopted any kids. Mainly because I cannot stand the children in Skyrim. I think it’s cool the game has them (a new addition to the Elder Scrolls franchise) as it added a bit of extra realism to the game – with kids running around and playing. But they are all annoying little sh*ts and one of the few NPCs I wish you could kill in the game. But I guess Bethesda thought that cutting down kids in the streets might not be too favourable to parents buying the game for their own impressionable children.
What’s the point?
I have to admit, at first I thought this DLC was pretty pointless, but after spending hours upon hours of gathering resources, earning extra cash to buy anything I couldn’t mine/gather myself, I realised what Hearthfire adds to Skyrim; it’s a mark that you can make on the world (almost) unique to you.
However, I almost feel like this DLC is a little too late. You see, hardcore Skyrim fans (such as myself) will happily pay the 400MS Points to play houses in our favourite fantasy land. But I reckon other gamers who have already completed the game won’t actually bother to get this, because there is no real quest involved – not like Dawnguard, which offered a great extra storyline to follow for a few more hours.
That said, Hearthfire is a great bit of DLC for newcomers to the game. It’s another level of depth to the game; as you build up your character you can create your own house with awesome armoury, stables, your own carriage waiting for you outside, your own house steward (kind of like a butler) and even a bard to sing you songs.
Side note: For house stewards, you can ask pretty much anyone who will follow you around on quests and such to become the steward of your house. You just need to take them to your home (when the first small building is finished) and then ask them. I was a bit bummed out that you couldn’t marry the lovely Lydia the first time round – so I asked her to be one of my stewards… it’s kinda like having a wife, but she will furnish your house for you… oh actually that’s just like having a wife!
The biggest let down, however, is just how impressive the mark you make could have been – compared to what it actually is. You only have three plots of land you build upon and then you have a very limited number of house designs you can choose between.
Despite not adding a fun new adventure to send my characters on – Hearthfire is a surprisingly fun addition to Skyrim. But it’s not for everyone.
That said, it does exactly what it says it will – allow you to own and build your own property. The building is very simple, if a little limited, but it works.
I’m hoping that Bethesda can add more content to Hearthfire at some point – but for its 400MS asking price, it feels like a worthwhile purchase.
+ Simple home building
+ Surprisingly fun to create your own home
+ An extra bit of depth to an already deep game
+ Worth the 400MS points (£3.45 or $5.00 US)
- Limited options on building
– Not for everyone
I play the Sims. A lot. That being said, I was really excited when I heard about Hearthfire... and kind of disappointed when I played it. It would have been really cool if they had added little things like, I don't know, a spinning wheel to make clothes with (which could have possibly opened up a new perk chain), or the option to open a shop or something like that. As for the adoption thing, I don't mind the kids so much. It would be nice if their personalities changed depending on how you raise them, or if there were more options in regard to clothing and appearance, but you pretty much adopt the kids and then they ask you for things. Such is life.