Hearthfire: A Venture Back to Skyrim
I could write a thesis on how incredibly in-depth and awe-inspiring I find Bethesda’s 2011 smash hit, Skyrim. Sadly it wouldn’t be that entertaining and would sound more like some loser obsessively gushing over his abusive lover. Instead I decided to write about my experiences with the title’s latest piece of DLC for this delightfully sexual behemoth of a videogame.
Designed as a bit of nod towards some of the amazing mod creations on the PC, Hearthfire gives Xbox 360 players the opportunity to adopt kids, buy three different plots of land, build small houses and then (rather linearly) customise the interiors/exteriors to their liking. Each house can have up to four extensions; starting with a main hall and then leading on to an east, west and south wings, all of which have up to four different optional buildings. These include rooms such as armouries, green houses, kitchens and laboratories. All of the rooms can then be fully upgradable to contain their namesakes’ paraphernalia, with the armoury holding a work bench, anvil and weapon holders, the green house allows you to sew and grow your own plants and the laboratory contains an alchemy table. Each house also includes unique area attributes such as building a bee apiary for collecting honey, fish hatchery and a wheat mill for creating flour which can be used for baking.
Of course with any Oblivion DLC came a tonne of pointless consumables and Skyrim is no different. It contains a few items of clothing for your adoptive children, a handful of new materials to help you build and furnish your houses and an absolute bath tube full of ingredients to help you bake your way to your children’s hearts. Perhaps my favourite addition is the rather standard fork which can now be equipped as a deadly weapon; there is somewhat of a magical joy to screaming wildly and attacking a dragon with nothing more than an eating utensil.
Given that Hearthfire is a non-mission based DLC you can see how it lends itself to those of us more inclined to make our video game houses an extension of ourselves. This is usually accomplished by painfully deciding where to place our loot yet rarely displaying it to anyone. I have never really been one for this kind of behaviour (although I do obsessively collect anything of value and have been known to go back and forth between my home and a dungeon multiple times to ensure I collect everything I consider valuable). However, I have more than enough friends who have spent a scary amount of time collecting bottles upon bottles of Nuka Cola just to jazz up their houses in Fallout.
A relatively big negative experience I have had with Hearthfire – which sadly I feel most people will experience, is that I am such a high level within the game, thus have already completed most of the more challenging conditions needed to unlock certain aspects of the DLC. This includes becoming the Thane of certain villages to unlock housecarls for your homes, having xxx amount of gold to actually build your house and adventuring around the world to collect materials. In fact the only real difficult quest (which is more frustrating than anything) is finding as much iron as possible as it is used in pretty much every creatable item within Hearthfire. I have lost count of the amount of times I have had to exit my house, create some locks or fixings and then re-enter just to finish upgrading the smallest item in a room.
Sadly this also leads on to another problem with the DLC; there is a game-breaking bug that completely freezes my Xbox every time I am inside my house in Falkreath. Frustratingly the issue only started to occur after I spent thousands and thousands of gold pieces building, upgrading and adopting kids, and it looks like I will never be seeing those scallywag children ever again.
Regardless of game crippling bugs I have still soldiered on, brought and built two other houses, added bedrooms/porches to my million other houses and cheerfully stumbled across a few areas and quests I had not yet discovered in this colossal game. When you think about it, it’s hard to believe people are still playing Skyrim almost a whole year after its initial release – when was the last game you played that had that effect on the world? Considering we’ve only had two loads of DLC (and one of them has literally been a non-mission based semi-building simulator) I think you can begin to appreciate just how big and phenomenally additive Skyrim truly is.