We played through the second part, or better yet, the final two thirds of the expansion these last couple of days and at about thirty hours of gameplay I have to say that it’s longer than most games. Although set in a completely new location, the island of Soltstheim, this was unmistakably Skyrim, it had dragons, crypts, dwemer ruins, shouts, mountains and snow. Sure, it had a new storyline, new locations, new characters and quite a few new elements, like new enemies, ingredients, gear & loot, but it felt like everything could have been part of the main game easily. However, this wasn’t a bad thing at all, as almost every part of the experience was Skyrim at its best. The main plot was pretty well constructed; the side quests were interesting and you didn’t just play the role of a courier, like in a lot of Skyrim’s other side quests; the new characters and the new locations were well implemented, the new ingredients, potions and items seemed very carefully worked out and, most importantly, unlike some moments from the main game (particularly after more than 300 hours), nothing felt repetitive.
The whole experience was far superior to what Skyrim’s first expansion, Dawnguard, had to offer, which, unfortunately, became quite boring at times. Even the Oblivion plane that featured in this second DLC, Apocrypha, was far more interesting than Dawnguard’s Soul Cairn. It wasn’t something I enjoyed particularly, but it was relatively well done, the only downside to it was the repetitiveness of its enemies, although that never became an annoyance.
This brings me to Soltsheim’s biggest hiccup, which in our opinion was the addition of the Rieklings – the diminutive, blue, Smurf-like comical enemies – they really don’t fit in the world of the Elder Scrolls, which tends to be on the more serious side of things. They resembled the enemies from games such as the Fable series, but at least there everything is more cartoony in nature and it’s something you come to expect; unfortunately, they felt really out of place in Skyrim.
Besides the Rieklings, the only other questionable aspect of the Dragonborn expansion (aside from maybe its title) was the introduction of the ability to ride dragons. It sounded great in theory and from what we were expecting based on the first experience of riding Dragons in Apocrypha. However, the way it was implemented in the actual game was very limited and had no practical use. It really felt like something that was done so that a box can be ticked, something that fortunately is rare in Skyrim, even given its immense size. The only really useful element of the whole thing was that you could choose to tame a dragon instead of fighting it.