I don’t suppose many of you remember the Dawnguard Snipin’ series I did a while back, which concluded back in January, but it was pretty clear that 1. I had played through Skyrim’s vampire-based DLC before and 2. that I clearly went with the Dawnguard and didn’t consider the vampire side at all. I’ve actually played both sides, and I’m considering doing a brand new Skyrim playthrough at some point, including Dawnguard and Dragonborn, but it recently occurred to me just how stupid the Dawnguard storyline is. I did go on about it in Dawnguard Snipin’, but most of those complains were Sniper getting angry.
Before I start ranting, there are some AMAZING things in Dawnguard. Both the Forgotten Valve and the Soul Cairn are really awesome places, and everything is inserted really nicely into the already-existing world, to the point that the only thing you’d obviously miss is Castle Volkihar. New weapons, new spells, new perks for werewolves, a new transformation and buffs to vampires are all nice too. The sad thing about Dawnguard is that the plot is the worst thing about it.
The single biggest problem with the entirety of the quest line in Dawnguard is Serana.
Serana is a daughter of Cold Harbor, meaning she got her vampirism from Molag Bal himself. Her voice lines suggest she did put herself up for this, but why would anyone want to willingly be part of a cult of the Prince of Domination and the King of Rape? You want power and all that, why not just worship Talos?
I’m getting sidetracked. Serana was buried in a giant sealed off thing deep in some stupid cave, with an Elder Scroll strapped to her. An Elder Scroll. A FUCKING ELDER SCROLL. She opens her eyes and you obviously see that she’s a vampire, she’s shown the same traits as everyone else you killed on the way here and she’s wearing their damn armour. Of course, you, being a lowly vampire hunter, should probably kill this vampire and take that powerful artifact away from her. Even if it’s your first time playing and you’ve never seen an Elder Scroll before, the thing on her back does look super important and it really shouldn’t be in the hands of your enemy.
But somehow, for some stupid reason, you can’t actually do that. You HAVE to take her to a castle filled with more vampires and take her AND the powerful artifact back to her almost certainly insane father.
This one event affects the entirety of the plot, which involves using arrows dipped in Serana’s blood to block out the sun with Auriel’s Bow. Had you killed Serana and nabbed the scroll, none of Dawnguard would have happened.
What makes everything worse is how dumb some of the characters are. If you decide to take Serana to Fort Dawnguard (another logical option), Isran will send you to Harkon anyway. WHY? THERE IS NO REASON TO TAKE SERANA DIRECTLY TO HARKON.
On top of this, the story is mostly the same no matter what side you take, the main difference is that the enemies are switched around. There is no option to actually side with Harkon at all, no way to fulfill the prophecy or anything. On the side of the Dawnguard, I can kinda see an idea of “we need to get the artifact before they do!”, akin to Indiana Jones or something, but the side of the Volikhar vampires is basically you betraying Harkon no matter what you do. Really, you’re not siding with vampires or vampire hunters, you’re siding with Serana. Harkon and Isran only seem to check up on you occasionally, but the Dawnguard lot do seem to be a bit nicer. They all know Isran is a dick, but he’s also got good ideas and is pretty damn good at killing vampires. Harkon is a douchebag who thinks he’s better than everyone else, and his court isn’t much better – you can’t even parade in your Vampire Lord form without them talking down to you.
Alright, Serana does say and react to a lot more around her than most followers, but she also complains a lot. She uses idle markers and does her own thing when bored, but really that package can be given to any follower, and I find it sad that a lot of new stuff given to Serana wasn’t given to other major followers in the game.
The aftereffects of the story don’t help either. No matter what side you pick, Serana will still give you her blood to make the horrible nasty sun-breaking arrows (although their effect is only temporary) and a hugely powerful bow made by an almost-aedra is now in the hands of some random guy who will probably lose it to a Draugr using the Disarm shout. The vampire town attacks die down if you’re on the side of the Dawnguard, as will the Dawnguard attacks on you, but if you’re on the vampire side, destroying the Dawnguard is a fucking side-quest after doing a ton of chores for the vampires you supposedly rule over. The rewards are pretty different, but again are still mostly accessible no matter what side you pick, although it is pretty hard getting the new restoration spells off Florentius and the crossbow stuff off whatshername if you join the vampires because they instantly aggro on you.
All this death and destruction could have been avoided so easily…
Seriously, so many things are fixed by killing Serana:
- If you kill Serana and take the Elder Scroll, Harkon can’t figure out that there’s more to his prophecy.
- Harkon MUST use the Blood, Sun and Dragon Elder Scrolls, otherwise this won’t work, all three of which can easily be hidden away.
- Even if Harkon finds her Elder Scroll but you kill Serana, he will never, ever be able to complete his prophecy if Serana is dead, because he lacks the third Elder Scroll with Valerica has.
- Harkon needs three Elder Scrolls to reveal the location of the Forgotten Vale, so if you never 1. complete the main quest or 2. he never finds you or 3. you get rid of the scroll somehow, he is missing one of the scrolls he needs.
- Even if Harkon manages to get your Elder Scroll AND Serana’s scroll, he can’t ever get the third scroll, because Valerica is in the Soul Cairn, something he has zero access to because Serana is dead, and the portal requires hers or Valerica’s blood to activate.
- Even if Harkon somehow managed to get to the Soul Cairn, he needs a Dragonborn to be able to defeat Durnehviir. And your character in the Elder Scrolls series is the Last Dragonborn.
- Even if he manages that, he still needs a Daughter of Cold Harbor. Valerica would rather die than let Harkon take her blood, and Serana is already dead. Daughters of Cold Harbor are incredibly rare and the prophecy requires their death.
There’s probably more to this but it’s all just so ludicrous.
Oh well, at least the crossbows are fucking awesome.