Dragonborn is the other big DLC for TESV: Skyrim. Unlike Dawnguard, which as a Vampires VS Vampire Hunters story, Dragonborn mostly continues the whole Dovahkiin storyline, and goes hand in hand with your dragon-murdering character. There’s a lot of nice things about it, but something… bothers me about Dragonborn, I just don’t know what.
First off, Dragonborn is a real nostalgia trip to all the Morrowind fans out there. While you won’t convince the hardcore fans, those who enjoyed Morrowind will definitely appreciate the island of Solstheim and the familiar landscape and architecture of Raven Rock. They’ll also love the Dunmer running around everywhere, particularly the Telvani wizard Neloth. But as you head north, you find the same old snow and fir trees, quickly dragging you back to that all familiar Nordic landscape, complete with plenty of old Nord ruins and a small village of (admittedly rather different and fresh) Nords. There’s also Dwemer stuff everywhere because why not, I guess. It’s a nice landscape, definitely worth exploring, even if Solstheim isn’t as big as its appearance in other games.
Story-wise, things get kinda iffy. Basically, after being targeted by a bunch of cultists, you travel to Solstheim and ask around for the guy who sent them, some douchebag called Miraak. Everyone seems to have heard of Miraak but can’t remember who he is. You’ll be directed to his temple in the middle of the island, which is strewn with dragon skeletons. You stumble across more cultists and Frea, whose fellow Nordic buddies are being mind-controlled by Miraak somehow. You end up on a long and bumbling path that forces you to give your soul to Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge, via a C’Thulu-inspired hellhole called Apocrypha.
The quest takes you through Nordic ruins, a rather cool Dwarven flooded puzzle of a ruin and a LOT of Apocrypha, to the point that you’ll hate the black and dark green landscape. It’s cool the first few times but you get tired of its whole two types of enemy.
During this journey, you find out that Miraak is also a Dragonborn, just like you. The first, apparently. He’ll constantly mock you throughout the quest and, annoyingly, Miraak will pop up whenever you kill a dragon to steal his soul. Thing is, you need those dragon souls, as you need to learn the Bend Will shout to defeat Miraak. So, uh, make sure you have at least 3 dragon souls available before you start.
The quest ends with you being Mora’s bitch, and not even being able to kill Miraak yourself. Mora comes along and stabs Miraak with a tentacle before you can deal the final blow. On the plus side, you get all the dragon souls Miraak stole from you.
The saddest thing though is the dragon riding. You need to finish the quest to unlock the shout (which is the entirety of Bend Will) and you need to use all three words of Bend Will on a dragon for it to land and as if you want to ride it. Sadly, all it consists of is you sitting on the back of a dragon as it targets enemies and occasionally attacks them. You can only use a handful of abilities while riding a dragon, mostly just spells. You’re actually better off using Bend Will and treating the dragon like a cheap Odahviing, and unlike the main Skyrim quest and in Dawnguard, you don’t get a dragon ally at the end. Sahrotaar, your draconic ally, gets his soul swallowed by Miraak to heal himself during the final battle. I made a mod to kinda fix that, but still, I like my dragon allies and you only see the ugly fucker that is Sahrotaar a few times, every time being insulted and treated like shit by Miraak.
Apart from those rather minor things (Bend Will is more useful and cheaper to use on people anyway), Dragonborn is definitely worth the money, even if it’s to enjoy the Dunmer architecture and the mushroom biome of Solstheim. But the thing that bothers me, thinking back to the quest, is that your character is well and truly fucked.
After the main quest in Skyrim, you get the ending with the dragons. After that, you’re completely free from the quest, you can do what you want. When you finish Dawnguard, you’re either a vampire or you’re not, and the world continues on as normal – you can completely abandon the vampires and the vampire hunters if you want to, and not think about it again. After those quests, you can go and sell your soul to any daedra or do whatever you want. But with Dragonborn, you’ve always got the nagging feeling that you’ll be Hermaus Mora’s bitch forever, even after your character dies. You end up being tied to a contract, with no way out of it.
And if you DON’T do these quests, well, with the main quest, dragons just attack and nothing else happens, and with Dawnguard, you just get vampire/vampire hunter attacks which are annoying but you can deal with them. But with Dragonborn, Miraak will just continue to come along and steal your well-earned dragon souls and insult you as he does so. You can’t disconnect from Dragonborn as well as you can the other quests.
It’s a weird little detail, but it’s there.
Still, worth it for the new world to explore. You can just ignore Miraak though if you don’t properly start Dragonborn. Which is good.