Want more Dawnguard? See our 15 essential tips and secrets for the Skyrim DLC.
It's taken Bethesda 8 months to release the first piece of DLC for Skyrim. It fills the already expansive world map with new locations, quests, weapons, armour, and characters - and even throws in a few new gameplay features.
Why did it take so long, though? Having to fix the PS3 version's game-breaking slowdown bug may have contributed, or maybe they just wanted to wait and release something big and worthwhile, rather than another set of horse armour. Whatever the reason, it was worth the wait. Dawnguard is a seriously impressive chunk of new content.
It gives you two choices: join the Dawnguard, a band of vampire hunters, or become a vampire yourself. Each faction has their own castle, special powers, and unique gear - but share a lot of common quests and locations. You'll be following pretty much the same story regardless of who you choose, but from a slightly different perspective.
It focuses on an ancient and powerful vampire called Lord Harkon, and his attempts to destroy the sun and plunge Tamriel into eternal darkness. As a vampire you'll join his coven and help him; as a member of the Dawnguard you have to stop his villainous plot.
There are advantages to joining either side, but the best rewards are reserved for those with vampiric tendencies. As a bloodsucker you get a ridiculous bonuses including immunity to poison and disease, and resistance to fire and frost. The downside is that if you go outside in daylight, your health, stamina, and magicka are severely reduced, and don't regenerate.
Dawnguard also grants you a new power: the ability to transform into a mighty Vampire Lord. This demonic form gives you an obscenely powerful life-draining primary spell, and the power to raise the dead. It also has its own perk tree, with 11 additional powers you can unlock by feasting on enemies.
But although becoming a Vampire Lord grants you some really unique powers, it's also irritatingly clumsy to control. The forced third-person camera is a nightmare in tight spaces, and when you're surrounded by enemies it's difficult to keep track of them.
Of course, there are some perks to joining the Dawnguard too - but nothing quite as dramatic. Not only do you get access to an array of special armour and weapons with bonuses against vampires, but you can hire a giant armoured troll to join you in battle for 500 gold. He's a dumb but powerful ally, and charges around the battlefield with a giant club. You can give him simple commands, and buy a new one from Fort Dawnguard if he dies.
But, honestly, being a vampire is more fun. Not just because the Vampire Lord form brings some welcome variety to Skyrim's combat, but the characters too. There's a dark sense of humour running through the vampire storyline, but the Dawnguard are, in comparison, a bit serious and po-faced. You'll have to decide whether you want to be a righteous do-gooder, or devilish garlic dodger. In terms of story enjoyment, we'd have to recommend the latter.