Musings on Hearthfire
Posted by joeabbott on September 13, 2012
Hearthfire is the latest Xbox 360 DLC (Downloadable Content) for the massively popular RPG Skyrim and I picked it up to get me back into the world of Skyrim. When Skyrim came out late last year, I lost a lot of hours to this game. It was well done, had a massive amount of content, and after I completed the game playing a sneaky archer-type character, I turned around and played a second time to enjoy the game building out a mage-like character. Both times were great fun.
In addition to Hearthfire, Bethesda Gameworks had released Dawnguard a few months earlier; it is a much more substantial, story-driven DLC package. But I was looking for a quick re-introduction to Skyrim and so I chose Hearthfire … and I’m the happier for it.
Wherein Dawnguard introduces you to factions and quests and a major enemy intent on taking over the world, Hearthfire adds two elements to the game: the ability to build your own “dream home”, and the ability to adopt. Given the treatment of parenthood is rather limited and dimensionless (you choose one of several children from an orphanage and thereafter they’re around your home, asking you to play games, asking you to give them something, or just skipping about), I consider this expansion to be all about building.
Now, to be blunt, the home building in Hearthfire is fun and you can build some nice houses, but it’s pretty minimal. You can build on one, two, or three different plots (the locations of these plots are fixed), you can have a small bungalow-style cabin, or convert that into a manse, complete with towers or balconies and whatnot. However, you can only extend the main home on the east, north or west, and then choose one of three extensions for each side. So, combinatorially, you can have a lot of variety to your home, but it still doesn’t live up to the full promise of allowing you build a “sprawling compound”. At least not as I envisioned it!
So, given my usage of so many adjectives like “limited”, “dimensionless”, and “minimal”, why am I the happier for my choice? Well, simply put, I was never a contented homeowner in Skyrim to begin with but this DLC gets me a lot closer to what I’d hoped for.
In each of the homes you could buy and provision in Skyrim, none of them really worked for me. I never had enough bookshelf space, the rooms with alchemy or enchanting tables never had enough space to store and sort my ingredients, and the smithies were equally lacking in accoutrements. I’d end up finding a barrel at the end of a corridor and dumping all my hundreds of goods there, only to sort and deal with them later.
A minor gripe, but one that made the fun of having alchemy, enchanting and smithing opportunities a little less fun.
So, my happiness at having played Hearthfire first is because, now when I go to play Dawnguard, I’ll be able to build out a real home base, a place that’s customized for my particular character and done in a way that allows me to gather and sort and then use the stuff I’ve earned in the game. I’m not playing Skyrim for achievements these days, I’m playing for fun … and for me, part of the fun is vicariously living in that world.
And now I have my home; my Hearthfire.