There’s something to be said about a game that sinks its hooks deep within us to the point that we could consider it our home away from. It seems only appropriate that Bethesda’s second DLC pack aims to solidify that stance with “Hearthfire”, Skyrim’s newest DLC that allows players the ability to buy a plot of land, and put pen to paper on the drafting table to construct the perfect Skryim dream house.
As with any other DLC within the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim universe, Bethesda has integrated the content seamlessly so as to keep the illusion of Skyrim’s holds persistent. It won’t be outright clear what you must do, but in time players will be approached by a courier with a bundle of letters. One letter arrives from a Jarl regarding the purchase option of land, and another from the Honorhall Orphanage of Riften with a plea for child adoption.
If you’ve spent countless hours within the realm of Skyrim, it’s quite likely these plots of land are simply waiting for some coin and they’ll be yours. If you’re new to the game, each Jarl in the holds of Dawnstar, Falkreath, and Morthal will have a series of quests for you to complete before they’ll even consider a conversation topic on plots of land for purchase. Missions aside, the first order of business is to locate one of the Jarls and discuss the matter at hand. The Jarl of Falkreath will offer up Lakeview Manor, a beautiful plot of land overlooking the lake directly north of Pinewatch. Dawnstar’s Jarl presents the land of Heljarchen Hall, South of the Pale and in close proximity to Loreius Farm. Finally, the Jarl of Morthal will provide Winstad Manor, a plot of land within Hjaalmarch, a swamp-rich vista in close proximity to Ustengrav.
Upon arrival at any of the above purchased plots, players are greeted with a drafting table, a carpenters table, an anvil and a chest filled with enough materials to build a suitable cottage. Among the materials required to build a house are Iron ingots/ore, Corundum ingots/ore, sawn logs, clay, quarried stone, glass, straw, etc. Iron ingots, for example, are used to create nails, iron fittings, and hinges. Corundum can be used to manufacture locks…you don’t want just anyone calling your home their own now do you?
In a very simplified manner the drafting table, when activated, provides the player with schematics to produce all of the material lists necessary to craft the components of a house; foundation, flooring, supports, walls, sub-roofing and a roof, and of course a door. Once the construction is complete, a work-table is created within the house to furnish and decorate the house interior. This initial step produces Hearthfire’s “Small House”, a perfectly quaint and livable environment for an adventurer still waiting to take an arrow to the knee. That said if you desire for something more befitting of the Dragonborn homestead, Hearthfire provides the option to expand upon your “Small House” with a “Main Hall”. Once the “Main Hall” has been constructed the possibilities truly manifest. From the “Main Hall” you are given the option of three additional wings, “East”, “North”, and “West”, each with three options to truly outfit the individual needs or desires of any player type. For example, the East Wing can be constructed as an Armory, Kitchen, or Library. The West Wing offers Bedrooms, Enchanter’s Tower, or a Greenhouse. Finally, the North Wing can be constructed as an Alchemy Laboratory, Storage or as Trophy Room to display taxidermy animals and adversaries worthy of presentation. The beauty of this configuration is that there are three plots of land, and each house can be fitted with a unique layout so every option is available to the diligent landowner.
My first house was Falkreath’s Lakeview Manor. What can I say; I’m a sucker for a lake-view and tall pines. I crafted a home that would accommodate an Armory for my weapons/armors of war, Bedrooms for my family…including my two newly adopted children, and a Trophy Room to remind my family how truly Dragonborn-badass I am. I also appointed a Housecarl to manage the household. Your progress in Skryim will wholly determine who your Housecarl is. If you’ve become Thane of the hold that your property falls within, a Housecarl will be appointed for you. If not, you can invite any of your followers to take up the honor of the role of Housecarl.
Speaking of those children, Riften’s Orphanage offers a selection of four children that can all be interviewed, declined, or adopted. I was a bit disappointed in the options here, but I suppose it should come as no surprise that the children of Skryim would be Redguard, Breton, Nord, and Imperial in origin…though it would have been nice to adopt a Dunmer or Orc-child. It was an incredibly tough task, at times burdensome to think I’d be abandoning two, possibly three worthy children. When all was said and done, I adopted two children (the maximum); one boy, and one girl. They were guided to my house at Lakeview Manor and were awaiting me upon my return. They took a moment to acclimate and then thanked me, promising to be perfectly behaved. I took this opportunity to present my daughter with a doll, and my son a wooden sword…both well-received and appreciated. I can ask them to play inside, or outside. I can order them to do chores and, more often than not, they will comply. However, on occasion you will have to assert your parental dominance, or cave to the softer side of parenthood. You can also choose to play games with your children. Perhaps Hide-and-Seek is not your flavor. How about Tag? Either way, there are plenty of activities to keep your children busy and, more importantly, happy.
It’s interesting how much vested interest Bethesda has managed to imbue in a digital world here, with a living, functional family and a spouse who can be kidnapped and ransomed. What now, you didn’t think this would all be sunshine and roses did you? With a happy home in the middle of the wild come the risks of home invasion, bandit attacks, livestock rustling, etc. You build your home; you must protect it as well as those you love.
I’ve managed to purchase all three plots of land and have constructed each estate with specific purposes. My primary home was built for my family and children. I have an estate devoted to the study of magic and literature, and another with the sole purpose of storage and agriculture. I’ve asserted my lordship by presenting my Housecarl with the task of furnishing my home/s, appointed Bard’s to liven up my homesteads, and arranged for carriage travel awaiting me at all times. There are stables at each home with hearty Skryim Steeds at the ready.
While I’ve recently completed Dragonborn, Hearthfire is by far my favorite of the DLC packs released so far. I find it incredibly cathartic building homesteads for my in-game family within a game that so heavily defines combat and exploration as its primary mechanism. It serves as both an incredibly rewarding and welcome deviation in Skryim.
Hearthfire launched on the PlayStation Network 02/19/13 and is available for $4.99. Dawnguard releases Tuesday, 02/26/12, and will be available its first week at a discounted rate of $9.99, but will rise to $19.99 upon the store publish of 03/02/13, so act fast!
A review voucher was provided by the publisher on PlayStation 3.