So you’ve travelled the countryside, slayed countless beasts, and saved the world. What’s a Dovahkiin left to do? Build a house and raise a family, of course! The newest add-on to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (opens in new tab) allows you to do just that with Hearthfire. Upon first glance, you may assume that Hearthfire has the depth and mechanics of Minecraft, the game that most evidently inspires this pack, but unfortunately much more time is spent at the carpenter’s workbench than at the drafting table. With its limits and its small additions, this new DLC may not be a must-have for every Skyrim player.
Hearthfire’s content is available right from the get-go, regardless of how far along you are in the main storyline. Enter a town, and a courier approaches you with a letter from a Jarl, informing you some property is available for purchase. Visit the Jarl who sent you the letter, jump through some hoops, and you’re on your way to becoming a proud landowner. However, the only land you can own are specific plots near the towns of Falkreath, Morthal, or Dawnstar. Choosing between the limited options isn’t an issue–not only because you can purchase all three, but because the only difference is the view.
Beginning the project is simple. There is one design available on the draft table, and once moved to the carpenter’s workbench, the process becomes very similar to smithing. It’s rewarding to see the finished small wooden house, but once you realize there is only one pre-made model to build up to, the sense of satisfaction fades quickly.
The addition of eastern, northern, and western wings allows a limited amount of customization. For each wing, there are three different additions to choose from, like a trophy room or enchanting tower. Hiring a steward eases the burdens of building such a large estate, as he or she can purchase, and deliver, materials directly to the site. Stewards can also furnish the house for you. This helps reduces the tediousness immensely, considering wandering around for raw materials isn’t exactly the most fun task in Skyrim.
Don’t worry about the steward arranging the house without guidance. Each item has a predetermined space which it is destined to occupy. Disappointingly, even if you create every piece yourself with the workbenches inside, the furniture still ends up in that same predetermined spot. It makes things move along more quickly, but there is little in the terms of interior design going on, other than item arrangement. Maybe you’d like a shelf with a cabbage, or maybe a sack of potatoes. Those possibilities are endless!
Once the house is furnished, you can adopt a child. If you owned a house prior to this point, you would have already received a letter with info on how.It’s an interesting addition that completes the family dynamic that marriage started, but there is little to it. You can give gifts to or play games with the adopted children, but once you’ve exhausted the dialogue options, there is little reason for you to interact with them again. Their presence, along with the spouse if you have one, simply make your house feel more realistically inhabited.
The additions are nifty, but Hearthfire isn’t for every Dragonborn. If you want to create a unique house in Skyrim, this add-on won’t provide that for you. If you want an easily accessible hub with everything you need in one place, or you’re an avid collector who needs space to display your ever-growing lot of treasures, Hearthfire was made with you in mind. Even if it may disappoint, the bitterness won’t linger for long, thanks to the relatively low price tag compared to bigger DLC packs.
Proceed with caution