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At 400 Microsoft Points, Hearthfire costs about as much as its worth, and it's definitely a more interesting way of incorporating useful features into the world than simply having you unlock a pre-built house. The difference, ultimately, is fairly negligible and even the most devoted player will be able to see dozens of ways in which the process could have been made more creative and less restrictive. While building has been simplified, too many of the secondary features are awkwardly implemented and poorly explained, leaving you to wonder if you've missed some important cue or if the game has just burped up another bug.
Whether you do it yourself or take the short cuts, once the job is done you'll have a house that is far superior to any of the others in the game, and everything you could possibly need will be in one handy location. For the deep role-player, it's an undeniable boon in terms of pure function. You just won't feel any ownership of the places you build, or be able to stamp your identity on your new virtual home, leaving it feeling like a shallow and perfunctory process. Despite the rugged, rough-hewn aesthetic of Skyrim, Hearthfire ultimately offers all the character and personality of an Ikea cupboard.
Extra features such as giant and bandit attacks on your new home bring a bit of much needed action into the mix, but after the immersive quests of the original game, plus the generous story of Dawnguard, there is very little in Hearthfire to keep avid fans of Skyrim entertained or occupied. Since most people will be playing this latest expansion after already completing much of the main game, it’s a shame that there aren’t more features that increase the content’s lifespan. However, with a price tag of only 400MSP, Bethesda’s latest downloadable offering is, at the very least, fairly priced, and will be a welcome addition to players who are keen to get a few more rooms to hoard their ever-increasing treasure stash in.
Finally, Computer and Videogames goes scoreless.
The process of building your home is entertaining, and there's a feeling of pride in seeing your creation - albeit one whose design is entirely dictated by the game - wedged into Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's beautiful countryside. Our only gripe is that there isn't much of a sense of customisation. We'd have liked to place furniture ourselves, or even the house in the landscape. But for a relatively cheap price, Hearthfire is a novel, and ambitious, slice of DLC. Just don't expect another 20 hour epic like Dawnguard, or any new loot to stuff in your pantaloons.