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This isn't DLC. This is an expansion, like in the good old days. It's an entirely new area, a blank map waiting to be filled in as you roam, packed with new quests, miscellaneous tasks, dungeons, barrows, ruins and crypts. It's an absolute beast, with a main storyline that lasts a good few hours and enough supporting content to keep you playing for weeks more.
There are new creatures to fight, such as the eerie floating Netch which resemble Mass Effect's Hanar, lumbering Bristleback boars and the fearsome Ash Spawn, who attack en masse with heavy melee attacks and fire magic. There are new crafting materials - Heart Stone and Stalhrim, a tempered ice that can be used to make armour and weapons. There are even new plants and ingredients to add to your recipes.
Any game that demands hundreds of hours from the player must build a long-term relationship, and relationships must remain fresh if they're to endure. With discoveries around every corner, Dragonborn just gave Skyrim fans the perfect excuse to lose themselves in the wild for another winter.
Set on the sizeable island of Solstheim, Dragonborn makes great use of its fresh territory. It's separated into two distinct halves: one half reflecting the island's close proximity to snowy Skyrim in the South West, and the other giving an HD representation of the eerie Dunmer homeland of Vvardenfell in the South East. At sea level, the dusty red plains and towering mushroom houses are instantly reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls III.
The rest of Solstheim's snowy dunes and icy peaks feel much more like home, but it's made fresh with neat little touches that make switching those little compass icons from black to white all the more thrilling. There's an abundance of new stuff in Solstheim, and Dragonborn shows off some of the most intricately creative content I've seen so far in Skyrim. There are recognisable influences from the zany mania of Oblivion's Shivering Isles, particularly in several visits to Hermaeus Mora's otherworldly library, where huge tentacles slither around in black globules under your feet, and Seekers - a nasty new enemy type - haunt every corridor as the gargantuan library shifts around you like a literary labyrinth. It's a world away from the dull, uninteresting expanse of Dawnguard's Soul Cairn, to say the least.
But what really makes the download worth your time and money is the attention to detail. Rather than just making do with the main story quest the expansion is packed with just as many secrets and extras as the original game. This, Bethesda finally seems to have realised, was always the best bit of Skyrim and there's virtually nowhere on Solstheim you can go without bumping into something unexpected, that you'd swear that you alone in the world have found.
Many of the secrets refer back to existing obscurities in Skyrim, so there's a great sense that these are extras created specifically for the veteran player.
In truth there's nothing here in gameplay terms that's really very new (accepting the disappointing dragon-riding) but more of the same is exactly Dragonborn's appeal. After being messed around twice already this is precisely what most fans will want: a new blank slate to explore and a new obsession to last them through to Christmas.