Skyrim's first piece of DLC, Dawnguard, was a relatively meaty add-on. Released earlier this summer, the expansion added multiple locations, a host of new characters and an engaging quest line for players to explore. The second piece of DLC, Hearthfire, takes the opposite approach. Budget priced at 400 MSP ($5 USD), Hearthfire is a simple add-on that offers up three new houses and the ability to adopt children.
With no specific quests to focus on, the goal in Hearthfire is the acquisition of a newly crafted home. Of course, before you can build a house, you must first purchase a plot of land. This is easier than it sounds, as Hearthfire doesn't allow you to buy land anywhere you choose. The real estate market in Skyrim must be pretty hot right now, as only three specific plots are available. One is located in Falkreath, one in Hjaalmarch and one in the Pale.
To actually buy the land, you need to speak with the Jarl of the respective hold. Whether or not it is available for purchase appears to depend on how many of the quests you've completed in that hold. If you're far enough along, a courier will deliver a letter from the Jarl, speaking of your accomplishments and inviting you to visit. After that, it's a simple matter of coughing up 5,000 gold, and the deed is yours.
Once you have the deed, your newly acquired land appears as a location on the map. Visit the plot, and you'll find the basics are already waiting. There is a chest with raw materials, some lumber, a drafting table, carpenter's workbench and an anvil. It's basically everything you need to build a starter house. With that said, building is a rather hands-off process.
If you were hoping to create a customized palace you're going to be disappointed. Building a house in Skyrim is the ultimate pre-fab process. So long as you have the raw materials in inventory, all you do is flip through a bare-bones menu. Pick a foundation, and the foundation is built. Pick a roof, and the roof is built. It happens instantly. Unlike weapons and armor, which can be customized in many ways, you have very few options for your house.
There is one floor plan for each room type. There is one style of home. One type of door. One choice of color scheme. The pre-fab limitation also extends to the interior of the home. Sure, you can purchase a table, but it only goes in one place. This is true of all furniture. It's as if you went shopping at IKEA, but instead of mixing and matching your favorite pieces, you simply bought the demo rooms exactly as they were laid out on the shop floor.
About the only real choice you do have is selecting the add-on type for each wing. You get three choices for the North wing, three for the East and three for the West. That's nine total room types. Don't even think about mix and matching them, though. The greenhouse is designated as a room for the West wing so you can't build it on the East. And since there's one addition per wing, you can't have both a greenhouse and an enchanter's tower on the same house. They're both West wing only. To build all nine room types, you'll need to build all three houses.
Because of the generic nature of the homes (you aren't even given the option to rename them), there is little sense of ownership or creation. In many ways, the "building" aspect is immaterial. That doesn't mean your new home is useless, however; for the budding adventurer, Hearthfire can be a timesaver.
Once your home is built, you can stock it with nearly every crafting tool you might need. Having it all in one place means no more fast-traveling around the map just to enchant an item and then fast traveling somewhere else to create some potions before sharpening your blade.
After completing the home, it is possible to hire a servant to maintain it as well as adopt children and have them move in. You may have to occasionally fend off home invasions, but otherwise, your new house is pretty maintenance free.
Therein lies the rub with Hearthfire. The lack of home customization means it's not likely to appeal to players who have already completed a majority of Skyrim. If you've done this, chances are that you already have a home base — doubly so for those who have finished Dawnguard. After claiming control of Castle Volkihar or Fort Dawnguard, it's difficult to be impressed by what is essentially a suburban tract home.
Hearthfire is an add-on that will be most useful to the first-time Skyrim player. If you're just starting to explore the world now, you're sure to find value in Hearthfire. For everyone else, it's a cosmetic addition that will have little impact on your adventure.
More articles about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim