The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Hearthfire Review

Our official, unscored review of the new Skyrim add-on.

By: Jeremy Zoss

Filed Under: Adventure Review Role-playing


I have owned a house for eight years, and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m close to “done” with major projects. I have remodeled a bathroom, finished a basement, added a driveway, built a shed, replaced a fence, constructed a garden and gone through more gallons of paint than I can count. Of course, there’s always something that needs to be replaced, repaired or maintained (anyone know where I can get a new power cord for my vacuum cleaner?). Sometimes, I must admit, I feel like burning the house to the ground and running far, far away.

And yet, Skyrim offers me the chance to build my own virtual house, and I come running. Home ownership, sign me up again!

Building a home for yourself is the core of the $5 Hearthfire expansion – in fact, it’s all there is. Don’t expect to find any new missions, weapons or enemies. It allows you to buy up to three plots of land, build up to three houses and adopt children. Once your land is purchased, you can build your home step by step, and it isn’t cheap (just like reality). Lumber. Nails. Hinges. Locks. It adds up. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to take multiple trips to Ye Olde Home Depot.

Building a virtual home is fun, as your labors magically result in an ever-more-elaborate structure that grows before your eyes. Hire a steward, fill it with furnishings, and you have the virtual dream home you’ve always wanted, ready to receive your virtual stuff. Of course, if you have completed most of Skyrim’s core content, as I have and as most players have, you already have a home. Or four. But hey, now you have a true home base to call your own! Or two. Or even three.

Skyrim is a game that places a lot of emphasis on collecting stuff. Finding a single room in the game that doesn’t have some stuff for you to grab and haul around is a challenge. Nearly anything you can see you can grab and take with you. Swords, axes and spell books, sure. But bowls, paper, empty bottles, animal pelts – might as well take that as well. Remove the dragons and you’re left with a virtual episode of Hoarders.

Do we really need all this stuff, in either the game or in real life? Why is there an old dresser in my garage that I have nowhere else to keep? Why do I collect alchemy ingredients when I never practice the craft? Do I really need so many coffee mugs? Or so many troll skulls? Do I need two bicycles – heck, do I need two cars? Why do have so many magical maces?

Do I *gasp* honestly need both an Xbox 360 and a PlayStation 3?

These questions are hard. Maybe I should go blow off some steam by completing those Thieves’ Guild quests I’ve put off.

Ooh, this sword looks awesome. Heath damage AND stamina damage! I’m definitely taking that one.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of stuff. For players who are just starting off in Skyrim, the Hearthfire content is a great way to establish a home base early on, as it is for a second playthrough. In those early hours, remembering where you left your stuff is important. An axe that is too heavy to carry everywhere can be traded in for a cash infusion, or that cap with the sneaking bonus can get you through a tough spot. But when you’re further along in the game, Hearthfire can feel like an all-too real-world problem: when your home feels like nothing else besides a place to keep your stuff, you may start to see your hand reaching for the lighter.

Please excuse me while I go clean out my garage. Or maybe I’ll play some Borderlands 2. I know there’s all kinds of stuff to collect in that game.

Filed Under: Adventure Review Role-playing

About the Author:
Jeremy Zoss has written for Game Informer, Wizard Magazine, Village Voice Media and more. He has several published works of fiction, but his dogs are not impressed with any of that.

7,801 Responses to “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Hearthfire Review”

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