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The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim - Hearthfire

The warm glow of domesticity

Hot on the heels of Skyrim's first DLC Dawnguard comes Hearthfire, an add-on that lets you tame the harsh land of the Nords. Just as Harry Potter has those more serious covers for grownups that don't want to be seen reading a kids book, Skryim's Hearthfire is an outlet for anyone that doesn't want to admit they like The Sims as well as dragons.

This review has been updated since publication. Details are below.

If you don't fancy the option of buying an existing house in one of the holds of Skyrim, Hearthfire equips three of them - Falkreath, The Pale and Hjaalmarch - with plots of land where you can build one with your own two hands, crafting elements which then appear according to a fixed template. You can expand to up to three wings, choosing rooms such as a library, greenhouse, kitchen and alchemy tower, and then fill them up with appropriate furniture.

Disappointingly, there's no Kevin McCloud NPC.

Some of said materials are provided in raw form on your plot, but getting the rest is a costly and time consuming task. Having a Steward saves time, but we ended up selling everything we owned to pay for our house - like some kind of dark metaphor for the modern property ladder. Once your house is finally finished you're allowed to grab the extra responsibility of up to two children. We say 'grab' because 'adopt' is a strong way to describe finding a homeless kid and taking them away, no questions asked, but we suppose Skyrim represents a simpler time. The child seems happy about it in any case, and will be pathetically grateful for your charity.

Optional extras for your home include a garden, livestock, and even a live-in bard if you're suitably masochistic, and if you manage to build in all three available holds you get an Achievement. However, despite being a very nicely made, commendably affordable bit of DLC, Hearthfire is little more than a quirky cosmetic bolt-on that doesn't add anything exciting to the game. It does give a pretty good approximation of the frustration actual homeowners feel during the building process, though.

The Elder Scrolls V: Hearthfire DLC pack is available now on Xbox Live for 400MSP.

This review has been updated to correct the statement that you can remodel your house once built. While we were able to do this during the review, it was the result of a glitch and is not a supported feature.

The verdict

Too much kitchen sink, not enough drama.

Xbox 360
Bethesda Softworks
Bethesda Softworks
Role Playing