Once upon a time, two not-quite-legendary heroes of Skyrim set out to review the game's Dawnguard DLC pack, a decent enough add-on which tasks the Dragonborn with either aiding or averting a vampiric plot to overthrow the sun. The original plan was to write up the whole thing as a two-part diary piece - the parallel tales of myself and Mike "Woe Unto The Quitter" Channell, playing the parts of devious Vampire Lord and Dawnguard avenger respectively.
This proved hugely impractical, however - after a mere five hours play apiece we'd mustered over 3000 words between us - and the project was abandoned in favour of a more conventional review format. Abandoned... but not lost. Beneath this paragraph lies our Dawnguard review in all its original, incomplete glory. Dare you read on?
The Vampire: Edwin
Day one of my rise to parasitic infamy gets off to an unintentionally exciting start when I fast-travel to Windhelm and straight into a huge stew of screaming guards, rampaging Draugr and necromancers, the unholy progeny of a downloadable niggle. Nice to know Bethesda's bug-spotting traditions are intact. Seeking to disguise my vampiric sympathies, I pitch in alongside the townsfolk only for them all to turn on me after the last Draugr falls, perhaps equating my arrival with that of the undead. Much the same thing happens at Whiterun, Dawnstar and Winterhold. Eventually, after many reloads, I just let everybody have at it till most of the participants are bits of tenderised offal, whereupon normality grudgingly resumes. Perhaps it's a seasonal thing.
The Human: Mike
Right, time to traipse over to Fort Dawnguard, which I've heard is way off in some far-flung corner of the Skyrim map. The fort itself is an imposing structure hidden in a canyon, and as I meander up the path I run across a fellow wannabe vampire hunter and ask his name. Agmaer? Agdorable, more like. He's your stereotypical quavering newbie - unskilled, but keen to contribute to the vamp-mashing cause. He couldn't be more doomed if he was excitedly pulling out his wallet to show me an engraving of his girl back home and their newborn son. I suspect Edwin's already flossing the more gristly chunks of Agmaer out of his pointy teeth.
Isran is in charge of the Dawnguard and boy is he grumpy. When he asks me whether we've noticed the recent spate of vampire attacks, I'm forced to respond dumbly with 'what vampire attacks?'. Never let it be said that my penchant for relentlessly fast travelling around Skyrim means I'm out of touch with the socio-political climate. Still, I've got a nifty crossbow, a handful of ammo and my first quest - root out a cabal of naughty vampires who are stinking up a place called Dimhollow Crypt.
Unlike Mike, I bump into Agmaer outside Winterhold's tavern. "You look like a guy who enjoys killing vampires," he begins, in the confident tones of a man who fancies himself an excellent judge of character. An hour or so later, I'm following the silly, trusting fool up the road to a huge castle. Agmaer 's nice enough company, I suppose - lots of puppy fat, with big juicy thighs. I'll enjoy 'getting to know him' better once I've found my way to Lord Harkon, prince of undeath, and learned the secret of Vampire Lordification.
Being the proactive adventurer that I am, I do a bit of snooping on my trek to Dimhollow Crypt. The most intriguing thing I find is a random trapdoor grate with a stone sarcophagus underneath it. It's not on the map, and when I pick the Adept level lock and head down there, there's literally nothing to do. My hopes of accidentally finding the Vampire Lord final boss and staking him as he snoozes are dashed and I'm forced to settle for continuing the quest in the proper order.