(If you’re looking for more of an overall review of Skyrim, please see this article as well: Christian Parents, Should you let your kids play Skyrim?)
The newest Skyrim DLC is a mini one, called Hearthfire (this review is based on the XBOX 360 game). It allows the player to build up to three houses on property outside of the cities or towns, and to adopt one or two orphaned children. The trailer promised more flexibility in building, in my view, so at first I was disappointed in Hearthfire on that ground. But, after playing it for some time and building all three homes, I am disappointed and annoyed even more. Not totally disappointed, mind you, and I’m not advocating not buying it and trying it out, but I do want to present what is annoying and what needs to be fixed. HOPEFULLY, Bethesda will get around to making some fixes and making some additions to this DLC.
Let’s take a look at adoption first. Instead of simply allowing you to adopt the children already orphaned and being forced to live in the Riften (yuck!) orphanage, you have to decide amongst the four new orphans in the towns and them. There are now more orphans than ever to choose from . . ! No matter what you do, there will always be orphans. When playing Skyrim before, I wanted only to adopt some out of the orphanage, but now there are others – it just never ends and you are not allowed to adopt more.
Anyway, the kids are a nice addition for the most part. (If you don’t want children bugging you to play with them, maybe you should forget about adopting any in the first place, however.) It’s fun giving them things, and they will give you things once in a while, too. One day my son gave me a unique and odd green robe to wear. They love when you give them daggers. You can improve and enchant their wooden swords, and duel wield them yourself if you want a bit of a fun challenge. A problem with giving them items, to me, is that you are very limited in what you can give.
Now, for the building bit – I’ll get to the hunt for butter after this. The three homes you can build are on three specific pieces of property you can buy from the Jarl’s or their stewards. One is near Whiterun, although it’s part of Dawnstar hold. Another is outside of Solitude, with a view of the land bridge that is that city, though it is a part of Morthal hold. The third is close to the lake south of Riverwood – a beautiful area that is like having a vacation home in the woods – and is a part of Falkreath hold.
I am not going to go through all of the addition choices, but will mention a few that give notice for some reason. You can build what is in a provided list for each room/addition, but you don’t have alternate choices within the list. You don’t have a choice between a bed and a table for a certain spot, for example – there’s is only one thing designated for that spot – you can only add it or leave it open. And, you cannot demolish a wing later in case you change your mind about the kind of house you want.
All the homes start off with a small starter room (home!), and in order to add the specialty wings, you must build the main hall attached to the first starter room. The starter room has a bed and fire pit in it, and so it is livable as is. However, if you hire a steward – very advisable since not all the mill owners will sell you wood, as the add-on claims – then where do both of you sleep? This is actually more of a problem later.
You will have the ability to add two small beds and a double bed in the main hall for you and your spouse, and your kids (forget “choice” – there is no other options for this area, nor any other, in these Hearthfire houses). However, the steward and housecarl always sleep in the beds that are for the kids, or one of them may sleep in your own bed. This is a problem with the game. If you choose to build the bedroom wing, this is not a problem. But if you choose to build a different wing and use those main hall beds, then good luck! The problem is only compounded by the fact that there is only one bed left in the original building for both the steward and the housecarl. This obviously was not thought through by Bethesda, and I find it quite astonishing.
The storage room was a very major disappointment. Seriously, Bethesda couldn’t spring for a dragon claw holder and some other holder for specific items – like the various named jewelry you can find – especially since everything always pops out of display cases and off of shelves? This really fries me! Come one, Bethesda . . . really!?! Give us something for the money. The cellar is a bit interesting in that way: you can build a shrine holder and all the shrines to the gods. But a storage room that doesn’t store all those specialty items? Wow and weird.
The homes do not incorporate anything from the Dawnguard DLC. It seems like the ability to add new plants and new creatures, like from the Soul Cairn and the Vale, at least, should have been designed into this new DLC. It becomes obvious that this add-on was planned from the beginning. Skyrim had orphans and they asked to be adopted, yet you could not adopt them. There is no Dawnguard content in Hearthfire, except for one thing: you can give your child an armored dog from Fort Dawnguard (a nice surprise). So, why wasn’t this simply part of Skyrim to begin with? My “other half” is really into the Elder Scrolls, though Morrowind specifically. He told me that in the past, an add-on such as this would’ve been free. It seems Bethesda held some of the content out in order to make some more cash, while providing a not so great product.
Which brings us to the butter quest. There’s not a formal quest for butter, of course, but there is an actual one. Butter is as hard to find as gold- if not harder – as far as I can tell. You will want butter if you build the kitchen wing (it probably has the best looking wing interior), which has an “oven” for baking. Butter is an 0ft-needed ingredient, but good luck finding it!!! You can’t make it, even though you can own cows now and there is a butter churn in the kitchen. So far I have only received one butter out of the churn. I have searched high and low for butter, looking to find it in various places, and to buy it. I never find it (it isn’t laying around like soup or stew), and have been only offered it to buy about three times from various vendors. Wow. Who knew baking could be so hard?
So if you want to have something new to do in Skyrim before the next big DLC comes out, and you like having children, then Hearthfire would be worth the $5, in my opinion. But otherwise, the choice is of course up to you, especially if you want to bake but don’t feel it worth hours of your time in a quest for butter!
November 9 Update (XBOX): After months, the churn finally had a new bowl of butter in it. BUT, within a short time, it had butter in it again. Perhaps there was an update that loaded that we didn’t notice, or perhaps it’s very random! Also, the best places I’ve noticed to buy butter are from the town stands, from the vendors selling vegetables and other foods (that is, the dark elf in Riften and the two humans in White Run and Windhelm).