September 4th saw the release of the second major downloadable content package from the Skyrim franchise. Titled as ‘Skyrim: Hearthfire’, the game (as of now) has been made available for the Xbox 360 consoles and the releases for PS3 and PCs are yet to be announced. So, let’s quickly check out what the game has to offer.
The Game play:
Unlike its earlier version, Hearthfire does not allow you to wander around the forests and kill enemies but is more inclined towards building houses. The game starts with the player receiving a letter, asking you to purchase a plot from any one of the three spaces offered– Hjaalmarch, The Pale or Falkreath. Once you choose your plot and make a payment of five thousand gold coins to Jar’s butler, the game’s purpose begins. It offers you a carpenter’s bench and a drafting table, with which you can make plans and designs for your new house. A simple-small cottage is what you can build initially using raw materials like stone, clay and wood. The drafting table is the center point of creating anything in the game. You start off with a foundation, proceed with the walls and windows and finish them with roofs.
The game further allows you to upgrade your house (once the basic is built) to a bigger one with the hall of the small house as the entrance. This portion can further have three rooms. The rooms that you add can be of two types – domestic type or the adventurous type. Domestic type rooms include a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom and the adventurous type rooms include a library, a chemical lab and an armor room. The game creates an illusion of providing innumerous freedom and customization options, but sooner you will realize that the game is actually conditional and functions under set parameters. For instance, the storehouse can be constructed only on the west side of the portion and the kitchen on the right side. Maybe developers found it too tedious to infuse radical graphics and environment to the game engine!
The game’s restrictions include the lack of ability to control the look of your house and disability to give a custom name to it. No matter, how hard you try, you still can’t control the way your house looks from the outside and the default name assigned by the developers to the house is Lakeview Manor! Once, the basic structure of your house is complete, the game allows you to have an area for livestock, apiary, a Godly shrine and a cellar. You can also show off your collections from the loot by displaying them on your house.
The game does not offer much freedom even working on individual portions of the house. Every room has a table similar to drafting board with which you can add and setup furniture and tables. The drawback is, the furniture can only be placed at a place, which is pre-specified by the developers and doesn’t even offer a preview of your intended furniture. It’s just like assembling a Lego toy, that has a company-defined shape, which you have to join and come up with! I doubt whether it is customization.
Every part of the plot that you buy has infinite sources of iron, rock and clay, which you have to unearth and mine. And, if you need lumber and glass, you can simply purchase them from a nearby store.
So, what else?
Apart from these, the game allows you to have a carriage. Pay around 500 gold coins and you will have your carriage ready. But, I don’t know why this feature even exists, because there are not much of a freedom to roam and checkout the environment and the world. There is the fast travel option, which teleports you directly to the desired location.
The game also allows you to have a spouse and adopt a child after you modify one of your rooms as the child’s bedroom. Then, you can play games such as hide & seek, tag, play around the garden and instruct them to perform their daily chores. That’s it!
The graphics are decent with not much detail given to the environment and surroundings. Game play is redundant and there is no control or a sense of achievement over the houses you build. At 400 Microsoft points, the game just fairs above average. Go for it if you have completed every gaming title prevalent around the market and this is the last.