Is Skyrim's Hearthfire Just Another Horse Armor?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
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Is Skyrim's Hearthfire Just Another Horse Armor?

Today was the big release day for the new Skyrim expansion pack, Hearthfire, and not surprisingly, a lot of questions followed this one. Perhaps the biggest one, expressed as both wary trepidation and jaded cynicism was, it's not another Horse Armor, is it? So I took to Xbox Live with that thought in mind, dropped my 400 Xbox Live points and snagged a copy of Hearthfire with an eye toward answering the question.

Horse Armor, for those who don't remember the reference, refers to one of the first pieces of DLC for Oblivion, which was exactly what it sounds like: armor for a horse. It looked pretty, sure, but it didn't do much for the character, and the resulting outcry taught Bethesda a thing or two about doing DLC right.

When you download the expansion, you'll be able to buy land in one of three places: Heljarchen Hall near Dawnstar, Lakeside Manor near Falkreath, and an unnamed chunk of land near Morthal. I went with Falkreath myself because I like lakes and this one was very pretty at that for a video game-rendered lake. Anyway, after dropping my 5000 gold--which at this point was almost laughably tiny since my Level 57 Redguard was packing better than 72 thousand in just gold (leave aside the preposterous value of the enchanted armor and weapon stashes I had all over Skyrim by now) --I went out to the lake and found a few things waiting for me. There was a drafting table, a chest, a carpenter's workbench, an anvil, and a book. The book was entitled The Beginner's Guide to Homesteading, and would be my instruction manual to use the stuff before me.

The book recommends starting with a basic cottage, and using it later as the entry hall for a much grander facility, to which users could add three wings, and make a variety of choices therein according to their needs and wishes.

The chest, meanwhile, started out with a variety of building supplies, but would require many more to complete the task at hand. Clay, glass, cut logs...so many supplies would be needed. Then there would be the matter of bringing in a spouse, potentially adopting children, hiring a steward to watch the place and a staff to run it, and occasionally, defending it form assorted hazards.

Basically, calling Hearthfire another Horse Armor is an insult to this broad piece of DLC. Admittedly, its contribution to the plot is minimal to say the least, but this is not merely something pretty that hangs on a horse and does nothing for the game. This provides several new events, a place to bring children, to raise a family, or just make a central hub to stash your gear and keep you from having to have stashes all over Skyrim just like the exact kind that I had all over Skyrim.

Finding materials isn't rough, especially down in Falkreath--Quarried Stone was only inches away from the drafting table and Clay was in easy reach of the front door--but I did have to kill a Novice Conjurer that had set up shop nearby. Necromancy? Not in MY backyard!

Those who want a little extra touch of the familiar should find themselves very happy with Skyrim's newest expansion, even if it is a bit small--much smaller than Dawnguard--and in turn, out to look into getting hands on it.
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