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Game Info:

Skyrim Hearthfire DLC
Developed By: Bethesda Entertainment
Published By: Bethesda Entertainment
Release Date: October 5, 2012
Available On: PC (reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360
Skyrim is required for this DLC.
Genre: RPG
Number of Players: Single-player only
ESRB Rating: M for Mature for Blood, Violence, Alcohol
Price: $4.99

After spending many hours completing numerous quests and defeating Alduin, the Dragonborn ponders settling down and raising kids.  The Hearthfire expansion offers a Sims like experience in Skyrim where you can adopt children, acquire pets, and build your own dream home.  For a mere $5, you can easily tack on another ten or so hours gathering the materials and furnishings for your new home.  

When you install the DLC, you’ll be greeted by a messenger delivering a letter regarding the possibility of adopting kids in the orphanage.  Besides them, several towns have children with sad stories in search of a good home.  Before you can adopt anyone, you’ll need to have a house with a bedroom for them.  You can either renovate one of your town houses or buy a plot of land and build from there.  

I opted to buy some land from a jarl and build my own house.  The process is pretty foolproof, and I can only wish that making houses was this easy in real life.  When you explore your new property you’ll be greeted with a drafting table and a crafting bench that has a book with instructions on how to get started.  There is even a chest with some clay and stone to boot.  A pickaxe is also provided should you choose to mine your own resources.  Once you appoint a house steward, you can have them fetch the materials for you.  

Highlights:

Strong Points: Building your own house and adopting kids is fun and rewarding.
Weak Points: Lots of glitches
Moral Warnings: Same as the main game

Until then, your first task is to select your blueprint and buy some lumber from the closest saw mill.  The lumber is a reasonable 200 gold and that includes delivery to your work site.  While you can buy the wood, clay, and stone, other building materials will have to be forged at a blacksmith’s shop.  Your smithing skills will go up as you turn iron ore into nails, hinges, iron fittings, and locks.  Other items like goat horns, straw, and glass will have to be bought from general stores.  

Once the building process is started, you can ask several NPC’s in the game to become your house steward.  You can extend the offer to your existing housecarl or find another follower to do the job.  Since you’re limited to one follower at a time, your options may be limited.  I ran into a glitch that caused my existing housecarl (Lydia) to run off after I appointed another housecarl (Gregor) to be my steward.  I later found Lydia at my house in Winterhaven.  

I uncovered another glitch with the house steward.  You can have them beautify the house for you, but this ONLY works if you have not started decorating it.  Even if you furnish part of one room, they cannot finish it or decorate any other rooms for you.  They will simply take your money and do nothing.   

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - -910
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 40%
Violence - 1/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 2.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

Besides the glitches, there are some annoyances worth mentioning as well.  When mounting animal trophies, you’ll typically need animal pelts to complete them.  I was annoyed when I discovered that the snow or cave bear pelts would not suffice to make the Bear trophy, only the (brown) bear pelt works.  If you choose to buy a dog in this game, you can have them follow you, wait, or you can send them home.  Sending them home does not send them to your house, but to the place to where you either found or bought them.  In order to get them back you have to buy them again!  My last complaint is that one of my children’s phrases still references the orphanage even after being adopted.  I highly doubt that they hate their new home.

The children in this game are fun to interact with.  They may ask you play tag or hide and go seek with them.  Hide and go seek is rather pointless with the game’s objective markers giving away their locations.  You can send the kids outside, to bed, or even ask them to do chores.  Sometimes they’ll push back and other times they’ll do what you say with no complaints.  The option to be laid back or stern is up to you.  Showering the kids with gifts of food, toys, or clothing is another option, and sometimes they’ll give you random gifts as well.  I have yet to see it happen in my game, but they will occasionally bring home a random creature and ask if it can be their pet.

Some of the random pets include skeevers, mudcrabs, rabbits, foxes or frost bite spiders.  Just the other day my (real life) son brought in a daddy long legs spider, so I think they nailed the animal selection pretty well.  Besides lacking random acts of mischief like flushing my bond of matrimony down the drain (my daughter did that), they did a pretty good job of capturing the essence of parenthood here.

If you like the idea of raising kids and building your retirement home, Hearthfire is well worth the $5 asking price.  I got at least ten hours of game play out of it.  Granted, one of those hours was spent tracking down where my missing housecarl went.  Glitches aside, I still had fun with this DLC.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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