title="Permanent Link to The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard screenshots show Vampire Lords, crossbows, castles">
A bunch of new Dawnguard screenshots have appeared over on Kotaku, giving us a good look at some of the new foes we can expect to face in Skyrim's first expansion, and some of the new weapons of war we'll use to dispatch them. Without further ado, let's take a look at each one, and see what we can learn.
Here the Vampire Lord does an excellent job of establishing that he is The Bad Guy by apparently incinerating some poor woman, though those tendrils of energy could be siphoning life energy back into him. As we'll see in the Vampire Lord tech tree later, this could be an important new ability. In Dawnguard, we'll get to choose whether to become a vampire lord, or join the Dawnguard to thwart their evil plans.
Here he is again, slightly rotated. Note his preference for crows over more your more traditional vampire bat familiars. Perhaps he's a fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series of novels That, or they actually are bats, warped out of shape by frantic motion blur. He is angry because his wings don't work, and has decided to take it out on humanity by embarking on a mission to blot out the sun and turn Tamriel into a living hell. No, he can't "just get over it," unfortunately, he's a being of pure evil.
Skyrim's sky is a confusing place at the best of times, but with the addition of an evil purple nebula and Nosferatu's noggin, it's just plain scary. It looks as though we'll have to string together biting streaks to gain access to the most powerful skills at the top of the tech tree, buried somewhere inside the vampire's forehead, there.
The expansion's big choice is whether to join the vampires or the Dawnguard. It's been all about the vampires so far, but here we get a look at some of the ornate armour we'll presumably get to use as a codified member of Skyrim's order of vampire hunters. Immortality vs. sweet armour. Tough call. I'm more interested in wandering up the steps to that massive castle in the background. If only we could get a better look somehow.
Quite a nice castle
Ah, there it is! It's probably about 8 out of 10, as castles go. Many of Skyrim's forts have crumbled into shoddy ruins, and are commonly infested with necromancers, vengeful spirits and bored undead types eager to jump the next passing adventurer. This, however, is a stately, well maintained piece of architecture, though I'm pretty sure it's possible to scale the tree on the left and hop onto the parapet there. Don't worry, I'm sure the vampires will never think of that.
A very nice castle indeed
This is gorgeous. It has the grey, misty feel common to Skyrim's most epic vistas, but here the fog rest among the ruins of a colossal structure instead of a mountain. That walk up from the bank and over that bridge to the portcullis should look magnificent. It looks as though it's out at sea slightly. As an Argonian, my character could make the swim without too much difficulty, but less lizardy players might need a bit of help to get out there, via magic or, perhaps, a working version of the many ruined boats that can be found strewn along the northern coasts of Skyrim.
The first screenshot of one of Dawnguard's new crossbows. It looks dangerous enough, and the metallic inlay there looks almost Dwemer in design. It'd make sense for some of Tamriel's greates inventors to come up with the prototype version of such a weapon, but the most important thing, which we can't see here, is the THWUNK factor. Crossbows take a while to reload, so when they fire they need to look and sound deadly.
Is ... is that an ELDER SCROLL on this character's back? The mighty tomes that contain the knowledge of everything that is and will ever be in Tamriel aren't very portable, as you might imagine, but I've never considered them as a fashion accessory. It almost looks as though this character is ready to reach back and unholster it as a weapon. Instead they're content to stand right here and laud it over the revellers below. "Yes, I'm wearing an Elder Scrolls, WHAT OF IT?"
This man's palms can glow and he really wants you to know about it. Yes, strange bearded man, we see, we see how your palm glows, but there's an Orc with a crossbow behind you who seems to be pointing it this way. I really can't stop to chat about your illuminated digits when I'm in danger of taking an arrow to the ... face. It's easy to imagine that we'll be seeing lots of this if we side with the vampire forces in Dawnguard.
Ho! A knight ahorse
The bucket helmet and big pauldrons are signs that this guy means business, but it's his attention to detail that's impressive. Note the tiny spikes attached to the straps around his horse's face, that's a dedicated attempt to intimidate, right there. Mounted combat was added for free in a recent patch. It looks as though Dawnguard will give us an excuse to mix it up with some fiercer mounted opposition. Expect modders to improve those horse textures, too.
The purple dimension
This, here, is the problem, you see. If the vampire lords were on a mission to spread rainbows across the continent, there would be no need for the Dawnguard. Instead there would be a Hugsguard, on hand to deliver a friendly welcome with military efficiency. But NO. Instead they're all "let's blot out the sun" and "let's change reality so what when buildings collapse they'll collapse UPWARDS because that will REALLY mess people up." Perhaps the decision as to whether to join the vampires or not really comes down to how much you like the colour purple. If so, back 'em 100% and look forward to lots of scenes like this.
Ah, that's better. Nothing quite like a gorgeous, rose sunset to erase memories of the hellish alternative dimension that the undead are trying to impose upon all of creation. Not pictured: the moments following when our quilt-armoured warrior jumps forwards and shouts "wheeeeeeeeee!" as his body ragdolls down the mountainside. Quick-load is a wonderful thing.
The return of surprised skeleton
Oh hey, it's that really surprised skeleton from the early Skyrim screenshots! He seems less surprised now, which is surprising because a bush right next to him is getting nuked by magical bolts of fire from the sky. Actually, he looks more terrified, which fits, that floating axe sure looks like it means business. It looks as though the Dawnguard will get to take the fight right to the heart of the vampire lords' seat of power.