Skyrim: Dragonborn Xbox 360 / PC / PS3

Skyrim: DragonbornXbox 360 / PC / PS3
Elder Scrolls games feel wondrously endless because of the countless hours that can be whiled away wandering the wilds of Tamriel without ever following the main questline. But that vastness in both landmass and things to do can also be overwhelming — having so many possible options has prompted more than a few gamers to just shove in a shooter. Bethesda has long helped RPGers overcome this feeling by crafting downloadable expansions that open up a new, more manageable territory off the mainland. (Of course, the main reason for these expansion packs is to provide new reasons to play the games again for the folks who actually finish them.) Oblivion had the Shivering Isles and Skyrim now has Dragonborn, which came out on Xbox 360 in December and has now hit PS3 and PC. It's actually the third Skyrim DLC, but while the previous two offered new quests and locations, this is an entirely new region. Set on the island of Solstheim, to which you sail after the area's dragon-masked cultists start attacking you in Skyrim proper, it continues the role-playing franchise's trademark whatever-whenever-however gameplay. The island is hardly the head-trip its shivering predecessor was — though the sickly green, swirling Lovecraftian realm of Apocrypha, a plane of Oblivion for those familiar with the last game, will deliver your desired dose of demonic surrealism. But Solthsteim is also a treat for longtime franchise fans, as it's located in Morrowind, the dark elf homeland that provided the namesake of Elder Scrolls III, and was first introduced in that game's Bloodmoon expansion. The plot revolves around the impending return of Miraak, the very first dragonborn (like yourself), and the main quest mostly involves you becoming powerful enough to take him down. But there are plenty of side-quests to keep your adventuring nicely diverse.The much-touted new ability to ride dragons is a bit anticlimactic, but the new land is a pleasure to explore, and the focused 15 or so hours of gameplay provide a more than welcome reason for a return trip to Skyrim. (Bethesda/Obsidian)