Dragon Age: Origins - Darkspawn Chronicles Hands-On

Darkspawn Chronicles turns the story of Dragon Age: Origins on its head, having you play as the eponymous bad guys in "a world without a hero," says lead designer Rob Bartel.

Unlike the previous Dragon Age downloadable content and the sizeable Awakening expansion, Darkspawn Chronicles neither fits into nor builds on what has gone before. "Our goal with each DLC is to do something different," Bartel says. And different it is: Darkspawn Chronicles takes place in an alternative universe in which your player character fell at the first hurdle, dying during the blood-drinking joining ritual, leaving Alistair to become Ferelden's only surviving Grey Warden.

This DLC, available on the Xbox 360 (400 Microsoft points) and PC (400 BioWare points) on May 18 and on PSN "shortly thereafter" for £3.99, plays from within either Dragon Age: Origins or Awakening. To those who completed the main game, the setting will be familiar. This downloadable episode encompasses the finale of Origins--the siege of capital city Denerim and a slightly abridged storming of Fort Drakon within--but this time played from the other side.

You play a darkspawn general, a hurlock vanguard, described by Bartel as "a new type of darkspawn given a measure of free will by the archdemon." It's the archdemon--that is, the dragon that leads the darkspawn horde--that telepathically issues your orders to take the city. Your party comprises various disposable thralls: darkspawn units recruited on the battlefield with your vanguard's instant recruitment ability. Blight wolves, hurlocks, genlocks, and ogres are up for grabs, as well as stealthy shrieks and fireball-hurling emissaries. It's the same four-character party setup as previously, but rather than swapping out one member for a more useful unit, you execute the unfortunate conscript.

These are, explains Bartel, not the talking, fully sentient darkspawn introduced in Awakening, but the orc-like creatures of the game proper. Generally, role-playing elements are stripped down in favour of a brisk, combat-based experience. Dialogue menus, for instance, just "didn't make sense" given your grunting, brutish cohorts, says Bartel.

Starting out at the gates of Denerim, you work your way through the city, battering down Denerim's defenders and picking up promising recruits (and dispatching unwanted ones) as you go. We acquired a hulking ogre early on--a useful unit, capable of all the same abilities it had in Dragon Age: Origins, including a powerful charge and that familiar rock-hurling, mass-knockback attack. So we lumbered around as the ogre, demolishing barricades and clearing a path for Team Darkspawn. Familiar characters crop up in the city districts, with qunari warrior Sten defending the market district with a band of mercenaries and Oghren the dwarf leading an army of drunks out of the tavern. (The golem Shale is the one party character that doesn't appear in this DLC, says Bartel.)

In the Alienage, the city's elven slums, we led the charge to "crush the spirit of the elves" by torching the tree at its centre. The tree succumbed to an emissary's fireball, as did the elven rogue Zevran shortly after. It's a shame most former party characters expire unceremoniously, with nary a cutscene to mark their passing, especially given that Bartel says BioWare intended to "tug the heartstrings" by making you slaughter your former allies and love interests.

As we ransacked the Alienage, we got into character and raised our party members' approval ratings by executing some frightened, unarmed elves. In Darkspawn Chronicles, loyalty equates to fear and respect rather than affection and is generally awarded for being brutal--though, curiously, gift giving still works. A nice bottle of wine and a war trophy get you some grunting approval and a loyalty boost. Much like in the game proper, greater loyalty inspires extra abilities in your party members.

There is some limited gear customisation according to class, with looted weapons and shields equippable on your vanguard, though nothing can be equipped, for example, on the ogre and shriek. Crafting (potions and traps) is also available to your vanguard character. But given the relative shortness of the DLC--expect it to last as long as it took you to complete the Denerim finale in the original game, says Bartel--levelling your main character is not a focus.

On reaching Fort Drakon, you chase Alistair and a party of familiar faces through the gates of Fort Drakon and on to a final battle. In this parallel Dragon Age universe, Alistair has somehow become Warden King without your help. In fact, the Darkspawn Chronicles' alternative canon is all determined, according to Bartel, by "the choices a tormented Alistair would have made in your absence." Much of this alternative history, but for a devastating final cutscene, is left for the game's codex entries to relate.

Completing this DLC gets you Blightblood, a powerful darkspawn sword that is added to your inventory in both Origins and Awakening. This is the only place at which Darkspawn Chronicles connects with the game proper--otherwise, it's entirely stand-alone.

As a concept for downloadable content, alternative history (not to mention the early death of your player character) is a curious choice for Dragon Age: Origins. Bartel describes it as a kind of experimental DLC, inviting players to explore a darker, what-if side of the Dragon Age story. If that sounds right up your alley, or if you're one of the BioWare fans Bartel says just hankered to play as the bad guys, check out Darkspawn Chronicles on May 18.

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79 comments
rex401
rex401

I want the add-on,but I don't have the game.

gamrls57
gamrls57

boring ... yawn the blightblood sword ...meh

Paandaa79
Paandaa79

no fix for v.3.3 bug yet? back to Oblivion it is for me....RIP DAO

volcomsk83
volcomsk83

Valdarez, couldnt agree more with you..

Cuddlebearz
Cuddlebearz

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

RageGT
RageGT

Alt. DLC name: Punch Morrigan in her face! Cool!

valdarez
valdarez

Most annoying dev interview ever. uhhh, uhhhh, uhhh, uhhhh, uhhh, uhhh, uhhh, uhhhh. Never put that guy in front of a camera again unless he's reading from uhhhh a script.

skillyywillyy
skillyywillyy

ok 3.99 why not. just hope it isnt real short. i enjoyed dragon age origin 1. but i sunk too much time into developing my character and he is a beast . i kind of ruined the game cuz everything was too easy even on nightmare. im an extremist. So while im developing my character i try too hard n look for all ways too maximize his abilities. i didnt even get to play awakenings yet so i think i should do that one first.

Axelander999
Axelander999

Why is the PSN version released after the other versions?

Ch33zWiz
Ch33zWiz

This guy talks like a tool.

FallenAngelXBL
FallenAngelXBL

For only £4 it's not that expensive to pick up. Atleast they are not scamming you like COD does regularily now...you know with an over priced game that then sells you overpriced map packs...

robtheguru
robtheguru

The shortness of it is making me think no. Although i'll probably end up playing it over my mates house lol

zymbo
zymbo

Hmmmm...passing on this. Unless it serves to further the storyline I'm not interested.

eddieham13
eddieham13

Cant wait to play as the darkspawn, I think they look awesome.

FinalDuo1886
FinalDuo1886

Awaking was pretty terrible. The feast day pack was a complete waste, and should of been free. The game as of today for console owners, still carry bugs and glitches that should of been fix along time ago with the PC version. I'm pretty content on just sticking with Mass Effect 2 DLC's, and pass on DA:O all together now. Bioware doesn't even have the decency to use there profits to create exceptional patches anymore.

blackfray
blackfray

it's not even role-playing! this is a mistake!

scorpgul
scorpgul

For 3.99 you cant expect a big deal

JZHero
JZHero

One of my favourite games is Dragon age, i bought almost all the the dlcs except for feastday but this i will get :) anyone else?

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

im gonna go ahead and get it, sounds fun. also, what would be fun is playing as a Darkspawn General and go through the entire game destroying Ferelden, corrupting people and animals, and your camp is replaced by a massive pit where you pick whichever darkspawn you like the most (you recruit any darkspawn you see with a ability and they head to your pit camp thing so you can use them later. anyone else think that would be fun?

Abberon
Abberon

Another waste of time and waste of money DLC. I've got better things to do...

hrothgar99
hrothgar99

my only complaint is that its too short ....if ive read correctly

starscreamPL
starscreamPL

Hmm I`m not so interested in playing those disguisting creatures but I will try

tmaclabi
tmaclabi

Nice interview, i love this game!

jmills204
jmills204

Although this idea is somewhat interesting, and I'm sure it will be fun to play...I would rather have the developers start concentrating now on the next big segment that will be coming, rather than a one mission dlc....

xCaLLeNisH
xCaLLeNisH

I like this idea. We never get to play true bad guys in rpgs. I'm a villain at heart so this is more my style anyways. Maybe I can get attached to pixels shaped like a character as some people were describing.

Squirrelatwar
Squirrelatwar

I actually thought this was a joke article...please just release more party members, sidequests, campaigns...this is just weird.

chris98092
chris98092

I can appreciate people's appreciation for the game, since I've felt that way about games too, but I REALLY did not connect with this game like that. With all the praise and accolades the game got, I must really be missing something...

Konviktion
Konviktion

Gotta love the massacre...This is gonna be awesome :)

Lagguz
Lagguz

it reminds me of soul nomad's demon path fight against the ones that were your friends in the normal game and destroy everything

lightwarrior179
lightwarrior179

It looks all interesting.But I think it will be more of a different experience than anything else.Dragon Age was also about getting attached to your party members but here it won't happen with the Darkspawn (or the execute options).Wonder how it'll eventually pan out.

regix416_basic
regix416_basic

I don't want this. Please give us something worth paying for. This ain't it.

omegazx100
omegazx100

sound like a blast worth playing

thorwolfe
thorwolfe

alright instead of playing something new i get to play the final battle for a 5th time but as a darkspawn...

Janpieterzun
Janpieterzun

Burn destroy kill...punish and enslave. I hate heroes too =D

ZombieReaper33
ZombieReaper33

I love being EVIL! Go forth and killem' ALL my minions!!

Slash_out
Slash_out

This look like a new DLC, original for once :). I'm all for it ^^.

Bamul
Bamul

Sounds interesting, never seen this kind of a DLC from a game. Might try it out, but if it is as short as it takes you to save Denerim in DA Origins, then I might not get it.

Berkut666
Berkut666

I liked Dragon age but the only DLC I got was the Stone prisoner. I kinda got bored once I completed it!

topsemag55
topsemag55

@Gelugon_baat It does just "pop-in" to your Inventory. It's mentioned in a Q&A interview update that GS posted under the main game for the PC. Here is the text: "That said, there are achievements and trophies to unlock, and one of those, once unlocked, will spawn a new sword called Blightblood into your character's inventory in Dragon Age: Origins and Awakening."

pretty_odddd
pretty_odddd

Go to new game ? kill darkspawn ? drink blood and die ? or just drink blood from inventory in the right place ?

xxcheexx
xxcheexx

I'd get this on day 1...if Bioware releases the patch for the PS3.