Dragon Age: Origins Darkspawn Chronicles Q&A

BioWare fills us in on what it's like to play as the darkspawn in the latest Dragon Age DLC.

BioWare continues to support Dragon Age: Origins with its latest downloadable content, Darkspawn Chronicles--scheduled for release on Xbox Live and PC on May 18. A PS3 release date has yet to be announced. We chatted with Rob Bartel, lead designer on the Darkspawn Chronicles, to learn more about this new content and what it will be like to take a walk on the dark side of the Dragon Age universe.

GameSpot: We'll admit it--this new DLC certainly took us by surprise. We'd be more inclined to believe you guys were hard at work on a spin-off story about Sandal the dwarven weapon enchanter. How did you come upon the idea to turn around and give players the ability to play as the same reviled enemies that they spent the entire game hunting down?

Rob Bartel: The Dragon Age franchise is complex and multifaceted, and there are a lot of different stories out there that we can tell. We thought that putting the player into the role of a hurlock vanguard and showing the city's capture and fall from that perspective was an interesting thread that players would want to experience.

GS: Perhaps the greatest strength Origins had going for it was a deeply involving story and well-developed characters. How do you do storytelling when your central cast of characters includes the likes of genlocks and ogres?

RB: We're definitely positioning Darkspawn Chronicles as a powerful visceral experience rather than as a moving coming-of-age story about an ogre and his pet blight wolf. The lives of the darkspawn are brutish, cruel, and short, but that's part of what makes them compelling. The archdemon has put you in charge of capturing the city of Denerim and eliminating the threat posed by the Grey Wardens. As a fan of the Dragon Age story, you can't help but feel powerful as your ogre tears through the defenders' barricades. When your emissary sets fire to the great tree in the elven alienage, you can't help but understand the emotional impact that that would have had on that community. When you come to the archdemon's aid in the final hour and drive your blade through the heart of the Warden King, you can't help but realize that you have turned history on its head. So, while there isn't a lot of dialogue and talking heads, the Darkspawn Chronicles is a story of loss and of absence--what would the world have become if your hero had died in the joining?

GS: What are the biggest gameplay differences that players will discover while playing as a darkspawn as opposed to a Grey Warden or elf or what have you?

RB: The biggest difference lies in how the party is formed and dissolved. As a hurlock vanguard, you have the ability to recruit thralls--fellow darkspawn--to your cause at any time. If you spot a powerful emissary casting spells off in the distance, you simply select him and bring him into your party and start issuing commands. It's all very fluid. While he's under your command, you'll begin earning his respect and fear, which will make him braver and more powerful in combat. And then, when he's outlived his usefulness, you simply target him again and a vanguard will walk up and decapitate him in cold blood, clearing up a spot in the party for someone new.

This probably won't end well.

GS: And within the group of darkspawn, how do the different species distinguish themselves from one another? How does an ogre play differently from a shriek besides just being a whole lot more massive?

RB: Ogres are so much fun. There's nothing like picking up Morrigan, or Alistair, in the ogre's big blue fist during the final battle, shaking her around, and then punching the proverbial snot out of her. You have access to all the same abilities that they've used against you as enemies in the original game. Shrieks sneak and overwhelm; ogres hurl rocks and pound the ground to knock everyone down. Blight wolves howl. Emissaries cast their fireballs. Hurlocks and genlocks man the front lines or fire arrows from afar. Everyone has their tactical role. On top of that, we've also added in some puzzle elements to some of the levels where you need to recruit specific types of darkspawn and use their special abilities to meet a particular objective. So yes, there's plenty to distinguish the different types of thralls you can recruit into your party.

GS: This is a return to the smaller-sized DLC that we saw initially before you released the heftier Awakening. Roughly how much content should players expect to find, and should we expect to see any carryover--items, story choices, and so on--from this pack to the main story?

RB: The Darkspawn Chronicles is set in an alternate history where the player hero died in the joining ceremony, never becoming a Grey Warden and never saving the world from the blight. As such, it doesn't make sense to carry over characters and story choices to and from the original game. 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.

GS: Is this alternate-history perspective something that we can expect to see from future BioWare DLC, or is this something that the team regards as more of a fun experiment?

RB: Right now everything's a fun experiment. We're trying a lot of different approaches to downloadable content and getting a lot of experience and insight into what our fans like, what sort of price points they feel comfortable with, what our development costs are, how to leverage downloadable content across different platforms, languages, and regions. It's a little bit of number-crunching, a little bit of magic, and a lot of gut feel. If our fans demonstrate particular support for one type of content over another, however, we'll obviously do our best to provide more of that sort of content in the future.

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Discussion

218 comments
C1jump
C1jump

Great "DLC"!!! I dont understand why people think there should be more or even a storyline its DLC not an expansion. Also last i check you aren't forced to buy it or even download it. Play it or don't. That's the joy of "DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT"

keatman
keatman

imma gonna kill myself!

BrutalKill500
BrutalKill500

i agree with rakhaanandra. just play it for fun. and i think is this is is very fun!

rakhaanandra
rakhaanandra

i don't know why people call this game a waste of money it's only 9 bucks come on if you can afford a pc than 9 bucks it doesn't mean anything but if it matters this game is only fun if you have a spare time but it isn't good if you focus on it

taddia
taddia

don't u dare to touch my sweet alistair ffs!!!

Mr_T
Mr_T

Worth it to kill Sten.

zer0xi0n
zer0xi0n

One word could sum up this DLC - Short. While it would be interesting to have a entire campaign as a Darkspawn this will leave you wanting - more. Quite simply put, there isn't much of a add on in this DLC. Don't expect a story extension, or lore to be included in this.

xxxDirtyJoexxx
xxxDirtyJoexxx

I finished it today... No story, didn't learn more about darkspawn as i hoped. But at least it was fun 30min of burning down Denerim.

RockToTheLed
RockToTheLed

It's a hell of a lot of fun. I'd love to see more dlc like this down the road after more is released for our hero. Same goes for Mass Effect 2, wouldn't mind playing as a collector and storming colonies, or going back and being heretic geth and destroying Shepard right at the beginning of ME1. OR playing as a Reaper!

orjasmo
orjasmo

what i dont get is why everyone is saying that bioware should make a new da when they are

spOOoOOn
spOOoOOn

I hope bioware will at some point get that 1-2-3 hour DLC's dont mix with 50-150 hour RPG stories. Just focus on large expansions if anything :(.

petrino
petrino

what? you want me to go destroy the city? i just saved it! make up your damn minds!

FabioPizzini
FabioPizzini

I really don't undestand how players can play this boring gdr (but really it is a gdr? oh yes toong gots skills to learn ... ) ... i'm waiting for new gdr game from bethesda, they know how to do a gdr game.

davidsolomon83
davidsolomon83

WHAT A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT !!! :( ----------------------------------------------------------- Would playing as Darkspawn be Fun --> NO Would getting a game like that after the minimalistic Awakening be fun --> NO NO Should we support this fun experiment --> NO NO NO -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the end, we ALL want a new Origins like Campaign. Everybody know it. How come BioWare doesnt ??? :(

alert0
alert0

Ooh yeah, it will be soo interesting to cast Winter's Grasp as a Hurlock Emissary... not. Okay, I admit it, I'm only being a douche because Awakening was a huge disappointment. I probably won't play this game, seeing as this too is an 'experiment' and I have better ways to spend my cash.

Brazucass
Brazucass

Any chance to play as a dragon and land on a field full of do gooders?

Brazucass
Brazucass

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

Imjit
Imjit

I would very like the Alistair smashing part.

zardes123
zardes123

very cool ... new you can bee the bad guys and kill you friends .... :P :P :P

xxxDirtyJoexxx
xxxDirtyJoexxx

I always wanted to learn more about darkspawn, and what better way to do than to play as them.

TrueIori
TrueIori

As much as i like DA:O i pass , i just finally beat fallout and now going through it again with my good character , so i just rather pick up Broken steel and Mothership zeta over any of the DA:O dlc.

peterfaj
peterfaj

Am I the only one not interested in this? Btw, the story of Sandal sounds awesome! :P

Anisoropos
Anisoropos

The original game managed to get me giggling, awed, hooked up, respectful of the producers and awaiting for a chance to go after the top branches of the dozen of storylines i had developed through my choices while playing. Unfortunately, 'Awakenings' couldn't by far cover my expectations (partially cause they were too high, ill admit). On the other hand, this is promising to turn the attention away from the desire to see what happens to the story developed by the gamer in the original game, towards what would happen to the world if you had never bought the original game to begin with. All in all gotta give props to the developers for a witty move, and hope it's gonna be worked to perfection like the original game, and (unfortunately) unlike 'Awakenings'.

JoeDivision51
JoeDivision51

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

MizChief
MizChief

I loved the original game. The DLC was ok, but I hope further ad-ons are a bit better than Awakenings... I feel that it was put out much too quickly. I felt that I was ripped off by an expansion pack that was easier than the game by a large degree and that was glitchy. Frquently, cut scenes were ruined by missing limbs and other things. Most of the game, Jusice was ghostly except for his eyes which were spheres floating in his head and his mouh which looked like those wind up toys where it's just a set of teeth and gums that chatter. I'll be curious to try this, but again, I hope hey clean it up first. I don't have much income to be spending on games that disappoint.

juxtapose519
juxtapose519

After I beat the original story, I was so turned off by the sloppy way that DLC was implemented that I kind of shied away from any additional DA content. I don't know if this will be enough to bring me back or not. I would almost rather play through Baldur's Gate II again.

amogh8188
amogh8188

Looks interesting .. lets see how it plays out ...

Paandaa79
Paandaa79

less focus on DLC and more focus on the freezing issue please......

Simeon_Crane
Simeon_Crane

Haha Carywinton, your such a douche. It's five bucks dude.

carywinton
carywinton

I would hazzard to say, this will be another very expensive "DLC". Yes with a $39.99 price point. This is merely a theft from other game producers and developers who have used the "evil" side for players to play, Valve software comes to mind in their Left4Dead series where you can play as the Infected. The entire premise of the game and what it stood for, in my mind, has now been officially ruined. Dragon Age: Origins to me was about wiping out the Darkspawn, not giveing them the win, but I suppose there will be those who want to see otherwise.

faToe
faToe

let me guess...another 39.99 for this!!

AZE160
AZE160

Right my chance to finally see Alistair beg for mercy, hope there's his Humor in it and shut Morrigan UP!

Moloch121
Moloch121

Liglon...this is Bioware one of the few companies where I believe I never have to look up a review for their stuff because its always great.

Liglon
Liglon

Looks like it could be a bit on the dull side, but I eat up anything DA related, so I'll definitely be buying this. :)

Alan1187
Alan1187

Neat, but IDK if I care to play as the Darkspawn :\ That and I still need to buy awakening :P.

shooters125
shooters125

Maybe I can find out what happened to Bodahn Feddic and why Sandal is covered in blood. ENCHANTMENT!

andalore
andalore

Looks more apealing to me than any of the other dlc.

01-cannon-mpc
01-cannon-mpc

This sounds realy cool. Im lookin forward to it.

slainta
slainta

A PS3 release date has yet to be announced... What's this? Yet another dirty deal from M$? I'm getting tired of this bs.

spooky105
spooky105

Looks good, but I'll pass. What I'm waiting for is the Dragon Age sequel which is coming out next year.

thanatosser
thanatosser

Isn’t that Morrigan in the picture getting ass kicked by the ogre??? There was a time when you'd hope and pray a favourite game would get an add-on and then you’d wait months for it to come out.... NOW in 2010 they come out faster than I can AFFORD to buy them! Awakening is so expensive it's like paying for a whole new game, with that and ALL the other game add-ons and DLC, not only can I not keep up with all my favourite games, but now I have a backlog of DLC that threatens to prevent me buying games for the next few months... when that’s all cleared up I wont be able to afford the games I've missed in that time period either, aside from that I wont have time to play them all anyway! I love DA:O and ill totally buy this, play it and love it too. I’m just complaining because I can’t have it now and there’s soooooo much choice now it’s actually frustrating if you are maintaining a reasonable and justifiable budget. Remember.... Game responsibly

cdchi1
cdchi1

Hope you guys enjoy it...playing Darkspawn not for me.