I’d been counting down the days until the release of BioWare’s newest DLC content, the Darkspawn Chronicles. After reading about it and having played a player’s mod of a similar nature, I was quite excited to see what BioWare had for us next. Needless to say I was a tad bit disappointed.
I’m not saying that the download content was bad, far from it, but it’s definitely not worth more than the $5 or 400 BioWare points they charged for it. You are basically getting what you paid for, which was obvious when picking up Return to Ostagar a few months ago. The game play was way too short in my opinion, only taking around 1 ½ hours to complete. There were some definite highlights as well as some down sides to the game. Just remember, though, that this is add-on content, and not a full game or expansion, so don’t expect to get a nice load of new abilities and equipment.
Let’s start off with what I found to be a bit ‘wrong’ with this download content. First off, there’s no real lead into the content. It starts at the Denerim city gates, with basically the same scene you run into when your Warden and party are split up to clean up the darkspawn masses. The only difference is, instead of seeing hordes of Ferelden natives, elves, and dwarves marching forward to defend against the Blight, you see a huge mass of darkspawn running toward the gates. When the cutscene ends, you are now a Hurlock Vanguard and receive a quick tutorial on how to use your Enthrall ability. From there, once you ‘recruit’ your first party member, you are basically on a hack and slash mission throughout the same areas you had to clean out when you previously played as your Grey Warden PC. While it didn’t really bother me to cut down the NPC’s who had been party members in prior Dragon Age: Origins play-throughs, the burning of Vhenadahl, the tree in the Alienage, really struck me as wrong. I understand the reasons behind it - killing off all that is living and good - but it still really bugged me.
Once you’re finished turning the majority of Denerim into a river of blood, it’s then time to head to Fort Drakon where you are to now assist the wounded Archdemon. Coming to the courtyard of Fort Drakon and it being nothing more than yet another cut-scene was a bit anticlimactic for me. Once you enter into the building, it’s as if you’ve pretty much zipped through all levels and floors to find yourself on the rooftop. While it’s understandable that your mission is to now get to your lord and master as soon as possible, you’d think there would be some resistance. Instead, you walk through the front door of Fort Drakon and end up on the roof. After busting tail to take down Alistair’s party, there’s yet another cut-scene showing your Vanguard shoving a blade into Alistair’s back as he’s struggling to get back to his feet. As soon as they finish showing copious amounts of blood spewing from Al’s now dead corpse, the Archdemon flies away and the credits roll. What happened afterwards? Is there any reward for the Hurlock Vanguard who ripped through Denerim on the Archdemon’s demand and killed the Warden on its command? Instead, now that the Vanguard is no longer needed to see to the Archdemon’s safety, is it destroyed? The developers left too many questions open.
Now that I’ve ripped the content to some decent shreds, let’s build it back up again. While there were things that I found wrong with the DLC, there were quite a few things I enjoyed. One - you learn how truly ‘mindless’ the darkspawn are in Origins before the changes occur in Awakening. While there isn’t really anything in the way of dialogue, there really is no reason for dialogue in this addition. Your only mission as the Vanguard is to do whatever is necessary to carry out your orders from the Archdemon who speaks to you via a type of telepathic link. I also enjoyed the ability to kill off those party members who weren’t doing the job. I know, bloodthirsty aren’t I? If you need something better, kill off an enthralled party member and enthrall a new one.
You also learn to truly utilize what you have in the way of tactics and what type of darkspawn will fill the role you need best. Due to the fact that most darkspawn archers are warriors, if you need a party member that can stealth, recruit a shriek who can also do mass AoE stuns with their shriek ability. If you don’t want to lose your troll, shriek, or blightwolf due to low health, recruit an Emissary who can heal (and surprisingly their health spell doesn’t take long to reset). These tactics are most needed when you come across those who you’ve partied with in prior games when running with your Warden. They are boss level, and if you don’t use your party members to the best of their ability, you see how truly powerful they are. I find this to be a plus, though others might find it to be a point in the negative column if they die too often.
For me, the highest points of the game were in some of the NPC’s I got to slaughter. Arl Rendon Howe is the first boss you get to kill off, so being able to rip him into pieces was something I highly enjoyed. It’s nice to know that, whether or not your Warden survived the Joining, Howe dies. I also enjoyed turning Goldanna into a blood puddle because that’s all she deserved after her treatment of Alistair. You find Knight-Commander Greagoir and Cullen in the Marketplace and get to smack them around as well. While Greagoir didn’t bother me too incredibly much, Cullen and his hate of mages really burned me so it was nice to show him that mages were the least of his worries. Battling a boss level Zevran in the Alienage was amazing. Zevran is honestly one of my favorite NPC’s and to see him fighting at boss level was what really made this purchase worth it for me. I always felt a bit let down that, for someone so skilled, he was so easy to take down in the ambush sequence where you can recruit him into your Warden’s party, so to have him actually show his skill with his blades coupled with stealth was just a treat. Granted, I felt quite bad knowing that this time around, dead was dead and not unconscious, having to think on my feet to get him that way was fun. I guess I should also add that, even though they’re attacking you and surviving is quite difficult, just seeing your past party members on the other end of the spectrum is quite interesting. You can definitely see why it is, when your Warden was leading things, the darkspawn fell in droves. They are major baddies and it made me proud to know I have them waiting for me, in one of my many different saved games, to help me destroy the blight over and over again.
All in all this was a pretty decent piece of downloadable content. Problems aside, I found it enjoyable and wish it lasted longer than what it did. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they added DLC like this to Awakening where your PC ends up being one of the intelligent darkspawn, just to see what that would be like. I rate this a 7.5/10 for its enjoyability even with the areas I nitpicked.