More than anything, The Darkspawn Chronicles is plain and simply fun. There's none of the dialogue, the decisions, the weight of destiny hanging over top of you. The end result is exhilarating, and I heartily recommend that all Dragon Age fans try The Darkspawn Chronicles out for themselves.
I'll admit this straight away, Dragon Age: Origins didn't overly impress me. Combat sequences became excessively precise and dull only hours into the game. With each level and skill learned it felt like another bullet point to hit on your to-do list, rather than changing the combat dynamics in any significant way. The story and characters were well written, absolutely, but having conversations was practically torture. A multitude of innocuous thirty second cut scenes strung together by menu choices.
This isn't a deconstruction of Dragon Age: Origins' negative points though, this is a rave review for The Darkspawn Chronicles DLC. A relatively small, unmarketed DLC pack with only an hour or two of gameplay has surprisingly become the most enjoyable experience I've had with the game (and its expansion).
What Darkspawn Chronicles does is put you in the shoes of your very own Hurlock at the beginning of the siege of Denerim. There's no extraordinary changes from the gameplay of Dragon Age: Origins, no surprising plot revelations (it's non-canon anyways), yet Darkspawn Chronicles is a refreshing change of pace that every Dragon Age fan should experience.
Hurlocks Can't Talk
There are no conversations in Darkspawn Chronicles! There's no endless hours chatting your soon-to-be lover up, and no need need to persuade anyone out of a tough situation; there's no talk at all! The closest thing to a dialogue you'll have is a direct order from the Arch-Demon momentarily displayed in the middle of the screen. I don't think you'd want to talk strategy with the Arch-Demon, no, it's probably best to just do what he says.
To make up for your Hurlock's inability to give orders vocally, you're provided a unique skill: Enthrall. Enthrall allows you to select any Darkspawn nearby and add them to your party, with three thralls maximum. Their obedience and strength don't require gifts, unless you consider murdering the populace of Denerim a gift. Yes, defeating an enemy will typically increase the strength of your party members. There's no presents or heartfelt conversations needed!
Hurlocks Don't Have Friends
During Dragon Age: Origins, having a party member fall in battle was debilitating. Lose a single party member and your actions were forced to become that much more precise, lest you find your entire party fallen. Then, personally, I always felt badly allowing a friend, a comrade in arms, to be torn limb from limb. I'm such a wuss, I know.
As a Hurlock Vanguard, these feelings disappear. Your thralls will, as they should, fall before the might of your enemies. Luckily, there's often an endless supply of fodder for you to dominate and send into battle. It's a perfect counter-point to the close relationships you held as a Grey Warden; your Hurlock should naturally be vicious and remorseless. Darkspawn Chronicles realizes this and purposefully creates difficult situations that require a bit of, well, sacrifice.
The action ends up feeling quite gratifying, enthralling new minions and sending them to their deaths. All the while strategically using your stronger units to skillfully turn the tides of battle. It's a release from the rules you were held to in Origins, and it feels great.
Hurlocks Are Bloodthirsty
This is likely where Darkspawn Chronicles may lose some audience. Dragon Age: Origins fans may recall taking their party through the siege of Denerim, and up a tower for a final battle with the Arch-Demon. In Darkspawn Chronicles that still happens, only you're trying to protect the Arch-Demon. Yes, this requires you to fight your old comrades along the way. I won't spoil the ending, but it's safe to say that things do not go well for them, so long as you're winning.
The look upon some of your faces is plain as day, "How could I possibly raise my sword against Alistair!" Others might say Leliana, or Morrigan, or one of the other party members that you've grown especially close to. If that's the case for you, you might be best avoiding Darkspawn Chronicles. If you're like me though, you're looking at the situation a little bit differently.
Finally, a release from all of those frustrating experiences in Origins! If Darkspawn Chronicles was canon, I might feel a little bit guilty. As it stands though, this is a great way to unleash your pent up stress. Romantic interest could care less about the gift you slaved to find? Tired of Alistair whining about becoming royalty? Start up Darkspawn Chronicles and tell them how you really feel -- with a broadsword.
Darkspawn Chronicles doesn't make any dramatic changes to the Dragon Age: Origins formula. It can be completed in less than two hours, and since it's non-canonical there's no significant purpose in completing the DLC. Yet, despite those reasons Darkspawn Chronicles succeeds in creating a unique and compelling experience without the drama associated with the main campaign.
More than anything, Darkspawn Chronicles is plain and simply fun. There's none of the dialogue, the decisions, the weight of destiny hanging over top of you. There's simply the enemies in front of you and a powerful voice inside beckoning you to push forward. The end result is exhilarating, and I heartily recommend that all Dragon Age fans try The Darkspawn Chronicles out for themselves.
The Darkspawn Chronicles is available for download right now on PC and Xbox 360 for, and is coming soon to the PS3. The DLC will cost player $5 [400 BioWare Points, 400 MS Points, $4.99 PSN].