'Dragon Age 2: Exalted March', the Expansion We'll Never Get.

Friendly Spoiler Warning: some discussing of the end of Dragon Age 2 below. Sure, it's been out for a while, and anyone that's likely to be interested has probably already played it. But, still... just in case.

It would be fair to say that Dragon Age 2 wasn't quite the satisfying follow-up to the highly successful original that fans were hoping for. There are a variety of criticisms, both genuine and wildly overblown, that can and have been levelled at it initial release. The inclusion of a voiced protagonist in the form of Hawke was one source of early concern – since it seemed intended to turn the franchise into the fantasy equivalent of Mass Effect (which, apparently, some saw as a bad thing). The conspicuous re-use of environments throughout the game was a more legitimate concern, perhaps. The game's focus on a single city already suggested to players that there would limited variety – so, seeing the same areas re-used throughout the game was taken as a frustrating display of cost-cutting laziness on Bioware's part. Also, the protagonist Hawke's tendency of being left to react to NPCs actions, rather than being able to take direct action himself, combined with the fact that the game seemed determined to rail-road the player toward a single conclusion regardless of the player's decisions, all served to frustrate player's hoping for a repeat of the variety provided by Dragon Age: Origins.

These were all genuine concerns that the greater majority of players could agree on. What differed were opinions on the extent to which these issues spoiled the game. For some, they were only minor problems in a game that still managed to do quite a bit right, overall. And, for others, they made the game itself almost unplayable – especially when it came to the seemingly required comparisons to the original game.

The fan outcry over Dragon Age 2 turned Bioware's forums into a hate-filled cesspit in the months following its initial release – though, ultimately, it proved to be little more than a trial run for the arguments concerning Mass Effect 3. As bad as it was, at least no one tried to sue Bioware over Dragon Age 2.

Despite all of this, though, Bioware rallied – promising to take fan dissatisfaction to heart and to release down-loadable content that addressed player's main concerns. The two DLC packs that were eventually released – Legacy and Mark of the Assassin – showed that the people behind Dragon Age 2 were willing and able to keep their promises. Each ultimately proved to be an entertaining addition to the game that added new elements both to the game itself, and to the lore of the fictional world.

The prospect of more DLC along these lines was something that I, for one, was rather looking forward to.

However, as it turns out, that simply isn't going to happen – as recent announcements from Bioware have made it clear that any plans for further DLC have been cancelled in order to allow the developers to move on to the next big project (Dragon Age 3, perhaps, though that hasn't been officially confirmed). On its own, that news may not be so bad – but, it came with the realisation that plans for a full expansion pack (comparable in length to the 15 hours of game-play offered by Awakening released for Dragon Age: Origins) have also been cancelled.

Not much is known about this planned expansion, other than the intended title of Exalted March. And, not much is likely to be revealed at this point – especially since it seems as though plot elements are likely to find their way into any future products associated with the franchise. However, anyone familiar with the lore of the Dragon Age world, and with where things were left at the conclusion of the game, can make a few educated guesses.

Those who have played through Dragon Age 2 will remember that the game ended on something of a cliff-hanger, with the outbreak of a full blown civil war between the Templars (holy warriors of the world's main church) and the mages who have traditionally been kept under their control. Also, if you were paying attention throughout both games, then you may remember an Exalted March as a crusade-style holy war launched against enemies of the world's main faith.

There are two conclusions that can be drawn from this. First, and most obviously, was that Exalted March was clearly intended to finally deal with the fallout left over from the main game. And, second, that it seems like a damn shame that it's been cancelled.

Though, at least there's still hope for Dragon Age 3.

© 2012 Dallas Matier

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Comments 11 comments

SimeyC profile image

SimeyC 4 years ago from NJ, USA

I have to agree with you - the repetition was simply wrong and not what I expected after DA I - I felt that the developers tried to get to the mass market and forgot about the fans that really made the first game a success! The combat system was so watered down that I didn't even bother trying to get 'complicated' - there was no point to strategy and the whole 'plot' was very disappointing! I hope they learn from their mistakes when the produce DA3!


JohnGreasyGamer profile image

JohnGreasyGamer 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

From what I gather from this (I haven't played DA2 yet), we're supposed to pay for an ending through the medium of DLC? Yeah, because that worked with ME3, and that's not even a remake of the "ending". I think EA have this sort of DLC fetish, where they get a sexual kick out of selling products over the internet.

I really think Bioware are getting way too cocky, thinking that their fans are loyal to them. It's becoming ridiculous how little (original) content is being put into their games, and then we have to pay for this extra stuff. And yes, I dared call it extra.

Here's an idea for the developers: How about they implement all these ideas they had, BEFORE making us pay for the missing 15-20 hours of gameplay?

PS: How long is DA2 in hours? Last I heard, the average RPG should have 30-50 hours minimum.


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 4 years ago from Australia Author

I think the main problem a lot of people had with the plot was that there just wasn't one. Like how a typical RPG would have the central plot that carries the game, and a bunch of sideplots to keep things interesting - but, this time, they did the sideplots and decided that was enough.

The central story of the game was supposed to be about how Hawke went from a broke refugee to one of the most powerful people in the city - and the game was made up of a bunch of stuff that happened along the way. It could have been done better, but I still think it was an interesting idea.

I really liked most of the characters, though, so it was worth playing just for that.


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 4 years ago from Australia Author

I wouldn't call it a DLC fetish. DLC is still new, but it's already become an established market - so, companies are still testing the waters to see what they can get away with. Regarding Dragon Age 2 in particular, the game had an ending that left things off with a clear sequal hook - whether they intended to pick it up in DLC or Dragon Age 3 is really irrelevent.


UniqueRelic 4 years ago from United Kingdom

BioWare is being forced to go "mass market" by EA. Ever since they were bought out their games have changed. Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age 2, SWTOR and now ME3. They don't get that their fans want a hardcore experience. BioWare lately have been acting like there are giving a huge middle finger to their fans. However, BioWare was at PAX and had a very interesting and promising panel about Dragon Age. Talking about what they may do and everything like that. Hopefully now they have gotten the message and will fix all there problems fans have. You can't go mass market on RPG's. It is not possible now as most "gamers" play First person shooters all day and that is it. I am acctually glad BioWare have abandoned DA2 as the game was a mess. Good hub. Voted up

PS. I said "gamers" in an air quote way ;)

Also I wrote an article myself on DA3 that you may want to check out. I found some very interesting things you may like to read.


Willsummerdreamer profile image

Willsummerdreamer 3 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

I can live with some of DA2's flaws (the repetitive environments, making DA more like Mass Effect to name a few) and I can forget about the canceled DLC (because DA2 needs more content like I need a brick to the face). But what really bugged me the most was the story (or lack there of). Both in the sense that it seems to ignore the choices you made in DAO (as you said), and in the sense that it doesn't follow up on the plot line involving Morragin, her demon baby and Flemmeth. I dunno about you guys, but the end of DAO's final DLC Witch Hunt led me to believe that they were going to the glue that holds the story of the three games together....but Flemmeth is barely in DA2 and Morragin and her demon spawn might as well not exists. Way to follow up on that, Bioware.

And am I the only one who thought that it was incredibly stupid to replace the Warden with Hawke? I mean, yeah, the Warden disappeared at the end of DAO, but couldn't the story of the sequel have been about where he went (I.e.: following him), instead it being about a placeholder character that nobody cares about and we'll probably never see again? I dunno, maybe DA3 will address this somehow.

Anyway, good hub, man. Voted up and shared.


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 3 years ago from Australia Author

Bioware have been saying from the start that the Dragon Age franchise was supposed to be about the world, rather than the story of any individual characters. So, having the second game be a new story only loosely connected to the first was something I was fine with. But, you're right that there were a few too many unresolved plot-points left over from Origins.

Also, be careful with broad claims like 'no one cared about Hawke'. I liked him (or her - since I had a few different versions going), and so did a lot of other people. I liked the idea of playing a character who wasn't necessarily at the center of everything - and, having the Warden be absent didn't bother me all that much. I had multiple Warden's, too, and there was only one where Morrigan and the child was even an issue. Hell... my first Warden died at the end. And, if I remember right, I'm pretty sure it was possible to kill Morrigan at the end of Witch Hunt, too.

Also, even if we never see Hawke again, that doesn't mean that he or she is simply a 'placeholder character'. Hawke's part in the bigger story was as important as the Warden's, just in a different way. Hawke is right at the center of the outbreak of war between the mages and the Templar - and, that's not something that's going to be ignored in the third game, is it?

Honestly, give Bioware a little credit. They put themselves in an incredibly difficult position when they decided to let player's choices carry over from one game to the next, and I'm sure they could have done better with it all than they have been so far - but they don't become talentless hacks just because your own personal choices aren't accounted for as well as you think they should be. They have a lot to keep track of now, and each alternative deserves equal weight. Is it really so surprising that they might want to push some of the decisions a bit to one side?


Willsummerdreamer profile image

Willsummerdreamer 3 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

I think, if anything, the Mass Effect Trilogy disproves that they put themselves in any sort of difficult position when they made the decision to let your data be transferred over. Because ME had the exact same feature and it still managed to keep everything straight. Multiple Shepard's (including play throughs when he died) and all. And the story of the Witch Hunt DLC (and the other main plot driven expansions for that matter) remains unchanged regardless if your Warden Lived or died. The only thing that changes is if you kill her, go with her or stay behind and that's it. And also bear in mind that when Witch Hunt starts, Morrgian's demon baby was already born and living somewhere else, so it stands to reason to expect that it and Flemmeth, (who Morrigan explicitly states is still alive regardless if you killed her or not) are going to be at the center of the plot somehow. So why have the feature if your choices aren't gonna affect the story of the next game? It makes no sense.

And the fact that the franchise is supposed to be about "The World" and not people is kinda part of the problem there buddy. And it doesn't matter how important Hawke is, he's not gonna be the main character in the next game. hell, we don't even know for certain that he will even be in it. He's just there to fill a space until Bioware figures out who is gonna replace him in DA3 (at this point i hope its the Demon baby but whatever). In other words, Hawke is just a plot device to get said war between the mages and Templars going IMO.

No Bioware aren't talentless hacks, but I don't think they were right in the head when they came up for the plot of this franchise. Not trying to be argumentative, i'm just explaining my opinion on this aspect of the game. Because otherwise, DA2 is actually pretty good.


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 3 years ago from Australia Author

Morrigan's child is only 'already born' in Witch Hunt if the player chose to go through with her plan at the end of Origins. There are two other options there where you refuse to give her what she wants - which means that there is no child. That's why the child can't be a main focus of the franchise - there are too many players who will be going in with game's where the child was never born, and who will be as annoyed with it being forced onto them as you are with it being pushed aside.

That's also why Bioware have dug themselves into a hole with the Dragon Age franchise - and, why they were mostly able to avoid the same problems with Mass Effect. The choices in Mass Effect were easier to account for, because it was planned as a trilogy from the start, and because it all pointed in the same general direction (even with the choices, Mass Effect is actually pretty linear). The choices in Origins were much more varied, and much more difficult to account for. Seriously, can you even imagine how a direct sequel where you play the Warden again would have worked? Especially if it were still set in Ferelden? Think of all of the choices you made during the game, as well as the accounting the choice of origin (and, the various roles that your Warden could be given at the end based on that origin). There's no way they could have made that game in a way that people would have been happy with. It was just too open ended to have a direct sequel.

I'm not being argumentative either. But, go ahead and reread your own Hub on how sick you are of people's complaints about Final Fantasy 13, and keep in mind that that's pretty close to the way I feel about Dragon Age 2.


Willsummerdreamer profile image

Willsummerdreamer 3 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

Are you sure? Because when I went for the death ending she still mentioned the kid in Witch Hunt. Hmm, I dunno, maybe it was a glitch. But then again I suppose it doesn't matter, because everyone knows about the little bastard now and its kinda hard for me personally to see them using any other plot thread to keep the three games tied together (lord knows the war between the mages and Templars can't). And if it pisses people off then it pisses people off because, like you explained, they've backed themselves into a corner and then blew off their foot with an RPG. And the whole "pushed aside" thing, that's one of the big reasons why people didn't take too kindly to DA2 in the first place.

And yes I can actually envision a direct sequel were you play as the Warden again that would have worked, and kept people happy (or at least I think it would and honestly pleasing everyone is kinda impossible to begin with). But I'm not in the mode to type fan fiction in your hub's comments section. And I see, well that's a good note to end on. I still liked the hub.


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 3 years ago from Australia Author

Yeah, the kid is a direct result of the ritual Morrigan tries to talk the Warden into at the end of Origins. If you refuse the ritual, then the kid is never conceived in the first place. So, if it was mentioned in a play-through of yours where you refused the ritual, than it was a glitch.

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