'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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