For years since news of its cancellation, rumours have circulated about the supposedly "Awakening-sized" Dragon Age II expansion, Exalted March. The most widely held belief was that it had been cancelled due to Dragon Age II's poor reception, but as it turns out that assumption is false. Mike Laidlaw laid all (or at least, some) secrets bare for curious fans in a series of tweets earlier today.
While very little information about Exalted March was available at the time of its cancellation almost five years ago, this hasn't stopped fans from wondering what it might have been — and, since the release of Dragon Age Inquisition, what assets and ideas may have been repurposed for the later game.
Setting the record straight, Laidlaw first corrects the idea that Exalted March was cancelled because of the 'failure' of Dragon Age II — it was actually because they were already in the process of moving Dragon Age to EA DICE's Frostbite engine. As an engine that had been designed for DICE's Battlefield games, the Bioware team would have had a lot of work ahead of them to adapt it for an RPG like Dragon Age.
"As most everything in making games, it certainly was challenging. Great engine, but took tons of time," Laidlaw explains. While they could have potentially managed both at the same time, both expansion and future Frostbite Dragon Age games would have suffered for it. Instead, Exalted March was cancelled so that all effort could be focused on what would then become Dragon Age: Inquisition.
For disappointed fans who would have liked to see more of Hawke's adventures, we at least have some idea now of what the expansion's story would have covered (so you can run off and write fanfiction to your heart's content).
The story kicked off from the 'red lyrium' shenanigans of the end of Dragon Age II — understandably, the Chantry isn't too happy about it — but also continued the Qunari storyline of the game's second act. In Exalted March, the Qunari would have been starting to cause trouble in the now quite shaken-up Free Marches, leading Hawke to be called to save the day once again.
This time, however, s/he had help from Starkhaven (AKA DLC character Sebastian's homeland and birthright) and the pirates of the Armada. While it would have started at the Hanged Man like most of Dragon Age II's plot, the expansion would have branched out to new locations, such as the Felicisima Armada's base in Estwatch.
The latter two snippets were actually hinted at during a panel at PAX West, where the Dragon Age team all wore shirts with letters missing like hangman — get it? The Hanged Man? The missing letters also spelled out "Estwatch". Of course the fans had it figured out in minutes.
You can catch a few other interesting anecdotes in the original Twitter thread, such as the… interesting project code name the Dragon Age team chose, plus the surprising success of the aforementioned PAX Panel. Click through to Twitter to view the entire thread.
Okay, folks have some questions about the Exalted March cancelled expansion for DAII. So…
— Mike Laidlaw (@Mike_Laidlaw) January 12, 2017
Looks like we'll never get the chance to explore more of Sebastian's history nor thwart DAII's Qun again, but at least we got Inquisition. Was it a good trade off? Well, I guess it depends on what you think of Inquisition. Me? I just hope we get an actual Nugstorm game one day.