Eurogamer: Mass Effect 2 was a tour de force and, to an extent, Dragon Age II has been cast in its shadow. Why do people consider Mass Effect 2 a better game?
Mike Laidlaw: If I were going to point at something and say 'well this is the shadow', it's really the shadow of Origins. And with Origins it was the shadow of Baldur's Gate II. Back in the day we certainly drew that comparison ourselves. There's nothing wrong with that: you should absolutely be compared to other projects within the same series for sure. But the expectations that Origins created were of a more traditional, classic style of fantasy story and a different pace in the combat, even though I think the fundamentals are still the same.
Eurogamer: Should people let go of the idea that Dragon Age is a reincarnation of Baldur's Gate?
Mike Laidlaw: I would say get rid of the idea it will be a re-hash. Getting rid of Baldur's Gate is a terrible idea, it created some really fundamental elements of what we've done with Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II. It's never going to be the same game every time out. We see Dragon Age as a story about a place and a time, not just a singular story that continues through games.
Eurogamer: Imported saves don't appear to do much in Dragon Age 2. Will they be beefed up for Dragon Age 3?
Mike Laidlaw: Well the intent was to make sure it was used in a way that makes sense for the story we're telling. We had access to virtually every possible state or piece of data that came out of Origins, but what we realised over time was there were elements that we were including that felt honestly shoehorned in. It was the obligatory cameo and so on that didn't make a lot of sense. The big thing we wanted to achieve with that import was that there was a degree of homage paid, that the world still had the appropriate information regarding who is the king of Ferelden, who is in charge or Orzammar and so on. But in order to create earth-shattering new story-arcs or huge, huge changes to the game from the import really does run the risk of alienating people who didn't play the first game and were maybe turned off by it.
I've certainly seen a fair amount of feedback that says, "I couldn't play Origins, I thought it was too slow, the story was too plodding, too typical, and Dragon Age II is awesome by comparison!" For those people we don't want to create this swathe of content that is closed off and exclusive. We really honestly were driven by what felt right for this story; would Hawke know whether or not the Warden had worked with the Mage collective in Origins? Well, I mean, we probably could have made that work but it would have felt extremely artificial. In the long-term, the information that's included in the end of Dragon Age II does include information from Origins, including stuff that was only referenced very lightly - it's still encapsulated and carries forward into the Dragon Age II save.
Mike Laidlaw is lead designer of Dragon Age II.