When BioWare moved from Dragon Age 2 to Dragon Age: Inquisition, something was lost. It was an expansion called Exalted March.
We didn't know about Exalted March until BioWare canned it, and we weren't told why it was dropped. But we assumed; we assumed BioWare wanted to get away from the negative reaction to Dragon Age 2 and onto something new ASAP.
"But not so!" Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw revealed on Twitter last night. "It was the move to Frostbite.
First off? Why did we cancel it? Easy to assume it was ?the reaction? to DAII, but not so! It was the move to Frostbite.— Mike Laidlaw (@Mike_Laidlaw) January 12, 2017
"We had an opportunity to do [both] at the same time, but knew as it would be the first time that engine did 'RPG stuff' it would be hard.
"As most everything in making games, it certainly was challenging. Great engine, but took tons of time. Had we tried to do both [Exalted March] and the Frostbite transition, both would have suffered a lot, especially from lack of engineering folks. So [executive producer Mark Darrah] made the call to stop development on EM and go all in on what would become DAI."
Exalted March didn't make it much past concept, Laidlaw said. Exalted Marches are the name given to religious crusades by the game's churchy Chantry.
"The idea, however, was that [EM] followed the red lyrium chicanery of DA2 with the Chantry becoming VERY UPSET, while various aspects of the qunari started to make moves on the turbulent Free Marches [of which the game's Kirkwall is a city state].
"And thus it fell to Hawke [you] to stop things from going to hell (again) while working with Starkhaven and the pirates of the Armada."
The story would start at the Hanged Man tavern in Lowtown, take place on the nearby island of Estwatch, and had, in Laidlaw's opinion, "some really interesting stories to tell". You'd find out more about follower Sebastian's family, apparently.
"But as it stood, I think shutting it down was the right call."
Dragon Age 2 came out in 2011, and was heavily criticised for being rushed, environments reused and so on. Nevertheless it had some interesting ideas, such as being set in one city over a number of years - time would roll on by, say, a decade, when you reached a certain point. This allowed you to see the consequences of your actions years down the line.
Two story add-ons were released after the game. One was Legacy, which added a much needed new location (the base game was starved of them), a prison, where the big baddie of Dragon Age: Inquisition lurked, no less. The other was Mark of the Assassin, which featured actor Felicia Day as guest party member Tallis, and also a new location.
Paul Dean wrote a Dragon Age 2 retrospective for us a few years back.