Dragon Age 2 was a controversial entry in the popular BioWare franchise. Dragon Age: Inquisition may have been a massive success, but before that game was released Dragon Age 2 wasn't making players hopeful for the series' future.

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The follow-up to Dragon Age: Origins was infamously plagued by crunch - EA, BioWare's parent company, had only given them 12-14 months to develop it. This limited a lot of the things that developers could do, forcing them to reuse assets as much as possible, cut content, and make compromises. Here, we've collected some of the things you may not have known about the development of Dragon Age 2.

10 The Leap In Combat Between Dragon Age Origins And Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age combat - Morrigan fighting Ogre on left, Sebastian fighting Dragon on right

When the team at BioWare was working on Dragon Age 2's gameplay, they were careful to review the critiques that their fans had given Dragon Age: Origins. Overwhelmingly, they saw players complaining that the combat in Origins was slow and impersonal in the top-down perspective.

These comments inspired the developers to make fast-paced fights. They didn't entirely lose the top-down perspective; they merely shifted it into an optional mode called "tactical view" for players to use in more advanced combat sessions against more and/or tougher opponents.


9 Striving To Create A More Personal Story

Dragon Age 2 - Tutorial screenshot of Flemeth, mHawke, Bethany, and Leandra

As they looked through reviews for Dragon Age: Origins, the team learned that most of their players never got through the origin stories. This is what encouraged them to frame Dragon Age 2's story in a more personal light. The beginning of the game is fast-paced and features a voiced player character for you to connect with more personally.

The other complaint that Origins received was that the story was too formulaic - it was the quintessential Hero's Journey. In response, the developers got the idea to frame the narrative around one character over many years. To deal with this, time skips were added to divide the game into "Acts." They also ditched the concept of Origin stories so that they could focus on Hawke's story and do it justice (especially in the very limited time they were given by EA to develop the game).

8 Varric's Exaggerated Storytelling Was Going To Return

Dragon Age 2 - Varric talking to Cassandra on left, fHawke and Carver in intro on right

Dragon Age 2 begins with Varric's exaggerated version of Hawke's journey to the Free Marches. It allows the player to play as an overpowered character for a few moments before Varric is interrupted by Cassandra and called on his bullcrap. The player again takes control of Hawke when Varric continues to narrate, but this time as a level 1 character wearing basic gear.

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Originally, this exaggerated story was going to come up again during the course of Dragon Age 2. At the end of each Act, the player would have taken control of an overpowered Hawke again and decimated the boss of that Act before Cassandra interrupted Varric and forced the truth out of him. While it would have undoubtedly been fun, it's not a real loss that this was cut - it probably would have gotten repetitive.

7 Why The Qunari Suddenly Have Horns

Dragon Age - Sten (qunari) in Origins on left, Arishok (qunari) in 2 on right

Qunari play a big role in the story of Dragon Age 2. Fans knew about Qunari because of a companion, Sten, in Dragon Age: Origins. But the Qunari in Dragon Age 2 were nothing like Sten. They had greyish-white skin and enormous horns! It was explained (retconned) that Sten was just a rare type of Qunari, born without any horns.

BioWare chose to change the character design of Sylvari as a way to distinguish the races from one another; it was decided that they were all too similar in Origins. You can see this in other races, too! Consider the elves - in Dragon Age: Origins, elves are just thin humans with pointy ears and (maybe) some face tattoos. In Dragon Age 2, elves are more immediately distinguishable from humans due to their height, body shape and proportions, and unique repeated face and eye shapes.

6 Making A Dragon Age Game For Consoles

Dragon Age 2 - Combat screenshot on Xbox

Like Baldur's Gate, the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game BioWare had been working on before its release, Dragon Age: Origins was designed with PC players in mind. Though it also came out for the Xbox and PlayStation, Origins was best experienced with a mouse and keyboard. Mike Laidlaw, the game's lead designer, has talked about the horrible experience he had trying to port Origins to PlayStation 3.

By the time of Dragon Age 2, though, they needed to design their title for console players and PC players equally. This significantly impacted the design of the game and its various user interfaces. Thankfully, they'd learned from their mistakes with Origins and were able to make the process significantly easier for themselves.

5 The DLC That Would Have Killed Varric

Dragon Age 2 - Varric in the Hanged Man

Dragon Age 2 has several major DLCs but one, called "Exalted March," was never finished. The basic plot was going to revolve around a conflict between the Chantry and the Qunari, which Hawke needed to resolve.

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At the end of the expansion, Varric was going to be killed off. Hawke was also going to be able to marry whoever they had romanced during the campaign. Fans of Dragon Age: Inquisition may recall that, during the Trespasser DLC, there are two romances that can lead to a marriage scene happening in the game - Cullen and Sera. The wedding dress worn by the female Inquisitor and Sera in Trespasser is actually ported from this unfinished Exalted March DLC - it was going to be worn by Hawke!

Source: BioWare: Stories and Secrets from 25 Years of Game Development (book), p.230.

4 "Finding Nathaniel" Was Once "Finding Shale"

Dragon Age Origins - Shale on left, Nathaniel Howe on right

The quest "Finding Nathaniel" occurs during Dragon Age 2's third act. You travel to the Deep Roads to find Nathaniel Howe, a character introduced first in Awakening as the son of a character from Origins. However, this quest was originally going to be called "Finding Shale," about searching for the Hero of Ferelden's golem companion.

While Nathaniel is technically a cameo - he appeared in a previous Dragon Age game - he wasn't an extraordinary one. Many players would have been much more enthused to be reunited with Shale. Unfortunately, Shale's cameo - along with many others, like Arl Eamon's son Connor - was cut from the game. The developers didn't want them to be overbearing and just thrown in unnecessarily. We can't help but wonder if the tight crunch on the game didn't help matters.

3 Unreleased Character Trailers

Dragon Age 2 companions - (left to right) Anders, Aveline, Fenris, Varric, Merrill, and Isabela

Every companion in Dragon Age 2 is someone's favorite. They're all unique and help the player to see Thedas from more than their narrow point of view as the hero of the story.

There were going to be trailers released for each Character, narrated by Varric. Fans would get to see them through his lens as a storyteller and get excited for the adventures they might have together! Unfortunately, they were never released.

We're in luck, though! The lines were discovered and posted to YouTube by popular Dragon Age content creator DanaDuchy.

2 Orsino, The Last-Minute Boss

Dragon Age 2, Orsino - Elf form on left, Boss form on right

During the end of the game, Orsino (head of Kirkwall's Circle of Magi), decides that the only way to beat Meredith is to resort to blood magic. He uses it on himself and becomes a horrific monster that Hawke needs to deal with part-way through the ending of the game. Orsino's decision was criticized by fans for being out of his character.

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As it turns out, they were on to something. Originally, this decision of Orsino's wasn't in the game. However, the developers decided that the game needed another boss and added it in later. Of course, it must be hard to work out a brand new boss on the spot, but this rushed decision disappointed many fans - especially those who had supported the mages.

1 They Didn't Expect Fans' Outrage

Dragon Age 2 on Metacritic

Dragon Age 2 sold well enough to warrant another game, but its release was met with a lot of disappointment, frustration, and outright anger from the fans. In interviews, the developers admitted that they expected some backlash to the changes they had made.

However, several people who worked on the game have noted that they didn't expect the fans to be so disappointed in the final product. Mike Laidlaw stated that he thought reviews would be better. Speaking to Gamasutra, David Gaider said that the criticism was "better than apathy" and "should not be dismissed as simple nostalgia." He pledged to take the feedback to heart. This is a promise he seems to have kept, considering that the next game (Dragon Age: Inquisition) was such a massive success.

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