Unlike most games developed simultaneously for consoles and the PC, the two versions of Dragon Age: Origins featured numerous design differences intended to take advantage of each platform's unique strengths. The console versions featured more action-oriented, up-close-and-personal combat, while the PC release was intended to be more of a tactical experience and included a toolkit and extensive mod support. But those key features have apparently been eliminated from, or at least changed in, Dragon Age 2, which is being designed first and foremost for console users.
In a translated interview with French gaming magazine Joystick, Dragon Age 2 Lead Designer Mike Laidlaw said the new game won't offer the "Baldur's Gate-style" aerial camera that gave players a commanding view of the battlefield in Origins. "For budgetary reasons, we focused our work on a 3rd person view, that asks for very detailed and nice textures so that the player can admire the game with a close-up view," he said. "With an aerial view we should cover much more ground and so [must] create other textures. Now, the game mainly sold on console, so we're going the way of the audience."
He also revealed that BioWare doesn't intend to release a toolset for Dragon Age 2. "To be short, DAO 2 will not have a toolset," he added. "I think that DAO 1 toolset is very powerful but very complicated."
The response from the fan base was predictably intense, eventually leading Laidlaw himself to respond to the furor on the BioWare forums. "The tools we're using to make Dragon Age 2 are very, very close to the tools you guys have used to make your mods for DA:O. They're not identical, as we've made a few in-house improvements, but they're almost identical. As such, there isn't a new toolset to release, per se," he explained. "While we won't be releasing a toolset update in tandem with Dragon Age 2, we ARE investigating what it would take to update the community toolset to match ours, along with providing DA2 content in the future."
"I can confirm that we will not be doing a tactical view on consoles, though we are looking into some expanded party control that I think will make console players quite happy," he continued. "On the PC, however, we are still working with the camera to keep the key elements of the tactical experience there."
"While we likely won't pull as far up as we did in DA:O, I have always felt that the key to tactical play was actually freeing your camera from the character you're controlling to issue precise orders, which is what we're tuning now," Laidlaw wrote. "So, this means you can still maneuver the camera around the battlefield and issue orders from a remote location, just as you could in Origins."
Don't feel bad if his explanation strikes you as somewhat less than crystal-clear. Even Laidlaw admitted it's all a bit hazy at this stage. "As you can probably tell from my phrasing, all of this is a bit in-flux right now, so things may change between now and ship, but I wanted to update you guys on the current direction of things," he added.
It's possible that something was lost in translation, or maybe Laidlaw is just very good at damage control. Whatever the case, the best move for gamers at this point is probably to follow the advice of Dragon Age Lead Writer David Gaider: Relax, take a breath and wait to see what the game has to offer. Of course, that's also the least-likely move that anyone's going to make.
Dragon Age 2 is scheduled to come out in March 2011 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Source: BioWare forums