News that Dragon Age 3 is going to use the Frostbite 2 engine didn't strike us as much of a surprise. EA seem to be using DICE's proprietary tech in a large chunk of their upcoming releases.
Army of Two: The Cartel is powered by the engine, and Medal of Honor: Warfighter uses it too. Frankly, we're half-expecting the publisher to release a Frostbite console at some point.
Engine technology makes for exceptionally boring reading, but in the case of DICE's creation we'll make an exception. Its knack for environmental destruction was one of the factors that won us round to Bad Company, pulling us away from the first Modern Warfare.
The idea of Dragon Age 3 offering a similar level of deformation is tantalising. We've been smashing up RPG scenery for years - think of all the jars and chests you've broken open in search of pocket change - but there's an opportunity for something a bit more detailed and sophisticated here. Fully-destructible areas would break the flow of the game, but we'd love to have a bit of fun with some proper siege weaponry. Hopefully by the end of 2013, trebuchet cut-scenes will be a thing of the past.
It's the scale that DICE's engine can reproduce that really tickles my bastard sword, however. Battlefield 3's ludicrous vistas make most FPS maps look like a cardboard box. The ability to nip around in tanks and helicopters means they need to look great from every angle. That capacity for epic views could be of great service, particularly if there's any truth to rumours about Dragon Age 3 giving you full control of the Inquisition - a brand new faction in the Dragon Age world.
Getting to be the king in Fable III was a bit of a masterstroke, and could have made the game an RPG classic if Lionhead had actually executed the concept in full. Frostbite 2 might lend itself to a similar mix of macro and micro gameplay - letting you nip around across the world and zoom in on stuff, ordering your minions to potter around. Even if nothing that exciting pops up, we can at least expect Dragon Age 3 to feature some particularly lovely-looking mountains.
The most interesting thing about EA choosing to use Frostbite 2, however, is what this bodes for the publisher's next gen strategy. Battlefield 3 has clearly shown that the Frostbite 2 engine scales to drastically different hardware specifications - once you've seen the game running on a beastly PC, it's hard to deny that the Xbox 360 has some catching up to do.
Dragon Age 3 is likely to arrive at some point in late 2013, which coincides with the next Xbox console's likely launch date. It could be just one of many games (including Battlefield 4) that actually straddle hardware generations, running on an engine that's just as comfortable (though not nearly as pretty) on an older platform.
If we crank the speculation right up to ten, we'd even argue that it might be possible to put both versions on the same disc. It's probably just a bunch of bigger textures and stuff, right? Sorry about this, chaps, but I need to break off here - there's a gang of programmers with machetes who apparently want a word with me.