The opinions of NPCs and your companions will be very important
Yep, you're going to have companions this time around too, only in Dragon Age they'll be humanoid rather than canine. You'll have a more traditional RPG party made up of yourself and three NPCs, but rather than being Final Fantasy-style walking weapons, they'll dynamically react to your on-going actions in a Fable II fashion as the game progresses. Actually, make that a very Fable II fashion.
Above: The party looked harmonious, but Crispin's penchant for shooting the faces off squirrels was really beginning to irk Caroline
You see, from what we were shown, the mechanics look almost identical in some ways. Your party members will have approval bars showing their feelings towards your actions, and you can even win them over with gifts. And yes, if you please the right characters sufficiently, you can trigger romantic sub-plots. At the other end of the scale, if you piss them off too much with actions they don't agree with, they'll leave your party altogether and have to be replaced.
The combat is real-time but has the depth of turn-based play
Real-time, dungeon crawling combat and pyrotechnic magic are again the order of the day in Dragon Age, albeit through a WoW-style point-and-click, icon-based interface. Interestingly though, spells with a wide blast radius or specific direction of fire can be dragged and dropped onto the play area, with a graphical display showing the area of effect as you do. It's almost like dropping a cut-out shape template onto a Photoshop page. Only with more death, obviously.
Above: Yes, we know it looks like WoW...
To be fair, we found the practicalities of combat both a little hectic and a little dull during our admittedly brief hands-on (strange combination of reactions, we know, but that's what we came away with, nevertheless), so we were thankful for an interesting new battle element Bioware is implementing; something it calls Pause and Play.
The gist is that you can hit the space bar to freeze the action, and during the break can queue up attacks, magic and buffs which will kick in the instant you unpause. It already looks like a great way of balancing things when they get out of control, as well as a sweet way of pleasing fans of both action and turn-based RPGs with the immediacy of the former and the tactics of the latter.