Similar to Knights of the Old Republic, you can only have 3 other NPCs in the party with you at one time, but you accumulate a larger staff of players with varying skill-sets to complement your own. Don’t worry about having to train them all, because companions you don’t use will be automatically leveled so that they don’t fall behind. Speaking of leveling, character development is far simpler than the old D&D system. You still have an array of base attributes like strength, dexterity, willpower, etc., but then you have a handful of skill proficiencies (combat, survival, crafting), and finally a variety of spells/talents that are class dependant. If you don’t want to bother with all of this, you can enable the auto-level option that will allocate points as is appropriate for that character’s build.
These aren’t the only things this game borrows from KOTOR, the general model of combat is also very similar, able to be carried out in real-time or by pausing the action to give orders to your party members. The ability to queue up several actions for each is sorely missed, though. Everybody has health points, but you also have stamina or mana depending on your class. All of them will regenerate very quickly outside of combat, but you must rely on potions or spells to replenish them at more than a snail’s pace while fighting. If a character falls, he may be resurrected by a spirit healer, or else will revive after the battle is over with a random injury. Of course, if your entire party falls, it’s game over.
In dealing with the many denizens of Ferelden, you have quite a variety of dialogue options to choose from. You can be courteous or cruel, pious or agnostic, charitable or covetous, and usually you even have the choice between violence and verbal persuasion. Unlike other games (even previous BioWare titles), there is neither a clear cut distinction nor a system to inform you of your good/evil status; it is left up to you to decide what sort of person you want to be and how you will feel about the effect you have on the game world, not a scale of “good points” and “bad points.”
Practically every quest has multiple ways to complete it, and I don’t mean just choosing between brute force and cunning linguistics. Most of the main quests have a morally ambiguous decision you must make. These aren’t simple, clear-cut choices like, “Should I blow up Megaton to receive 500 caps, or not?” I’m talking about killing a possessed child or sacrificing his willing mother in a ritual to get inside his head and defeat the demon safely. What sort of karma should you get for solving that little problem one way or the other?
As you make these choices, your fellow party members react, able to be inspired or disgusted by your leadership. The result is an approval rating for each character, essentially telling you what they think of you as a person. Attribute bonuses can result from a good rapport, but if they severely disapprove, they might confront you outright, or even desert you. To make it so that you’re not entirely tailoring your decisions to please a particular character, you can find a variety of gift items to bestow for an immediate boost to your likeability, ranging from tiny to medium. They also may give you a task that is very important to them personally, with the reward being a very large increase to your influence.