As anticipated, a video of the one-hour demonstration and Q&A event has been posted up for public consumption. Check it out after the break. UPDATE: Summary, screenshots, and a nearly complete transcript after the break.
Key Points from the Demonstration Portion
Mike Laidlaw spent about 20 minutes playing small portion of the game as a male mage (dps) Hawke with Fenris, Sebastian, and Anders (mage support) in his party, showcasing Hawke's house, a chest with DLC items, the Black Emporium, and a dragon boss fight on both Normal and Nightmare difficulties.
- Blood Dragon Armor - If you had it in Dragon Age: Origins, you'll receive it in the chest at your home in Kirkwall if you import your settings from a saved game that included the item.
- Royal Archer - Sebastian Vael's unique specialization tree
- Combo Points - Usually exclusively a melee rogue specialty, generating "combo points" with the passive ability Righteous Chain is available to Sebastian, who is an archer, through his unique specialization.
- Normal Difficulty in DA2 = Easy Difficulty in DA:O - Mike Laidlaw also mentioned this in an interview at The Escapist, the default difficulty in Dragon Age 2 is "Normal" but compared to Origins, it is plays more like "Easy" difficulty.
- Friendly Fire - Friendly fire is enabled in Nightmare difficulty and can be a significant concern if you haven't set up your tactics properly to handle it.
- Boss Fights typically have multiple stages - Introducing multiple stages to a boss fight allows the developers to design more tactically rich encounters. In the demonstration, the dragon boss was mobile, and had air phases during which additional drakes would come out to mob the party.
Q&A Transcript (Part 1)
Q: Can you explain what exactly the difference is between Nightmare mode and the other modes of difficulty in the game?
A: Nightmare mode moves up into really an elite style of gameplay. The friendly fire is activated for Nightmare mode, which is probably the single biggest game changer. You'd want to build your characters and your party to specifically be aware of the fact that you can damage your own party members when you're playing in Nightmare.
In addition, the enemies will be much more active. They'll have smarter AI, and be more reactive.
And on top of that, Nightmare will result in enemies having their elemental resistances turned up to full, meaning that if you hit a dragon with fire, they're going to shrug it off completely. They will be completely immune to their own native elements.
With that in mind then, really the Nightmare mode difference is that it's the mode for those who are looking for that real hardcore challenge and want to make sure that they're playing at the maximum possible level.
Now, Hard does result in a "Normal Plus" style gameplay. It's one I find really satisfying, where I am challenged. Every fight is one that I have to approach tactically and have to think my way through. But I'm not necessarily dealing with things like friendly fire. So the gameplay isn't quite as deviated as [Nightmare] is from Normal.
And then of course, there's Easy, which is designed really for people who are more focused on the story, want to go through the narrative experience. Combats then are significantly easier. You have to worry about your party members a lot less. While you still need to keep on your toes for the bosses, it's not going to keep you quite as on edge as the higher difficulties.
Q: How will [im]porting saved games from Dragon Age: Origins work? And what [do] the choices we made in Origins effect [in] Dragon Age 2?
A: You'll be able to import virtually any save you created in Origins or Awakening. And even partially complete games will be importable. Now that said, a bit of a caveat, insofar as we're going to make our best guesses as to how things turned out. If you import an incomplete saved game, it may exactly be how you envisioned it, but it was also an incomplete saved game. So, you know, you win some, you lose some.
With that said, the choices you make are going to affect things we felt would naturally enhance the story or enhance the scenario and the setting. In general, our approach with Dragon Age is to say, "It's not necessarily a game or a series of games about a single character. It's about a world." And so, the things that you would logically, naturally hear about, or characters that might appear naturally in Kirkwall, are going to do so and react accordingly to the things you might have heard. So, "Who's on the throne of Ferelden? What happened with Orzammar?" and so on, are going to be accounted for and will affect the game in different ways.
Q: Are finishers still a part of gameplay or are they restricted to cutscenes?
A: So, finishers in Origins were kind of the canned emotions that paused your character's control for a while and allowed you to do a cool finisher on an enemy - stabbing them through the chest or taking their head off. When we looked at the combat and redesigned the overall pacing and feel of it, finishers, unfortunately, were one of the things that didn't quite fit.
Now, that said, there's something that we haven't completely abandoned. Certainly we do have the large spectacular ones like the one you saw with the ogre [in the demo]. And there's something I would like to try to get back into the game, but what I want to do is make sure we do it in a way that doesn't hurt the pacing of the combat. Every once in a while, you would have situations in Origins where your character would be performing a finisher but you really needed them to be doing something else. And that became the problem for us. So what we want to do is go back to the drawing board, reevaluate how they work, and see if we can get them faster or snappier, or, in some way, better in tune with the new pace of combat.
Q: With the romances available in the game, are they going to be available through rivalry paths?
A: Yes, rivalry is, in fact, a way to achieve a romance. Now, it's not an easy way, by any means, because rivalry is, by nature, quite contentious. Characters can even get to the point where they might leave you, based on the choices you're making. But, carefully navigated, yes. Rivalry will unlock content in the game, including romance paths, that you wouldn't see otherwise. And that's what makes it, to my mind, a more robust system than just approval or disapproval.
[Break for giveaway: white Dragon Age 2 hoodie with the champion's mark]