I really did want to go on a bit about Dragon Age: Origins. Over the years, I've found that I've gotten pretty tired of computer RPGs. The single-player ones only rarely have any surprises, and MMORPGs only want to eat my life. And yet, I found Dragon Age to be entirely enchanting. Bioware is very, very good at what they do.
The plot, at its best, has this epic Lord of the Ringsy feel, in a good way. The voice acting and the writing are marvelous, and the game is frequently hilarious. The side chatter from your group when you take all of the evil characters out with you is worth the price of admission.
But the thing that struck me most is the role-playing aspect. (I'll have some very gentle spoilers in this bit.)
Attempts at having role-playing in computer games are frequently and justifiably mocked for giving facile choices between "Angelically Good" and "Absolutely Evil". When you find a hungry puppy, you can either crush it with a cinderblock or buy it a house of its own. There is no middle ground. And yes, Dragon Age has some of that.
But what impressed me is the number of situations where there are a lot of options, none of them are very good, and you just have to muddle through. For example, in one part of Dragon Age, a young, magically skilled boy has been taken over by a demon. He's been merrily trashing the countryside. It's a crappy situation, and you have to help them out of it. You can off the boy. Or let the mother sacrifice herself to enable you to challenge the demon. Or travel to the wizards' tower to maybe get a way to expel the demon, losing valuable time. And, should you challenge the demon, you can kill it or, in return for one of several lavish rewards, let it stay in the kid, hidden.
When I reached this point, I didn't see a perfect option. I had my own, "OhgodohgodwhatdoIdo?" moment. And my choice was, in retrospect, not a great one. But there is little I love more in an RPG then when I'm forced to stop, gobsmacked, and go, "Wow. I'm really on my own here. I'd better think about this ..."
Similarly, late in the game, the country is without a leader and you have to figure out who will end up king (or queen). This leads to a brief, marvelous series of conversations, full of power politics, ugly compromises, and the constant awareness that there is no "right" choice. That you can maneuver things so that you end up on the throne only adds to the awesomeness.
And, just before the endgame, when it seems that horrible sacrifices will happen, one of the characters approaches you and makes an offer that ... well ... I wish I had the audacity to put something so spectacularly bizarre and twisted into one of my games. (I really don't want to spoil it. And yes, I did take her offer.)
I tried to play the game as a goody-two-shoes. But Dragon Age has a way of making sure no good deed goes unpunished. By the end of the game, I was acting a whole lot more evil. Sometimes, evil just works better. And I think, more than anything, the way the game got me to smoothly and naturally make a shift like that says a lot about how subtle the "good" and "evil" choices within can be.
So I recommend it very strongly to anyone who likes computer RPGs. Just one warning. Normal difficulty can be pretty darn tricky, especially on a console. I love my XBox, but it's not really made for precisely controlling a group of four characters.