Unlike many modern role-playing games, which tend to shove players into the action head first and throw in a morsel of dialogue here and there, Dragon Age: Origins (360/PS3/PC), the long-gestating fantasy RPG from Edmonton-based Bioware released Tuesday, places enormous value on the story being told, the characters we meet, and the history and culture of the civilization in which we find ourselves.
The nation of Ferelden is beset by invaders known as the Darkspawn; orc-like creatures led by demons who seem to get it in their hellish heads every few hundred years that they ought to try to take over the planet. The world's first defense is an ancient sect known as the Grey Wardens; heroes who have a secret connection with the Darkspawn and hold the power to unite humans, elves, and dwarves as a single, massive army to fight off the blight.
Clearly, there are plenty of parallels to other fantasy tales-most obviously J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and John Boorman's classic Arthurian film Excalibur-but Dragon Age churns out enough chronicles and lore to feel its own. Indeed, we've managed to amass nearly 200 entries in my codex-sort of a Fereldenian encyclopedia-each loaded with information about the game's creatures, types of magic, cultures, and personalities. And that doesn't include many of the stories I've heard during hours of discussions with non-player characters.
Put plainly, this is a game with the depth, imagination, and richness of a Neal Stephenson novel.