I've been playing Dragon Age 2. It's a game that i find myself playing and I kind of disconnect my brain. You know the setting, it's fantasy so theres some orc things and dragons and demons to fight. There are towns and wilderness and lots of helpless people that need you to fetch things.
There are main quests and sub-quests but they are nearly all completed by wandering around and hacking stuff into bloody lumps. I find Fable suffers from the same condition. Combat is the root of the game but the combat is kind of dull. The rich fantasy worlds created in Dragon age and fable are rife with politics and intrigue, but as the player you basically behave like a human lawn mower.
When the game does provide a situation that can be resolved through talking, it doesn't feel like I'm taking control of the situation and using my intelligence and reason. Instead it feels as if I'm looking for the right combination. Get it wrong and I return to the default chopping up gameplay.
Fantasy novels have never been as bland as fantasy games. They are (like good science fiction) an insight into the human condition. Fantasy games are combat games with walking about and occasional puzzles interrupting the fights.
Fantasy games have explored the nature of good and evil, how your actions impact a world but they limit my interactions to such an extent that it doesn't feel like my story. I'm the worlds butler, 'fixing' problems by killing them.
Games like Assassins Creed embrace this. You are an assassin so it seems fair that you'll mainly be killing people but still the game drives you to playing the game the way the game wants you to play. As an example - my character has been sent to a camp of bandits and I have to kill them. The game wants me to walk through the gates and fight, and fight and fight till I reach the boss then fight him. If that were me I'd want to sneak up the river and pour poison into the water. As the bandits drink they fall sick then die. Even better although I've solved the bandit problem, I've tainted the water supply that runs down to the village I was protecting. I need to race to warn them or they will suffer worse than letting the bandits continue stealing.
I also must confess that I'm a completist, I want all the sub quests, I hate thinking that I've missed out on something. But when i played the first Dragon Age I promised myself that I wouldn't play in that way. I'd just play by the seat of my pants, stick by my decisions and play through 'naturally'. It's a liberating experience. I'm playing the sequel the same way. I still spend time mopping up the sub-quests as I go but I will live by my decisions. I think the addictive part of a role playing game is the character development. People love to feel like they are getting better. Wouldn't it be nice if they could do that in any other way than just hacking living things to bits?
So to sum up. I'll complete Dargon Age 2 and mainly I'll have enjoyed it, but I want so much more. More sophistication, more choices and I really don't want to play as a butcher just because that is the only choice the game gives me. Brilliant people make games, they are passionate and imaginative but they set their sights too low. I'd just like to say that when they brak the genre open (and it will happen) I'll be hanging around to scoop that up and shout it from the rooftops.