Dragon Age 2 Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC

Dragon Age 2 Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC
Once upon a time, a role-playing game involved a pen and paper, some crazy-sided dice and a group of kids in a dingy basement (Rush posters optional). For reals. Watch the Freaks and Geeks finale ― even James Franco loved Dungeons & Dragons (though to be fair, his Franco-ness does seem to love everything).

Those days are seemingly past, as digital role-playing games long ago ascended to the throne, for better or worse. But not all videogame RPGs are created equal, and iconic Edmonton developer BioWare, which cemented its reputation on the D&D-licensed Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate games, has always been best at recreating the pen-and-paper era.

This is especially true of their fantastical Dragon Age franchise, which delves into the genre's Tolkien-inspired bread and butter rather than the sci-fi explorations of the company's Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games. While BioWare can't possibly compete with the camaraderie of yesteryear, it can realize a fantasy world even more completely than all but the best dungeon masters.

Your character, Hawke (a refugee who arrives to the city-state of Kirkwall and eventually becomes the continent's great champion) is less customizable than usual, especially compared to the anything-goes Dragon Age: Origins setup (though you can still choose between mage, rogue or warrior). But this creates a more personal connection and it's about playing that role, not simply playing the game. Besides, your dialogue, quests and moral choices will still result in a wholly unique experience.

Plus, there's plenty to enjoy while exploring the expansive landscape, fighting the evil Darkspawn blight, tackling tasks for the townsfolk and leading your party of adventurers. There's also plenty of sword-and-sorcery combat action at hand, but Dragon Age 2 is really about taking your time. The storyline itself is as old as an Ent, so push the fractured, flashback-based master plot forward at your own pace. (BioWare/EA)