Meaningless Choices: Skyrim and Intrinsic Motivation

There's an interesting editorial on Gameranx this morning that compares the freedom and rewards associated with the choices we've made in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to those we made in Dragon Age II. In short, while Skyrim definitely wins out on the freedom aspect, the author points out that those choices have far more impact in BioWare's sequel:
The Elder Scrolls series has made its name on sprawling, open world games set into an fantasy background with all the genre staples: elves and orcs, enchanted swords, and the deadly squabbles of lesser gods. From the map size to the number of readable in-game books to the quantity of edible objects, the focus of TES has always been scale. Bethesda Softworks has built their empire on successfully playing to this strength, and Skyrim is only the most recent (and, arguably, most beautiful) example of their commitment to immersion writ large.

In achieving this goal of scale, sacrifices have to be made. I receive no digital pat on the back for trapping the soul of a necromancer in a gem I found on her own bloodied ritual altar. My motivation here is purely intrinsic: I do it to satisfy a fiction that exists only for me. I expect no sweetroll for my cleverness, and Skyrim doesn't give me one. The necromancer dies without incident, and maybe sometime later I use her soul to enchant my boots. For the more existentially-inclined, an ominous question looms: do my choices matter?

Another major RPG developer has staked their reputation on answering that question in the affirmative. Bioware, of Dragon Age and Mass Effect fame, markets meaningful fictive choices as a primary selling point for their games; this is The Bioware Promise. I'd like to present Dragon Age 2 as the most relentless pursuit of that promise. When presented with several choices in DA2, mostly through a dialogue option wheel, you're aware that your choice will be rewarded with some voice acting and perhaps a short visual treat. These events may not only alter how your companions react to you, but will ultimately decide the world's history. The player does not wonder if her several dozen narrative-based choices matter in DA2: she knows. In fact, they are almost all that matter.
Personally, I find that they're both viable approaches. I don't always need a sweetroll, and I don't always need NPCs fawning over my actions.