The Hachiko has published a piece outlining the reasons why they feel that BioWare's Dragon Age: Origins has recaptured the true "role-playing" element that so many other RPGs have failed to bring to the table in recent years.
Role-playing games today are more about experiencing the story the developers want you to have rather than the one you'd create for yourself. When it comes to many RPGs especially JRPGs you're basically along for the ride, as you're forced to do whatever the game wants. Dragon Age: Origins is a different beast of a game, as it's one of the first times I ever experienced a game that actually felt like me playing a role and living my character. So much so, in fact, that I now find it hard to play the game without going into it with that line of thinking.
Before I fired up a new game, I spent more time working on a backstory than deciding on the superficial features such as how my character would look. The game became more about the inside workings than the outward appearance. I decided on two characters: a female noble warrior and a city elf rogue. My female warrior would be promiscuous, always looking for a good time no matter whose arms it came from, and that vengeance would ultimately be her driving factor. I decided that she would help those in need, but not if it sacrificed her personal quest to seek vengeance or ultimately ripped away the power she could have to reek said vengeance. Do to what happens to the nobles early-on, I decided she would regard life when at all possible, though her eyes would run red with rage if it was a personal enemy of hers or a threat. As for my city elf rogue, I decided he'd help the helpless, but wouldn't necessarily put himself on the line for them. When it came to helping evil people, decisions would be made on a sliding morality scale, where it really depended on what was being offered by the parties involved. Also, when it came to the issue of death, he would not be one moved by tears or pleading death is a natural thing and one he has no problem committing in the right situation, though long as it doesn't involve someone who can't rightfully defend themselves. He'll kill someone out for his head, but a lady or child who poses no threat, to them he's no more dangerous than a fly.