An article entitled "Paying Tribute to Dragon Age: Origins" on The Goozex Report blog offers one long-time role-playing gamer's perspective on why BioWare's latest RPG offering is "the vanguard of D&D-style RPGs".
In 1981, I played Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord on an Apple ][. The game was played on a green screen, some of you younger gamers should ask your parents what a green computer monitor was like. The monsters would appear in the top left corner, in 2D, and didn't move. The characters were represented in text, with a name, number of hit points, and so on. You played the game by issuing commands in turn-based style. You'd hit one letter for your frontline fighter to attack, another letter for your thief to shoot an arrow or use a dagger, and another letter for your mage to heal or shoot fireballs. The action was depicted in text and the results were recorded in simple numbers.
Some of the improvements made in Dragon Age are somewhat subtle and you might not even notice the changes were made. This is because the improvements speed up game play and don't drag you down with mundane chores. For example, your characters will self-heal after battle. This saves on casting countless healing spells and drinking countless numbers of health poultices. After some leveling up, my characters rarely drank a health poultice during battle and instead saved them up for the final carnage. Another improvement is the shortcuts when leveling up. You can allocate your earned points manually or you can do it automatically. I still did this part of the game manually, as those experience points are hard fought and won, and I didn't want the AI to spend them for me. But still, the option is there. Another huge, yet subtle improvement is the Junk category in your Inventory. If you're good about moving acquired items into your Junk folder as you progress through a dungeon, then it's easy-cheesy to offload all unwanted items when you visit the store. You can then use that gold to buy a backpack, which allows you to carry around even more useless stuff just to sell it later.