I confess I was caught by the trailer. The first two sentences are sufficient to show that AoD is not the traditional RPG where god-like characters roam over a Manichaean world. Fortunately the trailer isn’t the best part of the game (bet you can recall some games that it is), and AoD is not the traditional RPG in many other ways.
First, the game is realistic: No matter who you are or the sword you have, you can die miserably just by being outnumbered by a common gang. Words have consequences, so being careless with dialogues is not an option (unless you like to reload the game every five minutes). Think that you will solve problems just by reloading and waiting for a lucky roll of dices? Forget it; there is no place for lucky ones: your success is determined just by skill and ability. So if you don´t plan and think you will be stuck.
Talking about planning and thinking, a curious thing about the game is that it is so unforgiving that in a certain point you start metagaming to survive. You stop distributing your skill points according to your preferences waiting for what the game will require you to do. You save your skill points because maybe you have to use your persuasion or streetswise when you turn the corner, or maybe you have to sneak to avoid an undefeatable enemy. In most games, all this metagaming would be a bad thing, but in AoD it is a plus, since it is a challenge in itself.
Second, AoD developers seem to have made a decision of cutting off any filler content. That simply changed my perspective of traditional RPGs and made me see its many design vices. Remember those towns from Oblivion full of people completely irrelevant to the game? In AoD you don’t have to waste your time clicking in every person on the map. Only a few of them can dialogue with you. In addition, you don’t have rooms full of chests that contain only trinkets, encouraging the players to be lootmaniacs. When you find a chest, it is worthy to open.
Third, you don’t have to waste your time on “FedEx quests” (to quote one of the developers) in which you waste absurd amounts of time running from A to B, B to A, etc. If a dialogue mentions you have to talk to somebody, there is an option of automatically going to the place where the person stands. The fact that some players were complaining that this “instantaneous teleport destroys immersion” says a lot about the state of things in RPG gaming nowadays. What does travelling per se adds to the content of a quest in which you have to talk to someone in an already visited place? I guess what kills immersion is the time spent making repetitive things completely irrelevant to the content of the quest.
Another innovation is in the writing. Each background leads you to a different quest, but all quests are related to the same events, so that each background makes you see the game in a different perspective. The massacre of the imperial guards is a big thing from the perspective of an assassin, but it is just an unforeseen bonus in the chess game of the merchant’s guild. The reality of AoD has so many aspects and layers of profundity that gives replaying value another meaning.
One thing that is also worth mentioning is that there is a down to earth view of the world shared by most NPCs, even when the subject is the forgotten magic (and they will mock you if you make naïve questions). This is in stark contrast with the grandeur syndrome of most RPGs.
Those innovations are not mere improvements based on successful RPG games for PCs, they are in fact innovations of the very RPG genre in games, which is no small achievement. This game slaps in the face of those who think that RPGs are predestined to be silly teenage fantasies made by silly teenage-like adults. It is RPG in its purest and mature form.