Mount & Blade

Mount & Blade - I just discovered this recently, and it has soaked up so much of my time that I almost wish I hadn't. This is a medieval CRPG that focuses much more on realism than your typical fantasy game. The world is fictional, all the people are made up, all the events are random, yet at the same time it's all quite realistic. There are no dragons and faeries, no dwarves nor elves, just cold steel and hot blood mingling in every massive battle. (Should I become a poet?) You create a character, give him a basic backstory, get some stats and skills that are half random and half decided by you. Then you are thrust into the middle of a diverse continent full of war and glory with only a few meager supplies and a pat on the back. There is no starter quest, no direction. You can do pretty much anything. The cool thing to do of course is to raise an army and then either join a faction or start raiding villages.
The real draw in Mount & Blade is the combat. The controls and formulae are simple, but very engaging and give a great sense of realism. Quality armor grants the protection you would expect, and when you hit someone hard (galloping by, or charging towards them on foot) you get a large bonus to damage. If you make a pathetic spear thrust while backing away from you armored foe, you may not do any damage at all. The force of each attack is accounted for! This is the first game I've played with such a mechanic done so beautifully, and it also means that it's the first game where fighting from horseback gives you a huge advantage. While a swordsman on foot may have a difficult time getting through his opponent's shield during their extended skirmish, a mounted spearmen could blast through the enemy's defenses with a single powerful charge. You also feel really cool when you ride by and cut into the backs of the foes that are engaging your infantry. Just play it.