Dragon Age: Origins fans were up in arms- or, at least, I was miffed- when developer Bioware announced big changes for the forthcoming Dragon Age II. They're not talking mere gameplay or graphical changes, although leaps in those areas are in the works- they're talking about an entirely new player-character experience.
Here. I'll explain for those of you who aren't quite the Dragon Age nerd I am (although I can't imagine why you're not because it's so good). In Origins, the player chooses from six distinct character types, each with its own...wait for it...origin. The main plot of the game is the same no matter who you are, but how you become involved with the goings-on in Ferelden varies whether you opt to be, say, a human noble or a dwarf commoner or a Dalish elf. There are six opening stories to play through, and the random encounters throughout the game vary depending on your background- hell, the way just about everyone in the game treats you varies depending on your background. Add in choices in gender, sexuality, hair, tattoos, everything and the player commands a Grey Warden that truly feels personalized.
It was a shock, then, when Bioware announced that your Grey Warden's adventure would end with Origins and not carry over to the sequel. In Part II, you will play Hawke, the son (or daughter) of a Noble family, Champion of Kirkwall, and survivor of the Blight. In other words, it will be one character's story and, if the game's trailers are any indication, the male version will be canon, much as the case is with Bioware's sci-fi epic Mass Effect and its Commander Shepard.
It's unknown how many customization capabilities players will have to modify Hawke's looks- if Bioware's history is any indication, there may be a lot, which will go a long way towards personalizing the game despite the avatar limitations. After all, my Shepard feels like my Shepard- and I can pretty much guarantee she doesn't look like or act the same as yours. Hopefully the same will be true of my Hawke.
Although honestly, I don't know how much modifying I'll do. Bioware recently revealed the face of the female Hawke, and wow, what a CGI babe! No matter whether I choose to play as a girl or a guy (oh, let's be honest- I'll have 436598 playthroughs as each), I know that by default my Hawke will be hot, which is...you know...the most important thing.