Dragon Age II takes a page from the Mass Effect playbook, limiting player characters to a male or female human version of the game's main character, Hawke.
In Dragon Age: Origins, players could choose from four different races and three different character classes, with each combination coming complete with its own playable origin story.
Dragon Age II is not Dragon Age: Origins.
Instead of multiple origins, there is only one. From the official press release:
"Dragon Age 2 thrusts players into the role of Hawke, a penniless refugee who rises to power to become the single most important character in the world of Dragon Age. Known to be a survivor of the Blight and the Champion of Kirkwall, the legend around Hawke's rise to power is shrouded in myth and rumour. Featuring an all-new story spanning 10 years, players will help tell that tale by making tough moral choices, gathering the deadliest of allies, amassing fame and fortune, and sealing their place in history. The way you play will write the story of how the world is changed forever."
BioWare's Chris Priestly confirms on the forums that, like Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect series, players will be able to create either a male or female Hawke. Like Mass Effect, this should allow for a deeper story, while allowing characters to refer to the main character by name. I'm sure emotional engagement has something to do with it as well.
Like many fans in the forums, this decision rubs me the wrong way. While I enjoyed playing my own Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, my Dragon Age character felt much more like an extension of myself than Shepard did, even if it was a female elf.
Multiple races in DA2? [BioWare Forums - Thanks Chris!]