You're introduced to the myth first. Hawke in the particular game we're shown is a strapping, broad-shouldered type who is joined by his sister. He slashes through hordes of enemies that have been streaming in continuously for a good 20 seconds, and almost single-handedly takes them out as his kid sis takes on the stragglers with arcane spells.
Next you're shown what actually happened. Hawke is gruff, a kind of homeless Gerard Butler who is surrounded by a scraggly clan of family members. And the fight is horrific in comparison. The clean blows you made in the myth scene are replaced with a bloody, wound-filled battle. Your mum is there too. She's frail and middle aged, attempting to fight to save your little brother from being torn apart by monsters. By the end of it his brother-in-law becomes infected and it's up to you whether to kill him yourself or have your sister do it.
As opposed to playing through a single ongoing story you'll be shown bits and pieces that form the anecdotes of Hawke's 10-year journey. The fact that it's condensed in such a way lends itself to the decision you're forced to make throughout the game. Specifically, you will actually be able to remember them and see the impact they have on the world.
And like the combat system, the dialogue trees have been built for mainstream consumption. You're now shown an "Emotion Wheel" to help you interpret the dialogue options you're given. A sentence of dialogue will be paired with a little icon. An olive branch will indicate diplomacy, a drama mask will imply your sentence will be buried in sarcasm. It's built for user friendliness. That icon of a fist? No prizes if you can guess what that stands for.
What's impressive is that these behaviours will begin to settle into your character. If you consistently have Hawke making sarcastic remarks then he/she will begin shouting sarcastic battle cries or sly remarks to NPCs before you even get a chance to lay a hand on the dialogue options.
But as a BioWare title, all roads lead back to the story and in terms of its plot, Dragon Age comes off as one of the more interesting attempts to construct a narrative in an RPG. Because not only are you trying to unveil Hawke's true identity, you're simultaneously creating his myth as a hero with every choice you make.
Dragon Age 2 is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on March 11, 2011.