In each of the three games, BioWare handled the identity of the main character in different ways. The first Dragon Age, of course, has its origin segments that begin the game a little bit differently each time. Dragon Age 2 begins the same way each time, as the main character is always the human Hawke; Dragon Age: Inquisition, meanwhile, has different origins but doesn't explore them the same way Origins does.
Dragon Age: Inquisition left something to be desired when it came to its main character, something that Dragon Age 2 did quite well. Let's take a look at one of DA2's best features, and why Dragon Age 4 should incorporate that to a certain extent.
The Hawke family in Dragon Age 2 has its merits. As many will remember, some people were disgruntled about the fact that there was no option to play as an elf, or a dwarf; no choice of origin stories. However, that wasn't entirely a bad thing.
Sure, the choice is fun, and that choice should carry over into Dragon Age 4. But in Dragon Age 2, the main character had a family that really felt like a family. Carver and Hawke always started the game with a rivalry, because that was just how their relationship began. Hawke and Bethany, meanwhile, began with a friendship, because they naturally got along better as siblings. They were a family unit recovering from the loss of a father and husband, a family unit moving homes and changing their lives together.
Having "Hawke" be a more static character allowed Dragon Age 2 to dive deeper into Hawke's personal life and family. Depending on Hawke's class, one sibling survives the prologue and the other doesn't. In Act I, early on in the game, Hawke and whichever sibling does survive go on a quest to uncover what happened to their mother's family home and possibly recover it for their future use. Carver also reacts specifically to a mage Hawke, and has whole dialogues crafted around the fact that his sibling is a mage and he isn't; it's something that is unique to Dragon Age 2, but shouldn't be.
In fact, a generous number of quests in the game involve Hawke and their family on a personal level, rather than simply the family being involved in the main quest. Following the family drama in Act I, Act II involves a quest where Hawke's mother is ultimately killed, and it's meant to be a huge emotional punch for Hawke - something that Inqusition really lacks where the Inquisitor's backstory is concerned. Even in DLC for Dragon Age 2, the Hawke family is made a central theme; Legacy is all about the past of Hawke's father, Malcolm, his history with the Grey Wardens, and keeping Corypheus sealed away from the rest of the world.
Basically, Dragon Age 2 does the best job of giving players a strong sense of their character's origins and maintaining that for the rest of the game. Dragon Age: Origins does this well to start, but doesn't really keep it up for the rest of the game. Dragon Age 4 needs to borrow from both of those games and give player characters a real, strong sense of identity.
Inquisition, on the other hand, doesn't do much at all to give the player character a foundation. The choices in character creation (especially when it comes to playable races) had never been more numerous, but at the cost, it seemed, of character identity. Each playable race had its own backstory, but it was one only lightly touched on in dialogue with NPCs and war table missions.
The even stranger thing was, there were quests that could get the Inquisitor's "family" into trouble on the war table; with the dalish origins, it's even possible to get the entire clan killed. However, there's really no in-game reaction to it on the Inquisitor's part, and that's what feels so disappointing and unrealistic. The Inquisitor is supposed to be a person with a past and people that care about them, but that is hardly ever addressed and certainly not in a way that feels significant. They're really just "the Inquisitor" to everyone in the game, and there's a ton of potential for more that just feels wasted now.
That's why Dragon Age 4 needs to take a few pointers from Dragon Age 2. The playable character from each race should have a strong familial connection or something similar, connections that make the main character feel real. The family dynamic is what made Hawke feel as much like a real person as they did, along with the fact that their family dynamic was incorporated directly into the game's story.
Yes, the choice of playing human, elf, dwarf, or qunari is a fun one and should also be preserved, along with the different origin stories that entails. But if developers can also include Dragon Age 2-esque backstories, families, and corresponding quests to go along with those origins, the protagonist of Dragon Age 4 will be that much more fun to play. Whether Dragon Age 4 will actually do any of that remains to be seen, but fans can hope.
Dragon Age 4 is in development now.