Is it preplanned in that you go from point A to point B? Yes.
I actually think it allows a really interesting and large amount of freedom to be honest. Dragon Age isn't about the Gray Wardens, it isn't even about Fereldan. It's about the whole whopping shebang.
So, you get to decide how the tale of Hawke, The Hero Of Kirkwall becomes the hero of Kirkwall. It's a story that's told from the present and sure you go into preset areas and do stuff, but it's the stuff that you do while there that makes the freedom. Seriously, is it any worse than choosing which stand-alone area you go to next when it doesn't matter when you go to them? I always thought that was a bit clunky to be honest.
So yeah, you're a human, yeah you've got a name, but it still allows you a lot of freedom. I would think more than Mass Effect really. Because the actions Hawke makes will be felt for years to come, and the narrative setup makes it where you will feel those choices later in the story instead of some text blurb at the end.