In typical RPG fare, character building usually amounts to selecting a few skills and allocating points on a sheet full of abstract statistics. While these choices generally have a direct impact on the strength and abilities of your character, this tends to draw you out of the world by turning this process into a pure numbers game.
In Faery: Legends of Avalon (an RPG recently released on Xbox Live Arcade), the designers took a markedly different approach. While you do receive a set amount of skill points when you level up, you apply these points towards upgrading and changing various parts of your body. Each of these changes does offer a new skill or an increase in an existing ability, but they also make real, graphically-represented changes to your on-screen appearance.
For example, one early choice will grant you a magical attack and also change the style of your faery's wings. The fire-based attack will grant your faery dragonfly-like wings, but the lightning magic will grant you the wings of a butterfly. In this particular case, I found myself doing something that I almost never do in an RPG: I made a decision based on how something looked and not because of some small numerical advantage it granted me. Though I wanted the lightning attack, I simply could not cope with my character looking like a butterfly.
The end result of this system is that two play-throughs can result in faeries that have both completely different skills and appearances. For me personally, I felt a greater sense of accomplishment and more attachment to the character I built. My faery was soon flying around this magical world with dragonfly wings, ram's horns, and a glowing aura surrounding him.
Although Faery: Legends of Avalon may not offer 80+ hours of gameplay or complete voice acting like some other big-budget RPG titles, developers could take a few cues from this smaller release. We'd probably relate to some of these characters better if they just weren't all about the numbers.