Dragon Age 2 is something of a disappointment. The first game was an unapologeticly traditional RPG. You gathered a party, upgraded equipment, leveled up stats, and went on a quest to save the world. The gameplay was also traditional. Although you could play the game in real time, the harder battles almost made it manditory that you use the pause feature to issue commands individually.
Although DA2 sticks to the same formula, some elements have been removed for simplified to appeal to a wider audience. For example, combat is much easier now. Even in the end game battles, you never need to pause and issue commands. There's no longer an auto attack, which means that you'll have to constandly mass the A button to attack. Thus leading to a more arcade style combat system.
The story has been simplifed as well. Where as the first game had a country spanning epic tale, DA2 focuses on a new character and his struggles in the free city of Kirkwall. Most of the game takes place within the city, but you will occasionaly go to nearby areas outside the gates. The problem is that DA2 reuses a lot of dungeons as different areas. This makes the game seem even smaller. Even when you're not exploring the same map pretending to be a different place, you're revisting the same small areas in the city for the 30th time. Overall, the game is much smaller. It took me 35 hours to beat the game on the first playthrough doing all the side quests. Compared to the first game that took more than 50 hours, not including DLC.
It's not all bad. The visual style is greatly improved from DA1. The story is also more emotionally charged, and benefits greatly from the Mass Effect style dialog choices. There are also tough choices to make, and companions will live and die by the outcome. Overall, DA2 isn't as complex or immersive as the first game. It's still got a great story, and it kept me interested enough to see it through to the end. I just wont play through again.
Dragon Age: Origins was a great game. Unfortunately Dragon Age 2 is just shy of a great game. It feels as though its a prelude to something big that is about to come. The graphics are much better, as well as the gameplay. But if you're expecting an epic ending, you're playing the wrong game. There isn't much of a story going on here. If anything its good just for the fighting alone. Which will happen alot. I'd also like to point out that many of the locations (i.e. caves and dungeons) are all the same. It gets pretty annoying since you come across those locations most of the time you're playing.
Like I said, its not a perfect game. But its a good rental.