It is not as good as Dragon Age: Origins. Not by a long shot. Later edit: I take this back. It’s not as good as Origins in many ways, but now that I’ve played more, I would say it’s not quite as good as Origins, but it does some things better, and some of the things it does better are pretty important. For instance, I have some massive slowdowns in Origins, especially during the final battle, even with no mods installed, though my computer is well over the recommended specs. I have none during DA2 — zip, zilch, zero. DA2’s gameplay is perfectly smooth.
However, in my opinion it is as good as Knights of the Old Republic. DA2 has better graphics and voice acting than KotOR, but the music isn’t as good (for obvious reasons). I think it’s better than KotOR now. The gameplay’s better, imo, and so are the characters. I also like Anders much more than Carth, though I did like Carth. Aveline, Isabela and Merrill are also all WAY better than Bastila (I couldn’t stand that woman), and I look forward to seeing the romances with the female characters in DA2. I’m not going to pretend that romances in Bioware games are unimportant. They’re central.
So am I disappointed? Yes. But I am not nearly as disappointed as I expected to be. I am extremely annoyed by all the retcons, Anders doesn’t look anything like Anders from Awakening (get a mod to fix his looks immediately if you play it, it’s the first thing I did), elves look like ET (wtf Bioware?), Qunari have horns, and it takes a while to get into the story and characters. In Origins I cared for the characters I was supposed to care for as soon as I met them. The game had me crying in the first hour. DA2… not so much.
But Dragon Age 2 is a very enjoyable game, with characters who are interesting when you give them the chance. Plus the fact that it is easier than Origins means I can play it on normal mode even on painkillers. I hope to play it on Nightmare mode someday, which I never do with PC games, so it is definitely on the “too easy” side for dedicated RPG gamers.
It also has moments like this:
Revealing what led to that expression on Hawke’s face would be a spoiler, but suffice to say that expression is the same one that was on my face during that conversation. There are some really funny moments.
Later edit: My opinion of the game keeps improving. I love how everything gradually builds up so that late in chapter two you realize how important some small-seeming thing in chapter one was. I adore this style of storytelling, which I think of as “Pamela Dean style”. You gradually get to know the characters — I like and care about all of them now (Anders most), and this has never happened before. There have always been at least two party characters in all Bioware games whom I disliked intensely, and in ways I think the writers did not intend. In Origins, I never liked Oghren, I came to despise Zevran, and even Wynne often annoyed me. (I don’t like Morrigan, but I think she is a well-written character and I dislike her in a writer-intended way.) Alistair and Leliana, to say nothing of the dog, more than made up for that, but still. I want all my party characters to be happy in Dragon Age 2. I do often want to tell Fenris to go boil his mage-hating head. But he redeems himself at the very end of the game, if you make the right choices.
I don’t want to drop any DA2 party members off a cliff, even when they’re making asses of themselves.
I wrote the previous sentence before I downloaded the Sebastian DLC. Dear gods, I hate him. He’s a waffling, whining, morally bankrupt, self-righteous, unthinking, myopic, selfish fool of a drama prince. I like to imagine Isabela threw a dagger into his throat at the end of the game, and Varric just didn’t mention it in his story. I wish Hawke had the option to kill Sebastian, and I almost never feel like that about characters, even when I dislike them.
I couldn’t play without a mod to change Anders’ appearance, even if I wasn’t interested in romancing him. (This one is the best — it doesn’t make him look too-perfect, and his personality really shines through.) His original morph looks like some random sidequest-giver, not like the most important character who can join your party. And my belief that elves look like something out of a Roswell conspiracy theory hasn’t changed. Both of those art choices make me still say: wtf, Bioware.