Dragon Age: Origins, despite the rough edges, was a fantastic RPG. All Dragon Age II needed to do was to improve the rather last-gen graphics and deliver the same blend of character and story and it would've been one of the best games of this generation.
Yet, this isn't the case. DAII abandons the world of Ferelden, moving the adventure to lands outside those seen in DA:O, yet rather than giving us a new land to explore events are largely restricted to a single city, and when the adventure moves outside the city walls you are typically taken to one of several identikit caves / dungeons / mountain paths to explore. This gets boring quite quickly because there's no reason to wonder "what's-round-the-corner?"
The biggest change is that the story is now focussed on a single character, Hawke, rather than a world threatening event. The game sticks with Hawke as he (or she) deals with life in the city, and while the city is eventful, dealing with treasure hunts, hostile visitors and near full-on civil war, you have little influence over the eventual outcome of most things. Hawke is our window into these events, but they would be happening whether he was there or not, there's no real sense that you're particularly important in the grand scheme of things. Realistic it may be, but it's just another way in which DA2 is inferior to DA:O.
And that, sadly, is the bottom line. DA2 is technically better; the graphics and environments are much better looking than before, and the combat is faster paced and more fluid, but the story never grabs you in the same way, the game curiously failing to engage like its predecessor. Despite the rather negative tone to this review, DA2 isn't a bad game, far from it; it's a competent and entertaining enough game in its own right as the three star score will attest, but it still feels like a bit of a let down coming as a sequel to Origins.