Rinse and repeat gameplay brings down a good game.
Let's get this out of the way. I'm a long-time CRPG fan, and played through the original DAO five times. I am disappointed that the sequel took a step towards more action-oriented gameplay, but this does not inherently make Dragon Age 2 a bad game. I try to review it here on its own merits.
The familiar Bioware strengths are here: strong writing, relatable characters, and the freedom to turn your character into a personality of your choosing. I especially liked how Hawke defaults to a tone you've set with your previous choices. There is also a lot to do, and although many of the quests are of the pedestrian mailman variety, there is at least 30+ hours of rewarding content here.
The combat, while fairly fun, gets repetitive really fast. In most hostile encounters, once the initial enemy mob has been dealt with, more bad guys spawn in from random locations around the battlefield, leaving very little room for tactical finesse. You do have the option of micromanaging your team to build destructive cross-class combos, but the process of doing so seems poorly thought out and disingenuous, not to mention unnecessary unless you're playing on the harder difficulties.
The story, while solidly written, is less epic than the world-saving antics of DAO. This is not bad in itself, but it often fails to set clear goals for the main character (and player) beyond the process of gaining wealth and influence to secure a future for your family in a foreign land. Some of the plot twists involving the political maneuverings of Kirkwall, don't do a very good job of making you care about what is going on. Also, you are often faced with situations where you have four or five quests open in a particular area and constantly switching between them, further disjointing the flow of the plot.
The repetitiveness of the combat is exacerbated by the fact that you'll mostly be fighting in the same recycled areas, with just different zones blocked off. The rapid development cycle probably contributed, although the main reason was probably to fit the game onto a single disc.
So, repetitive combat, bland quests, and even recycled maps. All of these contributed to me feeling quite bored at times. While the production values are excellent, the initial release is buggy. It's an above average release in any case, but I doubt I will be completing DA 2
five times. 8/10.