Mechanically, it was superior to the first.
Gameplay itself was superior to the first.
Story wise, it was superior to the first.
Mechanically and gameplay wise, meh. DA2 is more action based, while DAO is more tactical. You can turn DA2 into a more tactical game if you up the difficulty, but I found DAO to still be a bit harder. One good thing was how they handled the romances this time around, I actually liked that. The dialogue wheel could use a bit of work, mostly because the answers don't really match what Hawke is saying sometimes. I do like it though compared to the first. Combat was rather smooth. But yeah, the recycled maps and the fact that there's apparently 1000's of bandits in the city kinda leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Storywise, it was okay until the last chapter, and that's basically where it fell apart and pigeoned you into choosing a side. See, if I was Hawke, I'd throw up my hands and say '!@#$ this crap, I'm outta here!' Not to mention, the bastardization of Anders really pissed me off, because I found him really funny in Awakening, but the last chapter, I wanted to muzzle him. And I am totally pro-mage and I love playing a mage in the DA universe.
I also like how some characters are friends kinda off screen or how they interact more. In the first, it's rare, and most of the time, it's just one character throwing a remark in.
DA2 is a mixed bag, and I still prefer the first over the second. But it doesn't deserve the hate it gets. And this is someone who has played DA2 all the way through and the few DLC.