How was Dragon Age a step back, except in the sense that it tries to emulate old school RPGs, rather than be something modern?
Dragon Age was, for me, lacking in some ways. I felt the overarching story, with the Darkspawn, was weak. I don't know what about it, exactly, but it just didn't work as well as it could have. The Darkspawn are interesting enough, with the theories concerning their origins and such.
I just enjoyed the political parts of the story much more. For me, playing a human noble, I felt like the business with Loghain and Howe was much more interesting than the Darkspawn.
Also, two words: Deep Roads.
I enjoy length in a game. I enjoy it somewhat less when I'm sent on a quest, then as part of that quest, I have to go on a different one that I have to finish in order to be able to finish the first one. It draws things out too much. It's nice when it works, but DA sometimes had too much of that.
Going to the Mages as part of the Redcliffe story ( which was easily my favorite part )? I like that. Being pulled into a different world and having to complete a nightmarish dungeon the size of the tower itself in order to complete the tower? Eh ... not so much.
The Deep Roads were just ... a drag. Easily the worst part of the whole game.
When the game works, though, it works well. I disliked many of the characters at first ( still do some! Sten, Zevran, I'm looking at you two ... ), as they seemed dull ... until it occured to me that, hey, they actually have depth. Alistair may be whiny and annoying, but actually talk and listen, and he becomes more sympathetic. Leliana and Wynne remain my favorite characters. Wynne, in particular, surprised me.
I no longer have any clue where this post is going. xD