The issue wasn't a lack of open world...it was that the world they constructed was just lazy (in DA2). They went from a varied game environment with new things to discover, where each setting was completely different and related to the quest and to the people who lived there...to one giant tile set copypastad for 30 hours. You reached a point around the 5-10 hour mark where you say...wait a minute...at this point the game's over, I've seen everything, and now they're just coming up with thinly veiled excuses to pad out the gameplay by sending me back to these places on fetch quests. It was about the 20 hour mark where I finally gave up hope that I was going to leave Kirkwall...that I'd be moving on in the quest to some other place that would change the adventure and give me some new thing to see.
As for improving the the combat, that's fine. It's great really. But dumbing it down and plastering it over with special effects doesn't do it any service. Half of what old-school rpgers LIKE is delving into character creation, and building a unique skillset skill by skill - with combat evolving in the process.
Basically, if I'm going to spend over 30 hours (you could spend 60 in DA:O, and another 20 in the expansion, if you really wanted to see and absorb everything) on a game, I want that care in development. They could go back and put DA3 in the game engine of the first game, and it would be fine...as long as the actual depth of the game...the TEXTURE...remained intact. That's the loss in becoming a glitzy studio with a colossus like EA breathing down your neck. Every metric the management uses to judge you is part of this contrived narrative of fitting into their product-tested and brainstormed views on "where gaming's going" and the bottom line. But artists can't work like that. And gamers aren't a sterile, blind consumer base you can rationalize in a vacuum. They see what you do, and how you change, and they mull over your product. Being real and trying to come up with a quality product goes a long way...longer than slightly higher graphical polish, or becoming more similar to some other game.
I think this conversation is probably lost on a lot of younger gamers who didn't grow to love Bioware for the same reasons I did. The progression of Baldur's Gate games, and the...really amazing transition of that style of game to 3d with DA:O. They just took all the complexities of the system they had...and on just about every single category, they improved and deepened it...all while making everything look great in 3d. But it's a loss to the industry that companies like Bioware and properties like Dragon Age get stripped down like this. And it's heartbreaking to me, even with the few successes (both in the RPG genre and elsewhere) that materialize.