I'm not really sure what the operative criticism of "big worlds" is. I get it, I'm a completionist and I like doing everything too, but not every playthrough. Oh no, there's all this OPTIONAL CRAP I can do, such a terrible game with fluff and padding! I'd rather have optional stuff than no stuff at all. If you want to advance the story, just advance it. Power is so easy to get that you don't really have to do much. Yes, if you spend 20 hours in the Hinterlands trying to do EVERYTHING at once (which you can't anyway) then you're not gonna have a fun time. That goes for any game, really.
The operative criticism of 'big world' is 'lack of focus'. Some people enjoy that, a lot of people also don't. With Bioware being a brand that has been synonymous with linear story driven RPGs, with plenty of focus, even if they have had their faults, the change is similar to if Skyrim's sequel was a corridor RPG with a fixed path you couldn't deviate from, small maps and a very focused story with good dialogue. Its the antithesis of what the series is known for, and that's probably why a lot of people have problems with it.
Additionally, its a special type of optional crap. In Bioware RPGs, that optional crap has a habit of actually being core story, but you don't HAVE to do it. Companion missions, half the companion recruitment missions [Especially in Origins], missions to gain favour from some faction, 'hardening' some of your companions, rediscovering lost fortresses - there's usually plenty of stuff in Bioware side stories.
Side stories in Inquisition were... Not much usually. Even Companion side stories were a bit of a let down. "Destroy these red rocks that you find all over the place". "Kill some generic enemies for me". "Kill more generic enemies for me". "Find generic items for me". "DRAGON SLAYING". They all had some small plot to them, but in Origins, for example, a side quest could take several hours to do, filled with story, dialogue, and gameplay. In Inquisition its playing Super Mario Brothers; 3D with shit jump to try and get to all the shitty collectables they've purposefully placed in places you can't get to without playing Mario Brothers.
As a result, most Bioware players are trained to do these side missions, as they're generally as enjoyable as the main mission, and even the smaller ones that were just within a main mission weren't exactly offensive, however when we try to do so with Inquisition... You see the problems that come up. Part of the issue is some of the things we kind of want to do - build watch towers to protect the Hinterlands for example. It makes you feel engaged with the world, and as if you're helping the people there. However when they muck that up with Mario jumping, and MMO fetch quests for the majority of the non-core gameplay... The game gets old, fast.
As for your "That goes for any game really", Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age Origins and even Dragon Age II which I hated, I did that and enjoyed myself. Go for ALL the side quests before doing a major quest, just in case one locks out. Even the grindy collection ones. It was never as much a drag as Inquisition made it.
I've never played an MMO so I don't really know what people are referencing, there. The combat is almost exactly like DAO except for the talent limit and it's not painfully slow.
You know, Dragon Age II was actually closer to DA:O, and I never thought I'd say that.
Big things among it were the lack of auto attack and auto loot, that made normal gameplay a button mashing pain, the fact that if you attacked a character, your character wouldn't walk over to them - he'd just stand there swinging his sword at thin air - and if you want to use an ability on something, you have to attack them normally first; simply targeting them just causes the ability to target the person you last attacked, even if the targeting marker is over your new target, and you're facing them, you'll do an instant 180 and target your old enemy, which gets really old.
Additionally, the tactical view is useless where it was near essential for Origins. All I ever use it for in Inquisition is to give potions to people - AoEs are a pain to cast with it as you can't cast beyond your cast range, and if you try it won't cause the character to walk there then cast, they'll just sit there and go 'can't cast'. Same goes for most orders I gave in tac view, they just weren't followed, let alone the inability to zoom out and actually see everything.
These are even just the control differences with it, without getting into the mechanical side of how things work, no more sustained modes [I think I found one, for sword and shield warrior], locked class styles, the differences in healing and types of health and a whole lot else.
As for the MMO side of things, it references a few things really.
1. Most of your stats come from gear, the rest come from abilities. Previously you had stat points to assign, now that's gone in favour of gear and abilities that alter your stats instead of letting you do it. Some MMOs even let you do that actually, but the major ones don't.
2. The quest styling. As said, in Origins side quests were these big things that you went and did, and could take several hours, or were things that were found inside of a main quest that you could do if you wanted. In MMOs, quests resemble those in Inquisition a lot more: "Hey, I need 10 wolf pelts. Go kill 10 wolves and bring me their pelts". "Hey I need this item, go through this cave of enemies and get me this item". "Hey, I need this item delivered to some guy in the next town. Go to the next zone since you're finally level 10 and give him it for me". Not much story, its all just fetch quests. Same is largely true in DA:I, but you don't have to return the loot to them. It even comes with your 'Raid' dungeons where you and a small party go into a small, enclosed, semi-linear zone that is a higher challenge than normal and fight your way through to the boss at the end of it. Sadly in Inquisition these are generally only 2 or 3 rooms, whereas in MMOs they can be quite large.
3. The world styling. In Origins, EVERY, SINGLE, THING was put there for a purpose. Nothing was randomly spawned [Ok, there was the random wolf encounters on the road, and semi-random loot in chests], and everything was planned from the beginning. No magically respawning enemies, no endless grind or random interruptions as you travel the plains. If you cleared out a cave of bears, there'd be no more bears there to ruin your day the next time you came through. There was a limited population of things in each area, which makes sense. Things don't appear out of thin air. Inquisition does this only in some of its zones, like the Hinterlands, and then only with some enemies. Most of the time I'll walk down a path looking for a collectible doodad, and in will spawn random wolf pack #33,304,932,984,298 that I've fought that day, in a predictable spot. This is also similar to MMOs, where there are enemy spawn locations, where you can just sit and wait for the enemy to respawn, and they will, so you can farm them for stuff.
There's also the whole disjointed open world thing, where you have a few large maps, tied together by loading screens, like most MMOs have, and a ton of other similarities I could state, but that seems to be the most of it. The main emphasis most people talk about is the side quests though. They are way too MMO like, and its just boring grind.
Face it, Origins and DA2 had no sense of exploration or connectivity. It was hard to say how big the place actually was. Not to mention it was all brown and dirty. The story missions were cool but in many cases overly long, the Deep Roads was just room after room of Darkspawn and it felt much more like padding than anything I did in DAI, and unlike DAI, it was linear with very few side quests (there was that one with the sword, I guess). Brecilian Forest was the closest it got in DAO, but it was still small and not that interesting. Not to mention that story thread was the least interesting and the game pressured you into the one right answer. Don't even get me started on the Fade, AKA 2 extra hours full of tedious PADDING.
And this is where our opinions completely part.
Origins had plenty of exploration. It was all completed in one playthrough, sure, but I'll never forget the moment I first set foot in Orzammar, or wandered around the Korcari wilds following Chasind hunter tracks. I'll never forget capturing the Warden's Keep, exploring Lothering and the surrounding area, setting foot in Denerim, or entering the fade.
DA:I has a lot more land, sure, but its exploration is relatively meaningless in comparison. Too many fetch quests that distract from the story of the actual area.
Origins also had far more connectivity than Inquisition in my mind, and II even more so. I honestly don't get how you can say they don't. As someone else has said in this very thread, in Inquisition I can go, start conquering a Citadel, then go "Oh, my inventory is full, better fast travel back to Skyhold, sell everything, then go explore some lost ruins instead". That's not connectivity. That's disjointed as it gets. In Origins, this didn't happen. If you were deep in the deep roads, you'd have to trek back, and then activate your 'fast travel' once you got to the edge of the map, and watch your party plot a course through them, and then finally arrive in Orzammar - not Lothering - to trade. And then you'd go back into the Deep Roads, as you were kind of in the middle of something here and needed to continue it. Half the quests even locked you into the zones to force this continuity. In DA:II, continuity was big because it was one city. Everywhere you went, you were within the one city. You walked its streets, and went to the connecting streets, then went to this area just slightly outside town - no lacking continuity, just a lot of copy pasted environments.
In Inquisition, nothing is connected. You have these big, completely isolated zones. You get no sense of travelling to the zones, or from them, just some loading screens. You don't come to understand how these zones are at all connected, unless you read the Codex. Did you know the ONLY route from Ferelden to Orlais is through Redcliff? Unless you want to scale shear mountains of course. So, every time you were on the Storm Coast, or the Fallow Mire, or anywhere on the Ferelden side of the board, you ALWAYS went through Redcliff to get to Orlais, or even Skyhold. Its written in some obscure codex piece somewhere. The way the game presents it, you'd just hike from the Storm coast, up shear mountain cliffs, and into Skyhold before going anywhere. Inquisition has very little connectivity in all reality.
And, again, I found it very easy to tell how large a place was. The Fade is seemingly infinite. The Deep Roads are huge - that's a known fact from the fact that they stretch under most of Thedas, but also from the fact they have their own goddamn fast travel map. I get the sense that Denerim is a big city for the same reason. I enter a fort and start to conquer it, its size is fairly similar to what it appeared from the outside. The Mage tower is this huge spire, so of course its going to be big.
If we're talking specifically how big a certain zone is, I have the same problem in Inquisition. I run into invisible walls that block me at some points, telling me I can't go any further, even though I can see off for ages. I go into this big, fancy temple in the side of a Mountain that looks like it'll be a big trip, and it has 2 rooms. No, you don't have perfect knowledge of how big the map is in any game outside of RTS most of the time. However you can get a sense of scale in most games [ironically except RTS as they try to allow everything to fit into a small map - even huge things that should be half the size of the map].
Additionally, what you didn't like about The Deep Roads, or the Fade, are what plenty of people loved. THEY ACTUALLY HAD CONTENT.
In Inquisition, we have these big large areas, and a lot of collectible quests, but beyond that, fairly sparse content. Anything that does contain content, is over and done with in a few minutes at best. I went to this lost temple thing. Completed it in about half an hour. I found this deep roads settlement. Finished in 20 minutes. I know, I'm going to go assault the breach, and defend Haven. Done in another half hour ish, and even then mostly because of cutscenes. There isn't much gameplay in Inquisition. It tries to do a lot, and get it all over and done with fast. Having just done Halamshiral, I enjoyed that it took me about an hour as I tried to completionist it. Next playthrough, it'll probably take me about 20-30 minutes, as I know that most things do nothing, and exactly where to go for everything - whereas most of the game for me in Halamshiral was finding out what was actually locked and what wasn't. Hell, even doing the Mage quest line, that took me one hour, max. For this big, major piece of the game. Its disappointing. My Origin story in Origins took longer than it did.
The Deep Roads had a lot of history to it, and whilst gameplay wise it was mostly room of Darkspawn after Room of Darkspawn, things happened there. You found the Legion of the Dead and Carridens Cross, Bownammar, and the place they made Golems. You found people's lost relatives who had contracted the Darkspawn taint, or found pieces of history for the Shaperate that re-wrote some of Dwarven history, made the Legion nobles, re-instated some noble houses and incriminated others. There was story there.
In the fade, there was even varied gameplay. You had to try to persuade your party that they were in the fade. Sadly consequences weren't really worked out for that, and it all ended the same way. Then yes, you had to fight a few demons, however for the most part you swapped between 4 different memories of the Tower in the fade, and gained new abilities, transforming to get places and solving puzzles. At the end of it all was an interesting boss fight too.
They were long, yes, but they were involved, and interesting too, with ACTUAL story to them, not "Mages and templars are fighting here, and there's a note that says the mages and templars are fighting. That must mean this is a mage/templar warzone", but finding and conversing with people and learning more. There's a quest in the Hinterlands where a brother challenges another, and it doesn't really go anywhere. All it is is a 'go here, kill some generic templars' quest. You don't even know who his brother was, you don't get to talk to him, you don't get to interrupt the confrontation. Its just a generic 'go kill some enemies' quest, which gives most of the areas no soul, and makes them boring and repetitive.
Even in the main story missions I've done so far, there isn't a lot of actual talking about what's happening. There's a few, short, conversations that come up, but nothing groundbreaking, and most of the plot in an area consists of 'these guys are bad, kill them'. Even in Halamshiral, that's what it mostly comes down to. The only time there's really a lot of discussion is right at the end where you choose who to incriminate.
I guess I'll just have to get used to people crying until they get their precious DAO2.
Well, yes, because it was a certain style of game many people liked. These new games aren't "Better" than it, unless you count mass appeal like CoD has as better in which case CoD is the best game ever made. They're different. They do some things better for some people, but they also overcompensate for any shortcomings of previous games, and that ends up removing a lot of the good stuff from them. Yes, people complained about the Deep Roads and Fade being too long. I don't think they meant they wanted 30 minute to an hour 90% combat main missions though. They wanted the story and the depth, without the grind - which I can respect. Content, without repetitiveness. Same as when people complained about the small and repetitive areas in DA2, they didn't mean make it an open world game, they meant make the areas bigger [Ironically, like the Deep Roads was], and not just copy pasting the same dungeon. Bioware has a habit of overcompensating, and it really bothers me, among other people.