Pool of Radiance & Eye of the Beholder...... great Forgotten Realms titles. I played them on a Packard Bell with a i386DX chip. DRM at the time meant looking up 7th word in the 2nd sentence of the third paragraph on page 28 of the manual or what I like to call.... the good ole' days.
The infinty engine games had something I still miss today, which is great immersion. Huge effort was put into art and character depth (mainly thinking of BG saga and Torment). You didn't just loot a +3 greatsword, you had to go through an awesome quest for Lilarcor, the sentient sword. Items and quest actually felt like part of an epic adventure.
Also, going 3D actually sacrificed a lot of that, since hardware at the time couldn't come close to creating a believable world. Neverwinter was a nice game, but lacked hugely if compared to its predecessors. I think maybe Skyrim has come close to the artistic level we had back then, and that took a lot of time.
You do not say Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment and a fuckin' Neverwinter Nights in one sentence. NWN wasn't the same generation and wasn't nearly as good. Infact it was this genre of action-rpg meaning more fighting and watered down RPG.
No mention of the behemoth Elder Scrolls series? It's only one of the biggest selling franchises in recent times and is very much high fantasy and open sandbox. In fact, it's perhaps the quintessential exception which proves whatever rule the article's author is trying to concoct!