I'm sorry but everything you mention that is 'better' is TRIVIAL and is practically ALL non gameplay related. "better controls"? like wtf? Older RPG's have deeper battle systems then 99% of the crap they push today. 90% of all RPG's have been fully automated and you just manage points in skill trees. There is little variance in combat systems between MMO's because the online requirement and the fact that most developers are clueless and unskilled at RPG combat systems.
I despise autocombat, some old games had this problem. I dislike the combat of infinity engine RPG's because it's totally automated for casuals. Same goes for ultima online, World of warcraft, guild wars, etc. These are all examples of what is wrong with modern gaming. The participation has been reduced to chimp level. I'd take older ultima games, Eye of the beholder, lands of lore, etc over Baldursgate/torment/wow/guild wars auto combat bullshit, why? because you actually get to participate. I fucking loved legend of grimrock, it was far from perfect on it's first outing. I'm hoping the sequel fixes the problems with the over basic combat of the first. But this was what was missing from RPG land for like forever. It's a valid attempt to bring back player participation rather then 'stand and watch' guildwars 2 / world of warcraft kinds of games.
Not all old games were great I totally agree with that statement, many old games have certain problems and weaknesses. For instance modern games are better at weaving story and game together for a more smooth experience. And have more hollywood 'you're in the movie' wow, and that is important but it isn't gameplay that's where you are confused.
This is the thing that you and many modern gamers are missing. The problem is while modern games 'cut the fat' so to speak, they took THE EASIEST way out by compensating for repetitive gameplay with movie set-pieces and storytelling. In the old days developers tried to find addictive and great gameplay systems. Think civilization, or alpha centauri. A game where the fun is *intrinsic* to your participation, rather then relying on being pushed along a conveyor belt of simple fps levels like in Mass effect 2, if you remove all the VA, hollywood and graphics from ME2, you got a pretty boring game. You could make the graphics of civ or AC even simpler and the game would still be fun. This is what you are missing completely. I remember playing text based games ffs like LORD (legend of the red dragon) on BBS's. So when you compensate with graphics/VA/Hollywood emotional stimulation you're leaving the actual gameplay system behind. This is what has most gamers like you confused, without being able to take actions inside a game or system there is no game, just a lot of set-pieces, voice overs and music. ALL TOTALLY PASSIVE. They are not gameplay but they can act as emotional/stimulus substitutes and this is why you think older games 'have so many problems' because you're getting your HIGH from the AV, not from intrinsic gameplay systems.
In modern games because of CPU power they don't have to do the hard work finding intrinsic fun anymore because most gamers today just aren't interested in gameplay at all, they are a generation raised to believe games = movies. Anything that doesn't look like a movie is shunned. It isn't just nostalgia and if you think it is you're not competent enough in understanding games to comment.