Over the last few years, I feel that Western RPGs are starting to lose their grip on what an RPG actually is. They are becoming more and more like an action game rather than an actual RPG. Just because you have a level and skill system does not actually make it an RPG. They just use the convenient quest system offered by RPGs to try to make it look like an RPG. Let us take a look over some of the RPGs that were released and see how different they are from traditional RPGs. When you make an RPG game, you have to have some sort of balance with action elements to make it interesting. JRPGs suffer from being too passive and it makes the game feel slow. Western RPGs suffer from having too much action and it takes away from the RPG feel.
1) The Mass Effect Series
Mass Effect 1 was basically KOTOR but reskinned. Mass Effect 2 became more of an action based game and Mass Effect 3 was just almost completely an action game. They try to use the idea that it is an action game, but there is little different from Mass Effect and a Call of Duty game except for the quests. Character classes are quite narrowed and instead you are basically choosing a weapon specialty. The only leveling that occurs increases certain aspects of your character's abilities thus narrowing their specialty. This is pretty much the only aspect of the game that makes it an actual RPG. The rest of the game might as well be a third person shooter (though you could argue it is a first person shooter but the aiming thing is optional in Mass Effect). At some point you basically strip the entire game of everything but the basic RPG elements that include EXP and a leveling system, and many games outside of RPGs use that now (even sports games). You could argue that the choices it lets you make could be considered part of an RPG, but sadly, they have little effect on the actual game outside of the event that it takes place in and sometimes, characters fail to react to those choices meaning it does not even make a difference at all.
2) Fable Series
Fable is also one of those series that has become less like an RPG over the course of several games. Fable 3 felt like it just completely abandoned the experience system set up by previous games in favor of just having people complete quests to earn points for stats.The evolving weapons was a nice touch though, but it felt like each weapon had its own achievement list that you had to do just to be able to use it later on. Instead of spending it on stat points or something, you spend your points on various upgrades in a separate area of the game. The entire menu is just a separate area of the game and navigating it can just be a pain some times. It just loses the feel that it is an RPG game and has become an entirely action game.
3) The Witcher Series
The one advantage the Witcher series has is that characters acknowledge the fact that their choices matter and that helps build the credibility of the game. The problem is that the RPG elements are lacking and practically only exist in the quest menu and the weapon upgrading. Outside of that, it feels very much like an action game and far less like a RPG. The choice system is definitely far superior to other RPGs out there so it actually gives more of a RPG feel than the other games because almost everything you do matters. The only major problem is that the game lacked a tutorial system (fixed in re-release of 2nd game).
4) The Elder Scrolls Series
The Elder Scrolls series is one that leans far more on the RPG elements than the previous games on the game, but it lacks the same level of story telling as the other games. However, the wrong RPG elements are emphasized. Character development is lacking with just unlocking passive character abilities. While the Elder Scrolls has a more open ended world and more exploration, it sacrifices much of the story telling in order to do it. The player wanders around doing every little thing, but there is a huge threat looming over the world and you never feel the urgency to do anything about it. The towns and people do not seem to care about it either. Characters have serious issues that need resolving, but they do not do anything about it or even sound interested in the subject. While it is interesting to have all these things to do and numerous abilities, the game loses the sense of importance of the significant events in the game.