This is how I felt when playing Rift. It was clearly about the progression. The story was pretty similar to, if not exactly the same as the story in Aion, down to the ascended. Hell, they could have renamed the "good" capital at least, instead of calling it Sanctum. That's just lazy.
Because RPG wasn't at the center of Rift, because it was all about gear and gear grind, at least at launch, the forums were filled with people complaining about how cities were just glorified quest hubs and how stupid and boring the quests were generally. There WERE exceptions but you have to look pretty closely to find them.
In the end, MMOs have become all about gear and grind, but they've abandoned their roots on the way. That's what I liked about Guild Wars 1 and that's what I like about Guild Wars 2. They didn't just give lip service to the RPG portion of the genre, as most MMOs do. They actually set out to create something that didn't just move the genre forward, but in many ways returned to some of the core values.