Back then, RPGs were made with gameplay as the top priority. Listening to other people talk (or reading text), and cutscenes were kept to a minimum. Plot served as a device to drive gameplay.
Open world games in general put story as a second priority.
These games are technically open world but do a good job guiding you in a linear order of doing things. It's very well designed. You don't even notice that you're doing things in the order they want you to. You don't find yourself going into the wrong area and getting owned by mobs 10 levels higher than you, even though you technically could.