Both EQ and WoW were steps forward in many directions. I agree there were some steps backward (no housing, lack of solid transportation system). Can't speak about EQ much though, as didn't have much experience with that game.
But in same Ultima pre-AoS, how would you even evaluate any item? You had to have alt with maxed out Arms Lore and Item Identification, just to be able to get very obscure information about possible properties on item. In example: these gloves are "Fortified". Huh? Do they provide bonus defense? No, they provide bonus durability. Amount of durability on item you could only guess as well. And you HAD to repair items from time to time, or they would simply disappear after reaching obscure "0" durability.
Casters were very expensive to play and 10 times more tedious to maintain than WoW vanilla hunters, having to carry 7 different types of reagents, and thus not being able to carry anything else. Good luck if you got killed during DC and had decent gear on you, you will have to start from very scratch, unless you were hoarding back-up gear sets.
And as you guessed from above - there was no sandbox feeling. In order to perform to your best, you had to have specific skills maxed under very low skill cap of 700. A lot of those skills are "Useless Useful Skills", which you can't have on main (combat character), but must have on alt (like those 200 points to be able to get very vague information on item's properties). If you wanted to play as if it was sandbox, say hello to PKs (Player Killers).
Dungeons were very primitive. Seriously, we had Might and Magic V (RPG series) and Wizardry rolling at that time. Might and Magic VI was released just year after UO. Everquest was released shortly after UO. UO dungeons can't be compared to dungeons in those games.
Housing was the only thing, which was done on decent level. Well, and traveling system, when you could mark any place (or buy rune from someone if you weren't caster), and teleport there when you want without any cd. Couldn't understand OP on long-travel times. Only if in Ilshenar, but Moongates (Portals) were another convenient traveling feature. Ilshenar alone had 9 Portals, and it wasn't really a big place.