I don’t think this a comment that holds up to even a cursory examination.
I mean first off, the game you’re hating on, Mass Effect, is not a “game of today”. It’s from 2007. That’s 12 years ago. For comparison, 12 years before Duke Nukem 3D came out was 1984. When cutting edge games were Elite, Duck Hunt and Knight Lore. So it’s like if you were insulting “games of today” in 1996 by ragging on Knight Lore for god’s sake. That’s wacky. I get that you were probably a kid then, so you think this is like “totally different”, but it isn’t. For a kid who is the same age you were when Duke 3D hit, something like Mass Effect 1 is certainly every bit as ancient as Elite was in 1996.
And whilst the criticism has some bite when applied to ME1 (though “boring story” is possibly one of the most eccentric descriptions of ME1 ever heard - I mean, there are a lot of valid criticisms, but “boring story”? ME1?), which contains many “empty box” levels (esp. outside the main story), it just doesn’t work when applied to ME2 or ME3, which have plenty of the same kind of detail and interactivity as Duke 3D had. Indeed, ME2 actually put me in mind of Duke 3D a few times - I think it’s fair to say that if there isn’t inspiration, then there’s some similar strands.
Nor is it true of Bioware’s games broadly, except perhaps in a period which basically ends with ME1. BG1/2 certainly you can’t make the argument you’re making. They’re full of small details and life. NWN is the first one where the criticism might fairly apply, and that’s largely because it was developed as an engine for making adventures, with the first campaign almost a token thing. KotOR and Jade Empire I think you can fairly apply the criticism too. Both are cool games but they do have a degree of “empty box” level design. And then ME1 does as well (selectively). It’s pretty clear they realized this with ME2 and tried to spend more time on the levels and give them a bit more detail and a bit more going on (again, to the point where it was reminiscent of Duke 3D in a strange way). The Dragon Age games are an interesting case, as each is different. DA:O has the empty box problem a bit, but not severely. There are clearly places which are underdetailed, and places where detail was lavished (and it is similar to ME1 but does better). DA2 has some real content problems, as a result of being rushed. DA:I has similar problems to DA:O, in that there’s too much real estate and not enough in it, and adds the flaw of having quite a lot “generic” content, but is not, overall, a prime offender.
The “empty box” level design phenomenon actually really seems to originate with Quake, I’d point out, a contemporary of Duke 3D - it seems like detail was often a casualty of the transition to 3D, not “today” thing. That said, even back then some games got it right. Deus Ex is an overrated game with a terrible story, but managed a lot of this kind of detail in 2000. Whereas Invisible War in 2003 is a bit of a letdown, trending strongly back towards the empty box.
And games today are not particularly bad for this, particularly not if we define “today” in a sane way, and mean “2016 onwards” or something similar. The biggest offending period for what you seem to describing is actually about 1998-2008.