Whether a game is good or not is of course highly subjective in nature, and popular is not necessarily superior. What corporations are interested in is what sells.
I've played Arena, Daggerfall, MW + expansions, and Oblivion. They've all had "cookie-cutter" elements, but given the sizes of the gameworlds and I would assume a budget that has to be adhered to, one can understand why this is so. Did I enjoy them? Sure I did, but like many others, I too have both F1 & 2, and from my perspective at least, Bethesda's RPGs pale in comparison. They are ok to good, but what is so apparent are the missed opportunities that would have made them great.
I will buy F3, but I hope I don't end up hating myself for it. I'm cheering on Bethesda to do the right thing and make an epic title. Based on my prior experience with their games however, I remain skeptical that there is going to be any dramatic shift in their game design philosophy, and that's a real shame if this is so with F3. One can always hope.