I think what you mention here is severely underrated. You can generalize and describe story lines all you want, but in the end it's a question of "Will this story line leave a memorable impression on me?" or "Will I want to come back here later simply for the story?"
For me, the answer is "Yes" to a much greater extent in GW1 than what it is in GW2. Thinking Ascalon was "it", and being surprised when you got to the Shiverpeaks, hearing all those little memorable quotes by Cynn, the epic ambient sounds in Old Ascalon, getting lost trying to reach Piken Square, chilling in Fisherman's Heaven, hanging out in the "lost" hub Henge of Denravi, getting to the Crystal Desert and hearing the gossip of how Amnoon Oasis is the last source of water for along time, thinking Thunderhead Keep was the end of Prophecies, the list just keeps going on.
All of these things made a memorable impression on me, and I have yet to say the same for anything that happened in GW2 story, apart from the Zhaitan fight which only stood out because it was so poorly designed.