The latest entry to 1UP's RPG Blog takes a closer look at a handful of action RPGs in order to pick apart the elements that make them successful (or unsuccessful) additions to the subgenre. Mass Effect, Demon's Souls, and Deus Ex all score mentions:
Mass Effect is one franchise that has arguably struggled with that delicate balance. The original game had a reasonable amount of depth, but it was also a technical mess. The second game was extensively reworked, but depending on who you asked, it had the opposite problem -- little to no technical depth. The skill system had been so thoroughly stripped down that to some it resembled nothing so much as an ordinary shooter with a lot of dialogue trees.
There are plenty of fine action RPGs that manage to maintain a solid balance between the action and the customization while minimizing repetition. Deus Ex deserves special mention for its thoughtful approach to problem solving and deep skill system, while Secret of Mana boasts an adventure every bit as complex as the average 16-bit Final Fantasy. In recent times, Demon's Souls has won praise for mixing decent customization with some of the most intense dungeon crawling this side of your average roguelike.