I blame a lot of that on the shaders, lighting, and post production they use for the seasons. It makes everything look super soft, and the textures look like a low-budget Wii game whenever they actually bother to use textures. It doesn't help that they barely clean up the motion capture data for the character movements making them come off as super floaty and weightless. And it caries over to the times they actually try to use keyframe animation, like it's mistimed or something.The character designs in the first three volumes were great, but the designs in later ones look really boring, too realistic, or downright ugly, as demonstrated in The Judgemental Critter's video regarding the subject.
And that's not even mentioning how bland and plastic-looking everything is after they switched animation software.
The main thing I'll praise the Vol. 7 redesigns for is that they ditched the sausage fingers that persisted into the first three Maya-animated seasons. Otherwise it feels so garish in all the opposite directions the Vol. 4 redesigns felt. And I'm someone who feels like those outfits weren't that bad things considered.As someone that absolutely hates the redesigns, I have to agree. Though like you said, I still think the character designs of early seasons were really good, and in fact, they are one of the biggest reasons the franchise has lasted this long as people fell in love with the potential they had.
Volume 4 redesigns kinda worked like the alternate outfit for a character in a fighting game kind of way. I can see Judgemental Critter complaints and she has a point for all the new characters not standing out very well, but the redesigns still made sense for artists experimenting with a variation.
Volume 7 redesigns are just horrible. No question. In particular Blake's and Weiss. The former seems like they just tried to cash in on how well-received her mom's design was, and the later went from an elegant fencer to Fate's Altria ripoff.
Why people praise those is beyond me. Or maybe it's just me? The lack of complaints about them really disappointed me.