Several readers have asked me my opinion of the upcoming D&D Essentials from WOTC and if it would make be consider playing D&D 4e. I wasn't planning on talking about D&D Essentials, but as several people are asking my opinion, I will say a few words.
First, I have the original three D&D 4e books and I have played in a few games. Reading the books and playing in a few games only confirmed that I liked 4e even less than I like 3.x. My major complains about 4e are (and have been):
* Class abilities are almost entirely limited to combat, most of the non-combat abilities that classes had in every previous edition of D&D are gone.
* Combat takes far too long. In the old school versions of D&D I enjoy, the average combat takes 5 to 10 minutes. Most groups report D&D 4e combat takes as long or longer than 3.x combat, averaging 40 minutes to an hour, even longer for some groups.
* Combat requires all players to learn fairly detailed rules and use those rules tactically. Players who have little interest in doing so (or just aren't good at applying rules tactically) have no simple "I roll to hit" options that are effective enough given the assumptions in encounter design that all players will be optimized fighting machines nor any easy way to play a non-combatant character.
* Combat all but requires minis, battlemats, and lots of status markers.
* The rules are so "gamist" that lots mechanics are completely disassociated from the game world. Some people like this, I can't stand it.
From what I've read of the D&D Essentials line from the PR stuff WOTC has been releasing on the product line, D&D Essentials does little or nothing to fix any of the issues I have with 4e. Therefore, D&D Essentials is unlikely to interest me at all, let alone enough to play 4e. Does this make D&D Essentials a bad product? No, it just makes it a product I have no interest in buying or playing -- like 90% of the other RPGs on the market.