There are many "veterans' of DND going around the internet and screaming to anyone dumb enough to listen "4E sucks balls!" Well I hate to say it but they may just be right for once. let's examine shall we?
I have been playing dungeons and dragons for over 10 years (on and off) and during this period of time, I exclusively played third edition because it was the newest version (certainly an improvement over second edition.) i only recently began playing 4E shortly after it's release. in a hyphenated word; over-simplified.
Balance of power, third edition.
Well... there isn't much balance now is there. we all know fighters become useless once mid-level is reached, which is around the same time mages BECOME useful, that isn't to say they don't have their moments outside their glory days. a fighter is still the ultimate tank, and confidently takes that blast of dragonfire, responding with a calm "thank you sir, may I have another?" and when the ravine proves too deep and wide to traverse, who is it that levitates the party across? the wizard, sorcerer, or bard.... or druid, I don't know can druids levitate things? I think they can but only later.... what was I talking about. OH RIGHT usefulness of classes at certain points within a game. this system is a bit annoying, your group needs a tank but a fighter is just so boring to play, that's why people run paladins, they get spells as combat options to add to their repertoire (spelled it right 1st try) of melee (and then spelled melee meleee) attacks. Barbarians are a bit better but it still goes the same. rage, smashy smashy, rage over, smashy smashy. because of this, DM's should be encouraged to provide their fighter or barbarian with interesting combat scenarios such as strange enchantments, underwater and aerial combat, and mounted encounters. Now for the spellcasters, they function decently early on, and constantly rise in power, they can be okay, but toss out an occasional magebane encounter at the high levels (I use an artifact known as a dampening crystal. Depending on the strength of the crystal spells have a certain chance of failing, a caster must exert his will more so than the crystal, it makes for an interesting battle, as your wizard will find herself fizzling at the most opportune time to screw the whole thing to high hell. be careful though, as overuse of this can cause frustration of your casters and the "you're trying to nerf my guy because of blah blah blah talk) Skillset characters such as rouges are useful throughout the game, but only at certain times, make sure to throw in traps to disable, some guards to bribe, and forgery's to identify. as for healers, don't worry about them they're fine the whole game.
Balance of power, fourth edition.
*sigh* my god what have they done? Each character is the same power from beginning to end. barbarians are overpowered the whole game, and healers are just ridiculous. I don't know what to say except that I know what they were trying to do. They were trying to make every character important to the party the entire game. well this has created a massive problem; There are no longer shining moments where one character's powers come in handy. no longer battles where "we'd have been done for if it wasn't for that fireball or for you taking that troll in single combat" well I guess there are, but they are so much less common. Everything is structured, ordered, a great metaphor is the new "and horrible" alignment system. Chaos is on the most extreme edge of evil whereas law is on the most paragon of good. I remember playing a chaotic good elf ranger who was more "good" than our lawful good monk. Where he wanted to slaughter a group of rebels just for rebelling, I decided to wait and find out why they rebelled. When I discovered it was because they thought (from some orc rumor) that their village was to be bulldozed by the baron to make a mine, I reasoned with them and found a nonviolent resolution to the problem. Anyway, the whole thing is just ludicrous now. I don't know what to do to make each character feel important.
Combat, third edition.
The combat was a bit boring after a while if you were a fighter, barbarian, or even a monk at low levels. actually, at low levels combat kinda sucked for everyone. It was all just "attack, hit, he's dead, attack, miss, you're alive" and that was it. You could ramp that up with some better storytelling "your dwarven blade gashes a furious wound in the orc's side, he gives a howl of pain, then crumples in a heap. You flick his oily blood off your sword and stare your next victim in the eyes. The other orc looses an arrow which your shield absorbs, you barely register the extra weight on your off hand as you steel yourself for a covered advance." but that takes time and players who won't snicker when you get too....... avid... about your game. at higher levels, combat is spectacular, you have tons of options to choose from (unless you're a barbarian or fighter) and each of the spells is tailored to a specific situation.
Combat, Fourth edition.
again, boring. you use a power, kill something, and move on. This however, continues throughout the game. it's 4E's main weakness, the combat just plain sucks. You can still spice things up a bit with the storytelling but you're just beating a dead horse if you try that, if not then you have probably, at one point or another, seriously considered buying pauldrons.
Monsters, Third edition
They were good, but not great. Challenge ratings were off on many of them, and some were meant to be fought by a whole party, while others by a single party member. This lead to many challenges being either too easy or too hard, but not often, so it's acceptable. The monsters fought like you did, many ahd class levels, and could be thought of as other PC's, just with opposing goals.
Monsters, Fourth edition
Some things were good, others not so much. The challenge system was totally fixed, one of the few actual improvements 4E has. Now you know just what a monster is made of, and the lore helps greatly. on the downside, the combat is still boring, too limited, and too oversimplified.
So overall, I'd consider 4E to be a let-down, but not a total waste. it's much simpler and easier to navigate for new players and children, though veterans will prefer to keep classics alive by playing 3E. choc out
(oh and the DND game I had been running is totally dead, but a new one might be starting up soon, stay in touch)