Hey everyone! This will be my first gaming review that I'll publish on this blog! As part of this review, I'll also explain what each of the categories for my gaming reviews will be, starting with the first category:
Teachability: Teachability is how easy a game is to teach to new players. 4th Edition D&D as a game has a very complex rules system that can be difficult for new players to grasp. However, once the basic concepts are more-or-less understood, the game can run rather smoothly, as there's lots of references on the character sheet and the power cards.
Character Creation: Character creation is usually the first and most important thing players do in a game. In D&D 4e, this is no different. It is difficult to seriously mess up a character and make a character who is completely ineffective, however Character Creation is an intimidating morass of rules, feats, and power selections and for this reason can take ages, especially if you don't use the Character Builder on the D&D Insider tools on the website. While choices are normally a good thing, there are simply too many choices at this point, so it would be wise for GMs to place some basic material restrictions for newer players, or just to roll up the characters for them entirely (as I did).
Game Creation: Game creation refers to the act of a GM writing up games, campaigns, and modules. D&D 4e, unlike most of it's predecessors, is actually very easy for encounter building, using a simple points-based system for generating encounters. Some pre-writing is required, but a GM could easily make up a game on the fly.
Playability: Playability is about how smooth the game runs. The game runs rather smoothly up until the characters reach the Paragon Tier, where the game can get a bit bogged down in the sheer number of action choices PCs need to make each round. This problem is only exacerbated when they reach the Epic Tier, where the problem becomes even worse due to the number of magic item powers and bonus powers each character gets.
Non-Combat Resolution: Non-combat Resolution refers to how non-combat situations are handled in game. In 4th Edition D&D, there is a basic skill system. For more complex situations, a skill-challenge might be used which is simply a series of skill checks. The skill-challenge system is very difficult to tell a story with, and can feel very artificial. It's a valiant effort to try and make non-combat encounters more interesting than simply "roll diplomacy" or "roll a search check", but it ultimately failed in it's execution.
Price Point: Pretty straight forward, Price Point is about how much it costs to get into the hobby, and how much value you get for your dollar. D&D 4th Edition is an expensive hobby. I will come out and say that right off the bat. However, if you start off by buying right into the essentials line, you can save yourself a bit of money as the soft-cover essentials pocket-sized books are considerably cheaper than the hard cover splat-books that are the 4e release line of books. If you don't buy any extras other than the stuff included in the Dungeon Master's Kit, you're looking at between 60-80 CAD$ to purchase the materials and start playing, excluding a set of dice which will cost between 10 and 15 CAD$ for a cheap set. I would strongly recommend buying at least a one month subscription to DDI, if only to benefit from the character creator programs and to get the extra material from the other books for free via the Compendium.
Other Impressions: Overall, D&D 4th Edition is a fun game. It's very different from previous editions, but you can still get impressions of the core mechanics of older versions of the game in the way some things are handled. D&D 4e's Essentials line is easily the best set of products released for 4th Edition, in my humbled opinion, as it breaths new life into the game and it, along with Psionics in Player's Handbook 3, is the first time that characters really started to feel unique in the way they're played.