II) I'm a huge Forgotten Realms fan for almost twenty years now. I had my best times at the gaming table in the Forgotten Realms. I love all stuff from Ed Greenwood.
III) It seems I have a problem! What should I think of the new FRCS?
Finally I decided to get a copy of the new FRCS. Mainly out of curiosity. Full stop. Here is my review:
The good news:
There is not much crunch in the new FRCS, but mostly fluff. Thus you can easily convert what 4E stats you find to your favorite system (like Pathfinder RPG). Most npcs even don't have a level given. So you are fairly free to play the setting with the rules you want.
The bad news:
The new Realms (or the Shattered Realms by some) feel very different for experienced FR gamers. You might feel alienated with some of the changes, like [spoiler] that
The book also reads at some points, as if it was put together in a hurry. It lacks many explanations about what has happend during the time jump, which may annoy you if it comes to some of the major changes to the Realms, as well as these little lovely details you find in other FR books.
The new FRCS really looks and feels like it has been designed like a completly new campaign setting with only as much information provided as needed to get things running. Which is basically what was WotC's idea for the Realms - to make them playable for new gamers who might feel overwhelmed by the tons of realmslore available.
The Realms feel flat and colorless, which is already announced on the back cover "lands of dark peril await" - Indeed, but IMO WotC has gone one step to far.
Here are my suggestions:
Don't buy the book...
... if you can't live with major changes to the realms. Don't buy it even if you are curious, because the new FRCS will even affect how you see the old Realms when you read it.
... if you like to find plausible explanations for the major changes
... if you are interessted what has happend during the time jump
... if you are an old school FR fan.
Remeber to tell WotC why you did not buy the book.
Buy the book...
... if you think that the old Realms are overloaded with too much Realmslore, but if you still like some of the elements of FR.
... if you are a new gamer
... if you don't care about anything at all
consider to play it not with 4E but with Pathfinder RPG.
As an alternative try the new Pathfinder Campaign Setting or Motherland Campaign Setting at 3POINT75.org, which is strongly influenced by the old Realms.