Don't play POE if you expect it to hold your hand, that's my best advice. If you want a game with depth, give it a shot. I will address some of the biggest complaints people seem to have about the game and provide my perspective on some of the systems below:
1) Combat is clunky - well yes, if you only played for the first 20 minutes of the game, I can see how you might think that. However this is because PoE actually uses an accuracy and evasion system, and you are not guaranteed to always hit like in D3. This may not be liked by some people but it gives your toon a feeling of growing power as you level and are able to connect more consistently with attacks. Once you get into the game and have more skills at your disposal, you will see how deep the combat system can be. All gear has different colored sockets pertaining to the three primary stats (dex/int/str) and gems come in those three colors. Gems can be linked within each piece of gear, and linked sockets allow you to use support gems which can wildly modify your skills. For example, "Lesser Multiple Projectiles" makes any projectile attack in the game fire three less powerful projectiles in a cone. There are support gems that do more basic things as well, like "Added Cold Damage" or "Increased Crit Chance". Instead of the "Summon Skelton" skill which you normally manually activate, you could link the skill with a totem that you place on the field. The totem will then create skeletons for you while you run around killing everything. These totems can be attached to almost every skill in the game as far as I know.
2) Graphics - oh boy, this is an interesting one. I guess it comes down to art style preference and how good your machine is/what resolution you run on. D3 has very cartoonish graphics compared to the gritty art style of POE. This isn't to say either game has "better" graphics, just different styles. POE has the best lighting effects out of the two as the perspective really allows dynamic lighting to look amazing. The spell effects are also beautiful although in a 6-player game, it is hard to tell what is going on. Devs are looking into this based on player feed back. Textures are much higher resolution than D3 but you can't see this unless you run in 1080p; devs have stated taht the engine is designed to show more detail in general at higher resolutions so it isn't just a matter of graphics settings. Animations are a bit clunky but this is to be expected from such a small team in my opinion as realistic player animations are extremely difficult.
3) Replayability - this is where PoE shines the most in my opinion. The skill tree is massive and requires you to study it a bit in order to avoid gimping yourself in the late game. The people who say "poe sux b/c you just copy kripp's build and faceroll" are selling the game short however. There are lots of different specs and builds and you can achieve most of them with multiple classes to give them a slightly different flavor. The passive skill tree is accessible to all classes with the difference being where you start on the tree. The only other difference are teh base stats of the characters but those are so low compared to endgame stats that you can theoretically take any class regardless of its primary stat and base it around another. (There are three, dex, int, and str.)
There are 6 classes, one pure class for each and one hybrid for each pair. Active skills are based on gems, which socket into your gear and are found as drops or quest rewards. Once you have a few levels under your belt you will realize that to make the best build you'll need to have some idea of what skills exist in the game and how the skill tree interacts to make them better. For example if you are a witch using a wand, you may decide to spec into physical damage, but as a caster you're more liekly to want to invest heavily in elemental damage, which comes as either fire, cold, lightning, or chaos (poison) and has different nodes along the tree to provide bonuses to the damage as well as increased status effect chance (like freezing or burning).
The endgame uses the "maps" system, which are items that drop off monsters and allow you to play randomized endgame content. The maps are randomized (as are regular areas, with very small chunk sizes compared to D3 which are almost always the same in outdoor areas), and this includes not just the layout of the map but what you will find inside. Some maps have bonuses that help the character, and some have penalties that make things more challenging. I haven't even leveled a character this far but if you want mroe information you can do some research on what types are available. Maps can be upgraded just like regular gear which I will explain below, and more rare maps offer better rewards.
4) Economy - there is no gold int he game, it uses an itemized currency system. This currency is both a medium of exchange as well as usable items that allow you to craft up better gear from scratch, or reroll good but not perfect gear at the endgame. This is a complex topic that I won't really get into, but it has a lot of depth and I really like it. I like that I have to figure out what things are worth by doing some research (but then again I studied economics in school and this won't appeal to everyone). Most of the currency items are called "orbs" - some examples would be Orbs of Transmutation (turn a white into a blue item with extra stats), Orbs of Alchemy (turn a white into a rare/yellow item), Orb of Chance (randomly turn a white into blue/yellow or even UNIQUE items), and Exalted Orbs (give a rare a new random property as long as it doesn't have the max of 6 yet, these are very rare and in high demand for endgame).
Anyway hopefully this gives you a basic idea of the game and my response to its common criticisms seen on these forums. I honestly believe that the haters simply prefer a less complex game and don't really understand all that PoE has to offer. I didn't create a bullet for this, but I would also add that itemization is much better in PoE than D3. Your damage isn't really affected by your primary stat compared to what other modifiers your gear and passive skills use, unlike D3 where all you really do is stack primary stat/vit/crit/all resist. The game does have crit chance and resists but there are many other ways to make your character powerful such as armor, evasion rating, and energy shield, as well as health pool.
There are keystone passives that dramatically change how your character works, such as Chaos Innoculation (your HP goes down to 1 but you are immune to chaos damage - essentially poison which penetrates armor and energy shield. You have to have a LOT of energy shield for this build to work but it can be very powerful since chaos damage is prevalent at higher levels). Another is called Blood Magic which forces you to spend your HP instead of mana to cast spells. This is important because you can focus on simply stacking HP and it means you only have to manage one resource. The game uses flasks instead of potions which are infinite use but must recharge between uses by killing enemies, so this means instead of mana and health flasks, you could focus on using health and armor flasks, or flasks to specific resists, or flasks that give you a speed boost when activated. The flasks are fully itemized as well and can each have two modifiers, so you can reroll flasks until you get the perfect one for your build if you like.
This has turned into quite the wall of text but I really love the game so far and would encourage people to try it. I really don't understand what people are complaining about since this game offers so many varied things to do compared to D3 in my opinion. If you have any other question's I'd be happy to answer.
Edited by tubasteve#1111 on 2/12/2013 10:55 AM PST