I can't really review the Starter Set because, strangely enough, I am not the DM this time around. We've got a mix of people playing - grognards and complete D&D newbs, old and young, girls and boys. There are six of us, and the basic set only had five prebuilts - so we whipped up a totally random character for player #6 out of the Basic Set. I mean, compltely random - even race and class. So he's a halfling stout soldier wizard. Yeah. Hilarious, but surprisingly effective.
We did a lot of things randmly - like roll height and weight out of the Basic Set. I had picked the human noble fighter - the tank of the group, and decided to run it as a woman. Well, due to the luck of the dice, she ended up being 4'11''. Since her weapon is a two handed axe, she gives of the feeling of a tall dwarven warrior.
After a few weeks of play - I'm really impressed with the Starter Set, the Basic Rules, and D&D 5e in general. The race/subrace/class/backgroud combo gives an immediate sense of who the characters are. For a 'role' player like me it gives plenty of meat to sink my acting chops into, while not being in the way of people who just want to dive into a whole-sale slaughter-fest.
The D&D newbs of the group are enjoying it, as well as us old jaded types. My son Kenny said that it really has an old school feel. It does - and I think it has just enough differences to keep me on my toes and interested. Funny, it's even got me interested in good old fashioned dungeon crawls again - something that I had become bored with by 1982.
The mechanics are quite slick. I love the advantage/disadvantage mechanism that tosses out so many of those little tiny plus/minus rules that we tend to forget about and leaves you with one big whammy of a bonus/nonbonus. In every fight, with every swing of the axe, I'm thinking about how I can get an advantage out of my attack - from launching myself in a high-jump off the helmet of a downed ally, to hocking a big, fat, sticky loogie in the face of a bugbear who is staring me down. Yeah, I'm driving the DM crazy with descriptive plays for advantage, but it's fun. :)
I think one of the bigger problems with the game is the new spells mechanics for prepared spells and spell slots. The mechanic is actually just fine - I like it - but players seem to get confused about how it works. Well, old players. New players seem to get the hang of it quickly enough. It's something us grognards need to read over very carefully, and I think they could have spelled it out more clearly in the rules.
Another issue I see if the level progression. It rockets players up quickly in levels at first, then slows down considerably. For a player's first game, or games by people who don't have a lot of time, I think it's fine. But for a group who plays with one another on a regular basis, I think it might feel a bit wierd having characters get proficient so quickly. I don't know though - that is somethign to test in the future.
So, the group is really pumped by D&D. We've got some brand new players who have a really good taste in thier mouth from this edition - which is exactly what I had hoped this version would do. And I am jazzed about dungeon crawling with my 4'11' tank girl.
In less than a month, the Player's Handbook will be out, and we're all excited to see it come. I still dread the min-max fest that will go on with a heap-load of backgrounds, specializations, and feats, but I'm crossing my fingers it won't get too annoying. Besides, I can always sit back and play a character that plays almost exactly like a character from 1981 while someone else goes and plays a character out of, oh, a deck of Magic: The Gathering. :)