Dungeon Master advice: The advice in the Dungeon Master’s Guide is still as useful as it was in 2008. Particularly important are the guidelines on player motivations and pacing, which I probably haven’t paid enough attention to. Dungeon Master’s Guide II mainly provides new game rules, but has some good DM advice articles including contributions from game mastering expert Robin D. Laws.
Monster archetypes: Several cracks have appeared in the creature archetypes system, particularly that Solo creatures make for long and boring fights. Monster Manual 2 and Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 reveal new guidelines which fix these issues. Soldier type creatures are still very stodgy and Minions still feel a little weird when they go down in one hit.
Faster, more interesting combat: I’m not certain that this held up. Between increased hit point values, increased miniatures use, fewer spells known and more status effects to track, the game in my experience is slower, if anything. This is in online play using a digital gametable setup without voice, so perhaps the real issue is that 4E only works if you have good communication between players. Other players I’ve spoken to report that the game is faster overall.
Rules balance: We’ve yet to see anything truly game-breaking that isn’t quickly errata’d. There are allegations of power creep, though we may see the power balance level out as designers get a better grasp of the game’s power level.
Easy monster creation: This is definitely still the case. First up, the D&D Insider Compendium and Monster Builder has over 3,000 monsters you can repurpose or mine for ideas – there are currently 154 monsters of level 7 alone, all official content. You can scale them up or down by as many as five levels, or apply one of 28 templates (16 DMG, 12 DMG2) or 17 classes (8 DMG, 9 DMG2). There are solid monster creation guidelines for creatures of all types, and a Monster Builder tool to aid the process.
Ugly races: Tieflings still look stupid with horns coming out of their forehead. Both tieflings and dragonborn still look like monsters in the book art, even when they’re alongside humans and elves. (Perhaps I’m just racist?) There’s a lot of 4E art in general that doesn’t ignite my imagination. Even if it looks good, it’s still just some heroes posing or engaging a monster, without leaving the viewer with questions to imagine wonderful answers.
Cheesy in-character text: “I see the secret patterns of magic, and through the items I carry, I can use that magic to protect you, heal you… or make you explode.” Why would anyone ever say this phrase? Is he at an adventurer job interview? It exists only to summarize the Artificer class in smug first-person. It doesn’t invoke a scene or fire the imagination. There’s hope, though, as the monk’s introductory quote sounds like something he might genuinely say to a villain or an ally: “You fight well, but without discipline and focus, you will fall.”
Too abstract mechanics: This is still the case, but as 4E blog At Will writes, nothing stops you inferring your own meaning into the game mechanics. When the rogue’s Cloud of Steel power lets him shoot a crossbow at ten opponents in a round, perhaps it’s a spell he’s picked up. A healing surge might literally relate to some in-character attribute of personal stamina: for further discussion, see the June article Hit Points and You.
Skill challenges: I still don’t get skill challenges. It feels somewhat arbitrary that you succeed based on the number of times you make a successful attempt, rather than what it is your character succeeds at accomplishing. Perhaps it’s possible to create a good skill challenge that handles both. Errata has improved the skill challenge rules and DMG2 offers further advice for creating good skill challenges.
Pushing other WotC products: This still occurs, but it doesn’t bother me as much. It’s not very prevalent even so.