I've been thinking lately about some of the problems I've had with 4th edition, particularly with Essentials. While I hate that combat advantage is now just a mechanic of "something I get without working for it" and the incredible power creep, I'd have to say that what sticks in my craw the most are the classes. I don't understand what a Blackguard is, or frankly a Slayer, or the fact that there have been no Fighters or Rangers in a game I've run for a very long time.
This isn't just semantics, but it's also semantics. I like that the work on Next so far has been focused on the 4 basic classes, at least until the magic-user variants foray. Back in second edition days we used have a discussion about a particular multiclass, the figher-cleric. Specifically, what's the difference between a fighter-cleric and a paladin? There were always answers, and I don't doubt that many purists would have something to say, but when telling a new player about the game how is that distinction made clear? Is there enough of a line between the two to warrant calling them truly distinct, and not in mechanics but how you describe who they are and what they do in the fantasy world?
The answer is yes in my worlds. Even in second edition days when paladins were extraordinarily rare due to stat requirements they were still more common than the figher-cleric, though. A kings army would have the figher-clerics, adventurers tended to be paladins.
Why am I rambling on about this? I find it wonderful that the online gaming environment has reduced class spread back to 4 basic roles, and these roles are so akin to what the 4 basic classes were like for new players. If you're a fighter, you want to be wearing plate armor from head to toe to get your AC as low as possible (2ed parlance), if you're a rogue you want to get your backstab on, clerics swing their maces and cure light wounds, and wizards always select fireball as a 3rd level spell. These are the tank - striker - healer - controller that we have all come to recognize. One of the things that 4ed has been criticized for has been feeling too much like an MMO, and that may be deserved. Some people have a significant issue with this, but I personally think that not paying attention to how classes fill roles in a different medium, one that has the player base of MMO's, would be grossly negligent.
My next foray into a home game may likely be Next in Menzoberranzan, and if you want to play a ranger you're going to be stuck with a Fighter with rakish background, or multiclass when it's available. I really like the simplicity that offers, manageability as a DM (oh, players hate making things easy for a DM), and focus this would put on the storyline and roleplay instead of each character build. That said, I try to never let mechanics get in the way of a good story, but sometimes I fail.