I do have a lot of respect for Marie and the crew, but they took way too many steps in wrong directions along the way forgetting that they are making a game, an experience for their community. Wild creativity is good, but the fact that you can play god in your MMO doesn't mean you should or that you will get away with it.
To be frank, a lot of FE's appeal has 'Fallout Online that never happened' roots. Grimlands, RePopulation etc failed miserably even before proper release, but FE was gutted post-release, mainly in attempts to casualize it for broader appeal. What Icarus and, subsequently, G1, missed, was the fact that casual whales need someone to play with and too much may be too much. Some changes, like removal of shoulder factions and shiny tomatoes were positive for the gameplay. I'll just go with a list of things that turned away all people I used to play with since beta.
1. Death of exploration. Before random nodes fiasco game world was littered with proper scavenge node pockets. Some were obvious like a farm that has a visible dirt road leading to it off the main highway with higher than area's average Questionable Grain. others were more obscure like a crashed jet drone with a bunch of high-level rare alloy nodes around it in a middle of nowhere, mushroom ring near a run-down shack etc. There were no quests, no mobs and no serendipity spawns there, just random areas ripe for crafting materials that were either abundant or overleveled. I have personally had over 40 bookmarks. Wanna pick stuff to vendor it? Go here. Need Salvaged Carbon Steel in S2? Go there. All these hand-placed nodes were overwritten one day when someone decided that it's a good idea to just mass-spawn random nodes all over the place using an algorithm. All bookmarks and exploration went poof - those nodes just disappeared. Shitstorm was so intense that, after some time, random nodes were rolled back, but people who implemented those earlier nodes were already gone and making things like they've been turned out harder than it looked, Marie and co placed some of them back by hand, then decided that it's too much trouble and screw that. About two thirds dedicated explorers, that I've regularly played with, more than a dozen of em, left during that time.
2. Skill overhauls. Knockdown was OP, yes, but throwing away half of the skills to streamline gameplay was too much and turned FE into Lineage 2: you have a debuff (-resist or a slow), a high CD strong attack, a low CD weak attack and a DoT. Having 2 rows of active skills was annoying (especially when your chains were interrupted by goddamn lag) but it gave interesting variety and skill curve instead of current meta of jumping around with 2 pistols like a degenerate in hopes of lucky headshots and crits.
3. Quest rewards. FE was supposed to be a player-run economy like EVE so lvl 24 quests in S2 give lvl 16 and, sometimes, even level 5 rewards. You physically can't get proper gear from loot and quest rewards because there is none. Brilliant idea. Don't like crafting? Grind like crazy.
4, Insane AH fees on top of 0.5-5 days listings. It would work with 2k+ population. Maybe. At least you can spam purple chat and CoD.
5. Item progression. Due to different parts of the game being developed by different people, weapon, armor and consumable progression is all over the place, most noticeably after level 30.
6. Design flops. Originally the base gameplay mechanics was about clone regen tank - low HP pools, high HP regen. High respawn rates of low damage mobs that pile up controllably. Then, suddenly (©) gameplay became 'overhauled', mobs started dishing out serious damage... sometimes in some places, but spawns remained the same. The game never actually came to a common denominator ever since. There are a lot of patootie-tearing parts like Spider Hill, abandoned mall area near PT in S2, a lot of areas in later parts of the game with high DPS social mobs packed like sardines making a lot of mission plain incompleteable unless you are overleveled by 10-15 levels.
7. Quest dungeon and instances mechanics. If you have a < shaped dungeon you will have to kill all enemies twice on top of legging it - when you are heading in and when you are heading out. Pray that you won't have to get back - you will have to kill enemies on your way and your way out AGAIN. Feel like ragequitting yet?
8. At some point you will have no option other than grinding faction NPC mobs to get to higher faction ranks. 720k rep per faction. Most missions give 1-1.5k. Yay.
List goes on. Neat features (for a 10 y/o game) like water puddling in real time when it rains etc still work their magic. This game has potential if you hammer it enough, but it needs a lot of work. A lot.