|Darrin Drader Contributor|
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I like the realms. Heck, now that I've seen what they actually did with the 4E incarnation, I'll even say that I like it. I'm not going to try to sell you on why Golarion is better than FR because doing so would be dishonest with myself as well as you. It's a good setting.
That said, there are reasons why I'm really enjoying Golarion. As a history buff, it's cool that Golarion intentionally tries to invoke certain periods and images from the real world. But unlike a setting that is historically based, it's a bit like a piece of impressionistic artwork. Cheliax for example, reminds me of Rome, but in a way that simultaneously invokes the Nazis as well as imperial powers, not to mention the fact that it also has the whole devil worshiping thing, which doesn't really reflect any historical period. When there are similarities, there are differences. What this allows you to do is build stories that might incorporate some of the more compelling elements from history, both ancient and a bit more modern, while not going so deep into it that you forget that this is supposed to be a fantasy setting.
Golarion has a lot of interesting characters, but I have yet to see one that is so important and integral to the setting that it runs the risk of overshadowing player characters. I really have no problem with the characters from FR, because a lot of people have read Greenwood's books or Salvatore's books, and there's something to be said for running into those characters in the adventure. What's wrong with fighting alongside Drzzt for an adventure? On the other hand, if that's not your style and you don't like cameos or super powerful characters interfering in the adventure, then Golarion is good. Your characters are probably going to be mostly on their own, or if they receive help from an NPC in the book, there won't be this whole elements of being visited by a celebrity.
Golarion also has huge heapings of cool elements. The Hellknights are cool. The red mantises are cool. Xon Kuthon's followers are... disturbing. The setting specific stuff is very compelling. It all falls easily into the fantasy genre while being uniquely memorable in the same way as the bounty hunters in Star Wars.
Finally, I like how each of the kingdoms has a certain theme going. There's nothing you can't do in Golarion. Want traditional fantasy? Varisia works well. Want gothic horror? Look to Ustalav. Want pirates? There's lots of stuff all over, but some interesting places include the Sodden Lands and the Shackles. Want Arabian Nights? Want something like Arabian Knights? Look to Katapesh.
Finally, Golarion is one setting where the designers and the editors aren't afraid to go there. While I always felt that a lot of TSR's settings were kept within the PG-13 or less range, Golarion frequently wanders off into R rated (and occasionally NC-17) territory. There was a kid playing in my game at a con last year and his dad wanted to know where to get Golarion and I said a lot of very positive things about it, but I also had to warn him that it often deals with adult themes. He smiled and gave me this look like he'd probably be buying this one for himself.
So if you're looking for something that has a strong sense of it's own identity, has historical elements, is versatile, and has adult themes, the Golarion is worth a look.