Throwing a quick review up for the PoD version of this invaluable tome. The PoD quality is surprisingly good, with a few caveats. The content itself is incredibly useful for anyone running or playing in a Realms campaign. This is one seriously comprehensive set.
The quality of the physical copy is quite good. The softcover is actually quite massive, as they're cramming many different books into one volume here. The title was printed on the spine for my copy, though I know this seems to vary based on what physical location your order is sent to. The text is easily readable and the colors are just about perfect; in many ways, it's hard to tell a difference from the original ones, except for the massive size of the thing. I've had no problems reading any of it or using the tables given for random encounters and such. Very impressed in that regard.
However, there are a few problems. As with every other softcover PoD product I've ordered, it came damaged. The damage is neither minor nor is it significant, if that makes sense. There is a rather serious bend at the top of the spine. Additionally, some of the pages (especially where the cover was printed on regular paper in between the individual booklets) the ink is so heavy that the page is naturally bending rather awkwardly; if you've ever printed something very color-intensive on plain paper, you'll know the effect I'm talking about...it just makes the page kind of unwieldy and very malleable.
Another issue I have is that since this book is combining many separate booklets into one volume, you would rightfully expect that those contents would be presented in proper order, which they are not. The beginning of the box set actually starts in the middle of the book. I have no idea how that happened, as I've never seen that with any other "box set" that was tranferred to PoD format. It's just bizarre. I guess it's not a huge deal really, but it's just strange and definitely kind of annoying, especially for those of us with OCD-like tendencies.
Aside from the copy arriving damaged, and the puzzling and confusing layout choices, I'm still glad I purchased this volume, as it is extremely useful for a campaign of any significant duration set in the Realms; you're given more background and ecological information than you could possibly ever need. The random encounter tables, which are organized in a nice and intuitive manner, are incredibly useful when your party is exploring the different regions. Having each section color-coded is also quite handy, as you can quickly find and flip to whatever specific region it is you're looking for.
Overall, I think this is a must-have for anyone that wants to add a degree of- maybe not "realism"- but verisimilitude, to their campaign. You're given a textbook's worth of content on a fictional world; everything from points of interest in the different regions to the behavior of predators and prey, and much more besides. I own the Ruins of Undermountain I and II, City of Splendors, Masque of the Red Death, and many other really awesome sets, but I think this one is my favorite, just for the sheer volume of information it presents. It also helps immensely that the writing style is casual and friendly; like an old friend telling a story, rather than a textbook or strictly scientific style of writing...it really helps to make it readable and enjoyable to take it all in. From Sahaugin terrorizing the coasts of Cormyr and Sembia to the dragons that roost in the Storm Horns, this book details everything you could possibly want to know about the natural systems that make up the wonderful world of the Forgotten Realms. There are a few areas that aren't detailed, but that's not really a big deal since those locales are detailed elsewhere, and it gives you enough of a foundation to fill in the details of those regions yourself, if you're so inclined. If you are going to flesh out the other regions yourself, it's helpful that the regions are detailed by type: mountains, plains, swamps, deserts, forests, etc., so you can at least use those sections as building blocks.
Liked: Absolutely massive amount of information and flavor to help bring your campaign to life - a staggering portrayal of living, breathing ecosystems that can help add a lot of immersion to Forgotten Realms campaigns. Writing style is friendly, casual, and perfectly readable.
Disliked: All of my softcover PoD copies come damaged in some way. It's extremely frustrating, but it's hard to tell if it's the packaging, the handling, or something else. I won't knock any stars off my rating for it though, just because of how great this volume is, and how useful it can be to help bring a campaign to life. I also wish they had arranged the booklets in the proper order. I don't understand how the beginning ended up in the middle of the book. But the nature of the content means this isn't a deal-breaker, since it's still useable, and color-coded by region.
[5 of 5 Stars!]