Quick and dirty second post as I'm staring at a pile of invoices I need done before I leave tonight (groan), Firelight mentioned something in the CS comments that has bugged me for awhile - since Diablo 2, actually.... Blizzard is scared as hell of item bonuses.
They love the idea, which as I recall was originally to make people want to wear the entire set of a certain type of armor, so that characters looked more awesome. This was the plan going all the way back to D2. So they created the idea of set bonuses, to reward someone who took the time and effort to collect an entire set. One problem: the bonuses suck.
In mortal fear of breaking the almighty item value* laws, they minimize at all costs the actual utility of having an entire set. Bonuses are by and large weak and uninspiring. They're clearly afraid of making these items too valuable, and so most of the time they make it tepid and uninteresting. This of course makes people largely ignore the set bonuses (with a few exceptions) and they end up being willing to break a set the first chance they get. With socket bonuses, the situation has remained unchanged.
Take, for example, Tier 4 Holy. One of the set bonuses? Increased healing from JoL. Aside from the kinda maybe synergy that a Ret Paladin can have with it, by keeping it up FOR the Holy Pally, there's no way they make any real use of it, and it is pretty damn weak to begin with.
Or the fact that I don't have a single item bonus from any of my armor on my Prot Pally. Why bother? 12 sta gems will easily beat the +4 block value I'll get from utilising the far weaker red and yellow gems. +4 block value being one of the better possibilities on some of these sockets.
I'd like to see people utilizing real armor sets, and I'd like to see more sets in general. But to really push people to start wearing them, you have to give people a reason.
Anyways, the limited number of armor pieces in this game is kinda disappointing. I'd really like to have a lot of options, but it eventually gets to the point where I know what upgrade I need next and where I can get it, period.
* For the less experienced among us, each item is given a certain 'item level', which gives it a total amount of stat points it can have. In fact, I should probably make another whole post on this. Add it to the officially unofficial Retnoob planned updates.