Brent Newhall has reviewed The Lost Kingdoms:
Who wants to adventure in a generic fantasy town?
… There’s not enough detail in The Lost Kingdoms to raise any of its contents to life, and what does exist should be easily imagined by any GM. Do I need someone to tell me that my town has a weapons shop? If the players need one, I can just say “Yes, there’s a weapons shop.” The meager information provided in the shop’s description (that it’s run by ”a very well-known pair of Dwarf brothers”) could just as easily be re-imagined.
Worse, the book’s naming hurt my brain. Most places in town have deliberately generic names, like Apothecary and Inn, but the town square is named Statdplatz. Areas of exploration are given names that sit uncomfortably between generic and specific, like Edge Mountains, Morning Mountains, Crystal Lake, and Wasted Sands.
And the emperor who unsealed the gate? Bob the Magnificent. It just jars.
I think that’s really the crux of the matter. It appears from Brent’s review that the elements in the book are standard, and made deliberately so, but the author has forgotten that those are precisely the elements that GMs do not need help with.
A large part of product sales is canonical material, because everyone wants to arrive at the game with the same basic idea of the world and how its reality operates. Greyhawk players know Tenser is best not antagonized. Dragonlance players know that dragons, their deity, and their kin have shaped the setting in innumerable ways. Exalted players know that due to a long series of events that begins with the Primordial titans making the world, the city of Gem blows up. There are certain baseline assumptions that must be established, or inculcated, before everyone can cooperatively participate in the world.
Stripping these details out is functionally equivalent to stripping out any reason to buy a setting sourcebook. Now, if the book had given information on ways to make these commonly-occurring settings better and more interesting, sort of like a mini writers’ workshop, I could see that as actually being worth buying despite the lack of a specific, original setting. As it is, telling the reader that a town the characters stay in for any significant length of time should have an inn and a weapons shop is like reminding them that the game is called Dungeons and Dragons. Few people are willing to pay for that.