This is an unusual game. Honestly, the game that it most reminds me of is Ultima 4 -- not in play style or in atmosphere, but in the sense that you spend most of your time trying to learn to understand the world you're in.
(Disclaimer: I played Ultima 4 without playing any of the others, and without a manual. Not sure if the manual described what the "Avatar" was supposed to be, but it would've changed my experience greatly if it had.)
The game is very unforgiving of mistakes. But at the same, you lose most of the game if you read online how everything works, and how not to make mistakes. When I played the game, I had to restart about 3 times (on original 'hard' difficulty), and each time I read a bit more online to figure out how to succeed. I'm about 3/4 through the game now, and i regret all that reading, as learning the rules is part of what the game is about.
I would recommend this game, in a very specific context:
1) Download the patch to nerf difficulty. Don't even waste your time playing on original 'hard' difficulty until you've beaten it once. I'm on medium now, resources are quite abundant. So I'd recommend you start on medium (or easy if you're less skilled). You may fail the first time until you know what you're doing. Once you figure out what you're doing the game is very easy, but on lower difficulties you won't have to replay the first half dozen chambers for every little mistake.
2) Do not read ANYTHING about the game mechanics. Don't even read the release-notes on the patch. This is a puzzle game where alot of the fun is trying to discover the pieces. You may fail on your first attempt, and you probably will have several moments of "oh crap! I've been doing stupid things! I wish I'd known not to do that!" Yea, that's how the game is supposed to go. That's why I'm recommending starting on medium. It's simple to complete the game on 'hard' original difficulty if you know the rules, but you miss most of the game.
Also be aware, there are red herrings -- don't automatically believe everything the characters tell you about how the world works.
3) Be aware, this game is slow. That's intentional. It's atmospheric and artistic. The slowness is to give you time to try to understand the world around you. If you're getting bored, most likely you're missing something. But don't worry... you can't miss anything for too long or you're probably going to fail, and you'll be able to catch it next time. Think of it like a rogue-like if you need to. The game is slow, but still intense.
4) Be ready to experience art more than play a game. Everything in this game means something. This truly is a beatiful work.
Difficulty patch below. The post includes release notes in green, and the download in blue. As I mentioned in point 2, try not to read the release notes until after your first playthrough. http://forum.ice-pick.com/viewtopic.php?p=101816#p101816