I too am a former regular pole user and Pacer Pole convert. No, the "radical" handles aren't going to cripple you; yes, you can use all those fancy advanced techniques for going downhill and 'whacking; and yes, they work fine as tarp and tent poles.
Ive had mine for less than a year, and have used them for around 1000 miles or so, on all types of terrain in The White and Green Mountains... sorry, ne deserts or high Sierra! There are three things that make them so cool, in my experience: first, the grip, which puts your wrist and consequently your whole arm (shoulder... Spine... Etc.) in a comfortable, natural position. Then there's the pace; you adjust them much shorter than old-fashioned poles so you don't rotate so much and can keep your shoulders down and back for less fatigue. Finally, there's a whole different paradigm, they way you "interact" with them and push rather than "pull" (i.e., as you swing your arms while you walk, you never have to extend your elbow in front of your trunk and the pole tip is always behind or adjacent to your feet, never out in front of you) that they can explain much better on their web site than I ever could. Check it out!
They are a little heavier (and hardier!) than a lot of other poles, but for the weight you get security and durability, and you hardly notice the extra weight because it's all in the handles, not down near the end where you have to swing it as you walk.
Oh yeah, you,can also e-mail with questions and get an actual, polite, incredibly thorough response from one of the owners, who really, really believe in their product.