They might be more effective than a crossbow in the hands of a wizard, but they're nowhere near as good as the attacks of a martial. Martials get to add ability score to damage to each attack, often have magic weapons, and usually have abilities that make their attacks even stronger. A 5th level fighter with a longsword and dueling style makes two attacks that each deal 1d8+6 (plus magic) points, one who's an archer makes two attacks at 1d8+4 but at +2 to hit, while a 5th level caster casting a cantrip makes one attack dealing 2d4 to 2d10. The fighter is way ahead, and that's as it should be, but it's nice for the caster to have something to contribute while either out of spells or if conserving spell slots.This part of cantrips is awesome.
It's the impact of unlimited ranged weapons that is off-putting to me, still after so many years of 5e. The combat cantrips "so they don't just keep using a crossbow" are more effective than any crossbow.
Being a low-level caster would be less fun, but it wouldn't really affect higher-level casters much because their proper spells are where their power is.Okay, I've been wondering about this for years, but I've always kept my mouth shut because I don't think I'm informed enough about the different D&D editions to make this judgment. What I've wondered--and it relates to the complaints about casters being overpowered--is the following: what would happen if the game got rid of all damage-dealing cantrips?