BLUF/TL;WR- If you can stomach the "edgy Orwellian" SJW garbage, and you don't mind the metaplot being even more hard-welded to the rules/releases, then perhaps it's worth a gamble.
Would I purchase it again? No, because I don't like fueling idiotic philosophies and isms.
Will I purchase future products in this line? I'm not sure, in light of the above, but now I've got yet another digibook as a spawning ground for electronic dust-bunnies.
I'll try not to be overly redundant, but to reinforce/reiterate that already stated.
- Aesthetics: too cluttered. I wish they'd come out with a bare bones/no art version. It's ~uselessly ~pretty. (mixed bag. not a fan of ~post/modernism, and some of the photos scream "fanboy/larp"; in short, they don't jibe with the tone, nor with the setting. Gothic = dark AND light, not just some cartooney/comic bookish, sophomoric black to the point of comedic. Also, such as with the "fashion" illos, it looks more like Shadowrun, than WoD. These vampires may as well wear a "Hunt Me!" or, "I'm With Troile!" tee-shirts.
- Rules: Looks to be a pretty nice improvement, and this is where the scales of usefulness tips, as the rules actually seem to support the kind of game that it is; the hunger mechanic addresses a big gripe that I've had with the WoD at large, namely that it degenerated into a supers game of various stripes. Not so any longer.
- Setting. Silly, unbelievable in a bad way. One example is how they paint Francis and the Vatican as some stripe of secretly orthodox hammerers of haemovores. Another is where (shady grammar?) Harker seems to be talking about Vampires drowning. Yet another it is stated that without the blush of life, vampires look dead, but in another section, we are briefed on how vampires are wolves in sheeps' clothing, though some are saintly wolves.
The principle of non-contradiction is either not alive or, if it is, it is unwell, at least in the World of Darkness. Same as it ever was...
Still not a deal breaker though; the systems still seem solid, just either don't think too much, or redact and patch the stupid bits like sainted wolves that don't need to breathe, but can still drown.
Internal consistency and coherence was never a WoD strong suit, to be fair to the current staff; it's a sort of tradition one supposes.
No? How about that rather odd mention of vampiric/unDEAD >>BIO<< feedback?
Silly; eat the meat, and spit the bones, and you should still be fine.
TL;DR- the rules are probably a four, if not a five. The rest I'll pick through like a dumpster, hoping for some good bits that don't strain credibility to the point of snapping.
With the caveat that we keep the peas and carrots of gaming/IRL separate, I can go into more detail, but I would strongly advise that in the future someone writing about an IRL thing, do some (more?) research, or at least get some (more?) input from someone subject matter expert, or at least more familiar.
There's not much point taking from the real world, if you make it so unreal as to be laughable.
Ending on a good note: good job on the rules/integration with dramatic effect.
Add: Further observations based upon further study
- Conflcit is handled is a ~uniform way. What this means, for one, is that your social butterfly can be at least as literally lethal as a meat and bone combatant, if not in the same arena, or in the same way; in this version of VtM, mechanically/systemically speaking at least, the pen may match or exceed the sword/gun/stake etc.
- Morality: also seems more system concrete, with very systemically/mechanically significant impacts on the game, which i like. I would be a bit more persnickety about it myself, for example by applying potential stains for non-consensual telepathy (profound breach of privacy, i.e. "thought rape" but, at a minimum, the potential and principle is there; a given example is when Auspex is used to possess; have "fun" bleaching that out.
However, the above only highlights the contradictory nature of the "flavor text" and commentary on the WoD. (for example, see "Drowned virginal vampire saintly wolves" prev. There are more "WTF(udge)?" moments like these peppered throughtout, something which would have been remedied or at least pointed out by a first year Phil./Theol. student's read through, or even via someone more keen on crit-think.
Add: another bit of nonsense to further highlight the non-mechanical incoherence and inconsistency of the book; it is stated that it isn't the job of the participants to morally judge the characters in the game, even though the morality systems given in the game require just that. It isn't the ONLY job, but it is clearly A job.
Conclusion at this point? Filler text to pump up the page count, to bump the price and make you think you're getting more than you are when, in truth, what you're really doing is paying a road to tax to fund making pot-holes.
Still give it a three, I just wouldn't spend to much time reading the non-rules/mechanics stuff, at least not without a fifth and some Tylenol.
Add: "The Second Inquisition" works well enough, if you're ignorant enough of history, the Church, the "Church", the Inquisition, the "War on Terror", geopolitics etc., otherwise you'll probably have to retool or ditch the whole think; useful in concept, mediocre to crap, stereotypical, and silly exectution. It's a characature and amalgam from numerous bad movies and comic books. MIB meets Xfiles meets le Fanu; even if you are mostly careless of such, it just doesn't add up as told, and humanity, and the counter-conspiracy is just way too competent, way to cohesive, and way too Tom Clancy convenient, unified, and coherent. Okay idea, shoddy execution.
TL;DR- it's too perfect, too neat, tidy, and clean and, so, counter to suspension of disbelief, unless you're just a gushy fanboy or would rather not think about it overmuch to at all. When does Jack Ryan make an appearance?
No? Example: how do you just "take out" Vienna, Tremere Grand Central? You've got Chantry one, with a passel of leeches with AUSPEX, Dominate, and Thaumaturgy? I get that it could be done, but as presented it's just too handwaved. They're ~prescient, for crying out loud.
You can backpedal and retcon all you like, but this is the main book, and ST's are supposed to be able to use it; X-Files went from engaging, to annoying, because they kept waffling on "The Truth" that was ever more out there to the point where you just didn't care anymore.
Advice? You can read it, or you can run it; anyone who's actually done the latter for any amount of time knows that the metaplot has a way of derailing what you've already played, so you just ditch it and don't use it whole cloth in your game because you can't; you've already "written" how things are in play, and taffy stories, if they're actually stories, usually degrade into a sticky, unsavory mess.
Edit: reduced rating to two for the nigh-inevitable, appended, Orwellian, SJW, special snowflake garbage at the end. I'd like to reduce it to one, but the mechanics mitigate against that regardless; I simply can't justify that. Maybe the person/s who wrote that tripe can get a new job reruining Star Wars; they're certainly "qualified".
If you're just going to update and incorporate rules, I'd still buy it; otherwise, I'd pass.
[2 of 5 Stars!]