Anyone who has played or owned the first two editions will feel this is both familiar and yet very different. I like the newest edition as I believe it surpasses the previous two by a large margin (I hated the previous 2). However, there is a lot more crunch and the rules take a lot of rereading to understand.
First his book is a hefty tome. 600 pages and I do not know how durable my print on demand copy is. If you purchase spend the 5 dollars to get an accompanying pdf copy. 240 pages are simply charms, spells and martial arts. I would like to say it should have been 2 or 3 books rather than 1. A players handbook and a GMs guide would have worked better I believe.
Character creation is straight forward if you ignore the charms and intimacies. Make sure you have a character concept first and then build accordingly else you will get lost with the sheer selection of merits, charms, etc. Expect it to take a few hours to build with charms, etc. Mortals might take 15-30 minutes. Merits are a combination of backgrounds and merits from the previous editions.
Combat has changed. Decisive and withering attacks allow epic monsters to feel epic. No longer are they purely health levels, but they feel like they are nigh invulnerable until you wear them down to the point you can do a critical strike. Monsters like the tyrant lizard feel like a real threat. This does mean a bit more bookkeeping on that end, yet the rules say to use mass combat (groups) if players face a group of bandits (size 1 or 2). It simplifies and allows low level threats to gang up for a larger threat without feeling like you are rolling dice forever (no dnd 50 rolls for 50 kobolds to attack). I like it even though it felt like an ice cold shower when you first see it. Range bands, initiative damage, hardness, soak, etc. Lot more complicated.
Social now requires ties or principles to motivate people. It allows for progression of your NPCs feelings and encourages your PCs to have ties as well. Again more work for the GM and it is not a simple roll and move on. Forces players to interact and find emotional weaknesses to exploit.
Artifacts feel like artifacts with their own personalities and powers. It is no longer a 3 dot artifact. Rather it is a artifact with its own history, focus and powers. They grow with the character (or rather the characters grows into the artifact). Now artifacts have their own charms players can learn.
Crafting is a confusing system that takes a lot of rereading and book keeping. Major, superior and legendary crafts. Slots, three different types of crafting experience, etc. I would like to say it is a mess, but unless your players are crafting items it is not too bad. If they are crafting artifacts then it gets messy. Though they can pop out 2 or 3 dot artifacts fairly quickly and 5 dot artifacts every decade or so.
Charms. Buy the charm cards, or pdf of the book, or go to madletters website and download his charm trees. The charm trees are not provided in the text. This makes it frustrating if you want to work towards a high level charm. Starting characters can get charms with a 5 essense prerequistite with essense 1 if they have a supernal ability (every solar has 1 supernal ability and only solars).
Martial arts. I have not looked much at the martial arts. It is now its own ability and now is more confined. It also separates between terrestrial exalt, lunars and solars/abyssals who learn the same charm (Mastery, terrestrial and everyone else).
Sorcery I think has improved. Players can now pick merits based on their background on how they learned sorcery. The first spell learned in each circle has additional powers for the practitioner (control spells). The system has workings if players want to create magic effects beyond spells (first age wonders). Spells now have distortion which alters the effects, but does not remove it. It feels more epic and
The antagonists are well developed, but fairly limited. Personal opinion is they should have used a system similar to IKRPGs monsternomican. A well developed backstory for each monster, but then have traits to add or subtract abilities. Also common powers should have been in a general form. Legendary size being a perfect one to save space rather than repeating the same text for several different monsters. This would have allowed a greater variety of opponents with minimal GM effort.
Overall, I like the system and world. The book is perfectly usable in its current state for beginning campaigns. Future supplements (ignoring the types of exalts) will need these things:
They need a bestiary for common threats with creature templates like IKRPG Monsternomicon. An example would be a starving juvenile ox dragon. or an alpha large tyrant lizard.
They need better guidelines for charm creation especially for artifacts. General rules are given, but they are hard for a GM to make reasonable charms. Arms of the chosen is ok for premade artifacts, but not for custom one with charms.
NPC Elementals, demons and god/spirits creation especially as players can summon and control first circle demons and I like more than the few presented.
Behemoth creation Rules for size, recommendations for overcoming, etc.
[4 of 5 Stars!]