I think this book is well-laid out. The art is nice. It's one of the longest gaming books I've seen in ages. There's even a full print version available at Monte Cook's website. At least it uses somethng other than plain six-sided dice.
I'm not going to recap all of the nice things said in other reviews. Yes, the system is okay-ish, the character types, skills, etc are okay for some genres. But as a generic system, this game fell critically short of my expectations. Cypher shouldn't be called a "generic" system. It should be called a "generic FANTASY system."
This game is great for fantasy and hand-wavey laser-sabre science fantasy (as long as you don't need space combat...) It's okay for Cthulhuoid modern horror where guns aren't an issue. Cypher fell down for me on the same thing practically everything Monte Cook's name appears on. It's a fantasy game written for fantasy gamers.
If you want a game with guns, firearms combat, big guns, vehicles, giant robots or starships- this is not the system for you. From the very start, reading the character types, you can see this system is designed around magic, psionics and the supernatural in every game, every genre it touches. It's geared toward medieval fantasy, modern horror, and maybe supers on a stretch. If you want lots of spells, psionics, cartoon fluffy bunnies, radioactive elf mages, Cypher works. If your game setting is some sort of alternate reality, possibly with pretentious naming conventions, that looks nothing like Earth, it's great.
However, right out of the gate, if you want any sort of non-magic modern setting for your game, Cypher falls flat. Basic firearms skills that should be available at character creation don't appear until character tiers 3, 4 or 5. Dual wielding pistols? Not likely. Starship combat? Mecha? Vehicle combat in general is not adequately covered. Supers? The character types and power scaling aren't a good fit.If you want a cyberpunk game, mecha, historical, modern without a supernatural component, martial arts without a mystic element, or a starship-troopers type game- look elsewhere. Despite it's advice about running games and handling different genres, (as long as they look pretty much like D&D or Call of Cthulhu, or WoD,) it really just doesn't do everything a generic system should do. I'm sure it works fine for Numenera or Strange.
Also, Cypher claims not to support the "zero-to-hero" mentality, yet Tier 1 characters pretty much scream "chumps!" at full volume. You start out somewhat competent, but you still have to spend xp to level abilities and gain tiers. A lot of zero-to-hero issues revolve around how GM's treat the player characters. Cypher, unfortunately, really doesn't discourage that mentality when you see what the characters really aren't capable of at character creation.
Sorry, I can't justify a higher rating for this game when it completely fell apart on every tangent of the three settings I wanted to use it for. It's got a lot of cute gimmicks and it's great if you want yet another medieval fantasy system for medieval fantasy gamers. Really, I think the gaming community needs to stop feeding the already over-inflated egoes of T$R, White Wolf and WotC alumni. Looks like I'm back on the hunt for a new, good generic system or slowly and steadily designing my own system-only to see it never reach publication. Sigh.
[2 of 5 Stars!]