First off, the look of it. I thought the mini table of contents at the start of every chapter was very useful and made finding information within chapters quite easy. Each chapter is full of easy to read tables with tips and hints of playing noted on the side of each page. One minor quibble was they could have used a rehash of rolling up honor points at the start of the honor chapter, instead of having to flip back a few chapters to find this. Another small issue I found in the Priors and Particulars chapter. In the earlier edition of Hackmaster, they included several tables concerning parent's social standing, amount of money left to player character, etc. which were oddly left out in this edition. In a game that excels in character creation complexity, these were glaring in their omission.
Like it's earlier incarnation, this edition of Hackmaster user quite a long and in depth character creation method, utilizing Building points to slightly change parts of the creation process you don't like. Skills and proficiencies are listed as well and quirks and flaws, which can flesh out a newly created character a little more. However, some of the background rolls might force you to have one or more.
There are the normal character classes - fighter, knight, paladin, ranger, barbarian, thief, rouge, assassin and mage, plus a few multi classes - fighter/mage, fighter/thief and mage/thief. Greatly expanded however, is the cleric character class. This class has been expanded akin to the old specialty priests from Forgotten Realms. Each church (one for each of the nine alignments) has its own spell list and powers/restrictions/skills/preferred weapon(s) for its priests. By far the most interesting in my opinion, was the Church of Chance, where each cleric gets their spells for the day at random. This would certainly encourage characters to think on their feet!
Spells in the hackmaster universe are a combination of the memorization method and spell point method. Mages and clerics can only case a certain number of spell per day as one would expect from Vancian magic. However, the mage has to use from his pool of spell points to cast spells. He can even cast spells he does not have memorized for double the spell points. Luckily, spell points regenerate after a full 8 hours of sleep. In addition to using spell points to case spell, a mage can add his spell points to any spell to enhance any of the characteristics, such as additional power, duration, range, area of effect, etc)
Combat is handled a little differently for those who might not be familiar with Hackmaster. Each roll to hit is an opposed roll, meaning the attacker rolls to hit and the defender rolls to defend. Likewise, combat order is handled differently as well. In a lot of other systems, once initiative is determined, each participant moves once during the round. In Hackmaster, often (if not usually) the character can do multiple things during the round, which is measured in seconds. For example, once your initiative comes up (or 2 seconds after you are attacked by a melee weapon assuming you are still standing and not stunned, you can perform any of various actions. Luckily, a fully illustrated Knights of the Dinner Table comics strip and diagrams are included to walk you through a typical combat scenario. Or at least a typical one for the Knights. :)
Overall this is Hackmaster in all its complex glory, laid out in a well put together weighty tome, coming in at over 400 pages.
[4 of 5 Stars!]