Disappointing--Needed an aggressive editor from Day 1.
As a kickstarter backer, I was excited to get my hands on the manuscript. Exalted 2e was fun, but had some definite problems. However, as I read through the almost-finished product, my smile fell off. This was not the product I was hoping for.
As far as I can tell, Exalted 3e did not have an Editor. Sure, they probably had an "editor" that looked for typos and technical errors, but that is not what I meant---seemingly at no point during the development process did anyone go "Hang on, does this make sense to add in? Is there a different, more streamlined way we could do this?" Everything and the kitchin sink has been tossed in, making this a bloated, overly-complicated mess. Just look at the page count alone--the physical book could kill someone if it fell on them.
Charms, the core powers of a character, are completely all over the place. Some are so insanely specific that they will only be used once, and simply the difference in charm count from Ability to Ability (a character's specialization) is staggering. I have my high doubts that characters with the same amount of xp would be balanced at all with each other.
Martial Arts has perhaps one of the bizzarest learning path I have ever seen. Considering the setting, I would expect Martial Arts to be a core feature of the book and character progression. Instead, it feels like it has been kludged in at the last moment. Unlike every other ability, Martial Arts first requires spending experience in the seperate Brawl Ability and then purchasing a Merit in order to even start learning a Martial Art. I really want to hammer in the point of purchasing a Merit, and how it makes absolutely no sense. Merits, in a mechanical sense, are how you "Fine Tune" a character. They are ways to give flavorful, and sometimes very useful, bonuses to certain circumstances. And one of the core mechanics is locked behind one of the most expensive Merits, for no real good reason! "You need a teacher" well sure, but wouldn't I also need a teacher for things like Archery? Why does that get a mechanical waiver?
And now we get to one of the most devisive and talked-about portions of Exalted 3e: Craft. Hoooooo boy. Hoooo boy I hate Craft. Some people love it, but I am not one of them. Craft....Craft take five pages to explain? Let me remind you that Craft, one ability out of 25 (or 26, if you count MA), is the only ability to interact with this subsystem. It also adds 3 additional resources to keep track of! For 1/25th of the game, it nearly doubles the amount of "stuff" you have to keep track of!
Now, not only is Craft incredibly just.. bloated compared to the other abilities, it is completely different. The powers of other abilities essentially say "Here's a cool thing you can do with our system, and how it interacts nicely!" Craft's powers are "Alter this and that mechanic. And if you spend enough xp, your reward is that you can (essentially) ignore this part of the subsystem. Oh glory be, you can tell how great a subsystem is in that the more and more powerful you get, you are rewarded with the ability to not use the subsystem.
And the entire kicker? There's a perfectly good crafting system already in the book: Sorcerous Workings! Yes! Sorcery has a better and more complexity-appropriate crafting system than Craft.
The entire book is just....needlessly complicated. Every single mechanic, every single little thing feels like it went in, was mechanically polished to work, but at no point did anyone ask "Is this a good idea to put in at all?"
It's just a mess. Sure, the mechanics might technically work (at least at the start of the edition's lifespan), but they're still an absolute mess, like a jumble of wires and tubes sticking out in a factory that all technically still produces things.
Exalted 2e has its definitive problems. But at least I want to play in that system--as broken as it is. I have no desire to ever pick this book off the virtual bookshelf and actually use it.
Which is a shame, because it does have some good ideas.
[2 of 5 Stars!]