This product has had somewhat of the Wratih Cruse to it. It has had plentiful delays, issues with the health of the developers and even a couple instances of art integrity problems. These issues aside, this is probably still the best edition of Exalted so far.
For the setting, what stands out is a very strong return to focus. The way the wrold is described and much of how things are written try to call back to a lot of what Exalted stated as its original source material: anime and manga, yes, but also classics like Homer and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, as well as fantasy inspiration like Chronicles of the Flat Earth and Black Company, Howard's Conan and real world works on history and economics like Debt: the First 5,000 Years and Seeing Like a State. THis creates a world which feels exotic and strange, but also tries to give grounding to things which might have been as focused on before for the game. The Realm feels like the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, the lands feel far away and exotic and a lot is done to make it feel focused and flavorful.
I think that the game has a very clear vision of what it wants to be in how it presents the world and focuses its comments on it. The fiction and art help in this as well. It is clear on what inspries it and I think does well in trying to emphasize what it feels are its roots.
The mechanics reflect this want for feel as well, wtih combat, while not fast, having a nice dynamic element that results in cinematic events and good tactical depth. Social mechanics do a good job of creating things to leverage on for powerful and heroic characters to leverage on besides stabbing. And systems like Craft, projects and Lore show interesting genre-related takes of the way the world is presented above.
There are some mechanics that will not be for everyone, as has been hotly debated all over the web. I'm not going to dismiss that there are places I wish writing was tighter or that the arrangement of some things is bizarre. However, most are simply quibbles compared to other editions of Exalted or even most White Wolf products, I feel. And soem issues I think are thsoe of taste. I myself like how deep and complex Charms are. But I also think that such maximalist design might not be for everyone.
Art and Design
Aesthetically I quite like the look of the book a lot. With the updated final art, I like how colorful of a book it is. Many RPGs I find tend towards a lot of use of brown, grey and dark colors about. I don't feel there ar emany pictures in this book that don't have at least one bright color to it. I love how even the pictures with lots of undead in them tend to have bright reds or deep purples to them, giving things a nice "lighted" look. My only personal complaint is that this edition probably has the least manga/anime style. I was a fan of that style and would have liked to see more of it.
I do also think that some things again, feel odd to me. Headers could have been more distinct, for instance. And I find the character sheet unispiring myself. Also, despite all the work and delays, some typos and layout mistakes seem to still be in the final product. This is unfortunate and probably reflects what should be more communication with art directors in the future if anything.
All and all I'm quite happy with this product. I have already ran a campaign using the preview rules and have had great success with players both old and new to Exalted. I find people greatly enjoy the world and I greatly enjoy both playing games and exploring siad world through its mechanics. It is by no means perfect, but I think that for what I want out of a game, few quite match it.