I finished going through the new core WoD book last night.
There are a few other improvements I've noticed; the ones cancelling out success have gone, and now all tens get re-rolled. This kind of exlpains why the attributes and abilites have been lowered, since it's somewhaty easier to succeed, even if the standard target number is now 8 instead of 7. It's easier to work out the probabilities anyway.
The combat system is definitely stream-lined quite a bit, and I think it's done in a way that's an improvement. Except, of course, that I still don't like the whole strength is the main attribute for brawl/weaponry thing.
Another positive change; flaws, in addition to being optional rules, are no longer bonus points. They work more like drawbacks in Nobilis; if you role-play the flaw, and it comes into play, you get an extra experience point for it. You get nothing at character generation time, and if it doesn't become a problem, you get no points for it. The rules say each person can only have one flaw, though I'm not sure if that's the best limit for them.
The biggest test is going to come when I get through the new Vampire book this weekend, and start playing around with character generation. My biggest test of a game system is whether or not I can make a character I want, and have it be a viable character. Given my concerns about the strength over dexterity choice for close combat, one of my first tests is going to be a martial artist or a fencer, and see how that character compares to the big bruiser type. The decision makes sense form a mechanics/balance point of view, but I need to know if, as in D&D, a character has to sell themselves short to be an effective dex-based fighter. Dex-based fighting means that the character doesn't have to divide resources between defense (dex) and attack (strength); is that worth the cost of one Merit? Or does the bruiser end up with the upper hand?
In any case, I'm less pessimistic about the system as a whole now than I was when I made my last post. Anyone want to go through a couple combats with me some time to see how the new combat system works? I'm really bored right now. I am so looking forward to spending a couple days this weekend lying around reading.