What the PHB does is gives you more opitions on what you already got from the basic. So you are getting an additional five races. Considered uncommon you are picking up the Dragonborn (which I do like), Gnome, Half Elf, Half Orc and Tiefling. I'm left wondering why the Aasimar were not included. I think if you're going to have Tiefling then you really need to have the Aasimar. It adds symmetry in my opinion.
There are eight new classes to chose from as well and this is where the meat of the book comes in. You get the Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Sorcerer and Warlock. The Warlock is by far my favorite class, mostly due to the fact that I can realize the concept of Raziel from the Legacy of Kain series. This alone makes the game worth playing. The other classes from the basic rules also gets more archetypes.
|My next character, a warlock.|
Multiclassing is pretty straight forward. Each class has ability score prerequisites if you wish to multiclass into it. Otherwise its very straight forward. Proficiency level is determined by character level and since everyone moves up the same track it makes combining classes easier. It only gets tricky when you're adding casting classes.
I liked the feats. Feats are powerful and useful. Gone are long feat trees and chains. Instead for the most part its just the single feat. Since you are swapping out an ability score improvement to have one it's good to know that you aren't losing out. This is also good for Human characters as I was unsure of their bonuses were worthwhile. With the Human variant option you can gain a starting feat and overall I feel that makes the Human race more appealing. I didn't have that feeling when during my first read of them from basic.
I'm not sure if this game will regain the audience it lost to Pathfinder but I do think it has enough merit to create it's own niche with new players. I think overall those coming over from 4th Edition will be happy with it as well as many people who played 2nd Edition. The mechanics are straight forward and dare I say elegant.
With all that said I am left somewhat underwhelmed. To be frank the book is just too light on material. While the Appendixes are useful (they cover such issues as conditions to the planes and pantheons) there isn't much else to sink your teeth into. There is no advice on running a game. Nothing for creating your own adventures. No world building advice or hell even a world to toss players into. No real listing of monsters. It just feels incomplete with out the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Masters Guide. If you're new to gaming overall you almost have to buy the adventure books and the starter set. And this shouldn't be the case.
Most other games have long adapted to making the core book the only book you really need. Pathfinder core is a huge book in comparison and it's filled with a lot more useful stuff. Yes they sale you a DMG and an MM but you can get by with just the core. The same can be said of 13th Age ( a game I don't even like). 13th Age gives you everything you need to run a game in just it's core. Setting info, gaming advice, monsters, magic items etc etc. Take a look at Edge of Empire, Age of Rebellion and Shadowrun (all games recently released with in the past two to three years) and you can see that these games are all selling you a complete experience.
For all the good of the rules themselves Wizards of the Coast falls flat on providing a complete and full game. For this reason an otherwise fun and awesome game is reduced to something that I feel is a mediocre product. I don't think it had to be this way which is sad. So overall I would rank it at 3 fro's out of a possible of 5. If you're just player then the PHB is a nice book. If you're a GM (and a new one at that) then you are gonna have to buy two other books. And I feel we are now in an age of gaming where a publisher should strive for providing you with a full experience in the core book and use its other books to develop on the idea's all present in the core.