OK so I was reading through Mage: the Ascension 2nd Ed(not revised) earlier and I got to think as to why I really loved that game. It is out of print now, and I despise the core system it was built with, but there was something there. Something that Mage: the Awakening does not have. The newer game is far more mechanically sound, and yet I do not get excited about playing it.
Now I know someone is going on about nostalgia, and stuff like that. How the new one isn't what I first played and I will always be basing my judgments on my childhood(well teenage) impressions of the game. And while I think there might be a small piece of truth to that I have to disagree. When the Star Wars prequels came out I didn't hate them because I had this nostalgic film over my eyes and anything different was bad. I hated them because they are poorly filmed, badly directed, terrible movies.
Now I am not saying I hate new Mage either. I think they did a lot of cool things with new Mage and made a much cooler mechanical game. There it is. There is the problem. I think they may have focused too much on mechanical balance between characters. They tightened the screws on what a Mage could and couldn't do.
They wanted Mages, vampires, werewolves, and whatever else they could think of to all be on par with each other mechanically. They did it because that was how everyone had always played the world of Darkness(now slow down, I am generalizing here, but seriously remember those games in the nineties, they were crazy, right?!). And in balancing them in combat and such, we lost a lot of the things that made Mages, and by extension everything else in the world of Darkness, unique.
I think that the power imbalance of the old system added to the fun of playing the games. So long as everyone got enough of the spotlight, and got to do something relevant with it, why did it matter that the werewolf was stronger and invincible. Of course the werewolf is strong and invincible. THAT'S WHAT THEY DO!!! that is their whole shtick. Vampires had to be careful around them, 'cause you never knew when one was going to just go off. That made them focus on the things they could do to control the wolves. With those to it was always a alpha male thing, trying to establish dominance. While the Mages could not compete with them...most of the time. But when a Mage was sneaky, and planned things out right, he could destroy everything. And that is the moment every Mage player in a mixed game remembers.
Oh great now I sound like I am pro-PvP, which, I am not(mostly). Where was I going with this? ...oh...right, I was going to talk about how you could simplify the system down to something very different that would run a lot smoother...wow, that rant kind of got out of hand there. Well I guess I will save that topic for a later date and end with this. Mechanical balance can(not always, but mostly) wash out the uniqueness of a character within a game. Scratch that, mechanical sameness does that. Fluff is fine, but if all the differentiates a magic spell and a vampire power and werewolf gift is fluff, you are doing wrong. There needs to be a mechanical variance between powers/special abilities/perks/knacks/whatever.