Okay, so, I've been playing the recent beta builds a fair bit and have assembled various thoughts. I know improvement is hiding in every shadow already, but just going to ramble about everything I noticed so far to be thorough. Not sure if this too harsh or somesuch, but to be clear, Stardock are awesome and have earned my trust. Maybe theyll find some of this useful, maybe not. Only one way to find out.
1) I don't like houses. They are not really interesting to build or manage, they are annoying to find if your food income gets scuppered, and it makes no sense that hundreds of people fit inside 3 of them. It also does not feel as if I am gaining anything from having all these people, other than levelling up the city. In GC2 they were valuable, population was something I considered. Here I just don't care.
My point here is, I am having to maintain the population like GC2, but do not seem to be getting the pay-off for doing so. Admittedly there's no pesky morale to deal with, so its a fair bit easier, but it still feels to me to be a dangling bit of gameplay hanging off the main game, that doesn't really lead anywhere or do anything important.
2) City bonuses are dull. See here for something I wrote weeks ago. As they are now, they are very plain, very clinical. Why am I getting this? Why would I not always pick the gold option? I am more excited by the visual upgrade of the centre city tile than these bonuses. If they are to stay as plain old percentage boosts, more are needed. Recruitment speed, defensibility, materials/metal/food income. I often see the need for each of these things in a city, while the bonuses as they are always push me towards gold, which I have no need of as it's everywhere.
3) When picking bonuses I don't always know about the city its referring to. Related to the one above, it would be much better if I could see some statistics from the city in question in the pop-up. Also a shiny picture would be nice.
4) Sovereign only useful as fighter/explorer/spellcasterer. My sovereign is the leader, yet gets no bonuses to leading. If I wanted to leave him/her in a city, whether for safety because s/he is out of essence, or because s/he wishes to operate through champions, there's no bonus to the city. The grand leader of the empire is staying and the city carries on as usual. Especially mid-late game this feels silly, thousands of subjects and all.
5) Some bonuses to whichever city the sovereign is in would be nice and could help promote using champions instead to project power about. I have not forgotten the starting bonus that can be picked, but then again I always pick pathfinder anyway. Perhaps because staying in a city feels like a waste of a unit.
6) Such bonuses could be magical, with some magic research, perhaps some sort of sustained enchantments that only stay as the sovereign or even a champion is present. It could also be increased trade and prestige from having such an important person in the city.
7) There can be gaps between buildings in a city. I like this, I can make my cities look bigger than they really are. Problem is, it leaves these pesky gaps everywhere. Some huts, or gardens, or nice paved areas, fluff city tiles to fill them in – would look nice.
8) Again with cities – the crappest wall type takes 20 turns and a 4 tile building. Its a wooden fence, or a hedge. I want it for free. A good early game defensive tech that simply upgrades all settlements without having to build anything, with the ones that come after taking the time and money and resources to build. By the time its built I can already have the one after it from research anyway.
9) Tech needs a TL:DR bit. In GC2 I would often read the long descriptions and such, for fun. But also sometimes I did not. I looked at the simple bonus and then clicked it. Some of the techs in game require me to read it, especially in the latter tech trees. Some nice summary of what it does would be great, perhaps even in nice coloured text to make it stand out.
10) There's nothing out at sea. I am likely thinking of HOMM3 here, but sea is so empty. There's no shipwrecks or flotsam or crazy whirlpools. Feels like a waste of potentially interesting terrain.
11) Bad guys getting stuck in my territory. Actually they are not bad guys, they are neutral. Without a treaty or a wardec, they cant move, and I have them captured within my web. While funny, having influence expanding onto your units which then cannot be moved needs looking at.
12) Adventurers having their own faction? One wandered up to my city, I thought “Hello! I will give you money in exchanges for services!”. Out I wandered, to greet him in person and tell him of my happy and productive thoughts. I then stabbed him in the face and stole his 5 gildar. Why? He was on the city exit tile and it caused combat. Not a major problem, except every adventurer in the land somehow knew and all turned hostile. Just in case I end up killing one in future, some way to engage in dialogue to sort out any potential disagreements with them as a whole would be nice.
13) Adventurer guilds. My worlds keep running out of adventurers. I remember guilds lurking in the tech trees in betas past, would be good to see them return to create a source for adventurer types.
14) Out of town locations are boring. What is a lone gold mine out in the hills near a city without a good haunting every now and again? What is a distant logging camp on the edge of an old growth forest without werewolves eating all the workforce? I would like stuff to happen around these sites once built upon at random that requires some sort of intervention. Ones in city limits it wouldn't make sense for, but out in the borderlands they seem awfully vulnerable with nothing taking advantage of that fact.
15 Cities feel too big for the distance between them. An option on startup to change the min distance between cities would be cool, I generally like to have some neutral ground in my 4Xs. As it is now cities are just everywhere. I understand this kinda thing would be a very personal-preference type deal, and I would just like to be able to preference it myself. Especially on the huge maps I will end up always playing on.
Some other thoughts in general about larger issues:
City building is always the same. I build everything available, and that is it. Theres no limits, and as such no challenge or thought involved. Simply “is building A available? Yes? Build it. What about B and C? Build them too. D? Build.”. In GC2 there was limited terrain and this provided thinking opportunities. In betas past, there was a limit at each city stage on tiles. While a bit annoying, now city building is just going through the motions. Its dull.
Last 3 tech trees are barren, and tech in general feels short. Again a GC2 comparison, I would be researching things for aaaages. Here, probably due to lack of all those dull stages of weapons and whatnot, it feels very quick and I am already halfway through the tech tree before I even get into a fight. As far as the last 3 trees go, I get the impression they are being worked on, but I simply feel they need more to them in general.
Interface is pretty horrific. When city building my camera keeps me wanting to look at it instead of zooming off to the next city. The spellbook is a pain to manage, reminiscent of my EQ days (a decade ago). Everything just takes too many clicks. I again get the impression this is being worked on so not going into too much rambling on it.
I think that's all my thoughts for now. Keep the good times coming Stardock.