I realize FE is still in development, but at this point you guys probably have the major features set in stone. Here are some things I feel is missing from FE, and thus really should go into the sequel. Or you could read it as a list of things missing to take the game from "good" to "great" at release.
1) Sieges. The cooler this is the better the game will be. Mid- and late-game are all about capturing cities (at least it is right now beta3) so it needs a properly epic format for it. A fight in front of a city just isn't it. My ideal siege format is Shogun 2 (cities starve while sieged, takes many strategic turns, can get reinforced meanwhile), but it'd be with much smaller maps for FE. If possible, and again this is a major feature, I would like the option to design my own castles partially, by placing arrow turrets, monster pits and traps on the map for my own castles (walls would always be the same for each type of castle). Spells and essence also play a huge part here. Castles are destructible, and there is accuracy reduction when line of sight is poor.
2) Caves, dungeons, other planes of existence. This would need to be a concept within the lore of the game obviously, but I know we have things like demon portals and other worlds (where the Titans came from). Basically, like other games have, you can leave the strategic map and travel into another strategic map - be it underground, into hell, a floating isle and so on. Secondary minor strategic maps filled with awesome. See Warlock: master of the arcane. Also this feels like the natural expansion for Wildlands.
3) Naval warfare. Personally, I hate it in computer games, but I can't imagine a top-of-the-line fantasy 4X game without it. It's a big chunk missing.
4) Crafting. This one is "extra seasoning". It is not needed to make a great game, but if done right it will make it even greater. Fairly straightforward, throw mana, crystal, metal and every other resource you can think of into a melting pot, see what comes out. Preferably you put in a "base" item like a plate helmet and the effects stack onto that. That creates the basic scaling system for crafting - you can make leather and such if you researched it, or a special plate helmet if you researched or found one normal. Crafted items should be randomized with a ton (100+) of fun special abilities, including being "cursed" with negative effects. Magical items could maybe be broken down into resources as well, if you research X. Special champions might increase your luck a little when crafting. Throwing an shard into the melting pot would be cool too.
5) Independent city states. It is in my opinion a feature that Civ5 perfected. In E:wom there were minor factions but got removed until you could spend time developing them. Diplomacy comes into play, but also they are a great "in" for having special units or features, and thus greatly increases randomization(=replay) of games. Being allied to one minor faction means you can train special mounts. Allied to another = humanoid monsters won't attack you. One minor faction just sells potions. Another builds golems. They are conquerable, but can put up a good fight and you lose a bit of the bonus if they get conquered. They make demands every now and then - kill a monster, attack that sonofabitch, bring us food and so on.
6) Lots of new tactical stuff. I know this is vague, but look at Might and Magic Heroes 6, it is pure candy in tactical battles. The basic unit for the Haven faction has a trait which makes the unit redirect 50% of all damage suffered by adjacent friendlies to itself. That trait alone is better (more interesting) than 90% of the traits in FE. That's just an example, but to me, the organic way forward for making units while keeping them designable is mutually exclusive traits. The traits would go into three categories: special actions (sunder armor, scare horses), defensive properties (fire resistance, regenerate in battle), utility (low wages, xp in cities)
Some ideas I agree with and others I do not.
And to be clear about what I write below, a Warfare Sovereign only researches Warfare techs, and a Magic Sovereign..... you get it.
I agree, implementing a unique tactical battle map for city sieges like in Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic would vastly improve the game. Titans know that Elemental is in dire need of breaking away from the monotony of tactical battles. This feature would also leave wide open the opportunity for more city improvements and spells. As an example, Sovereigns who research into the Warfare path can fill up their city's build queue with fortifications, turrets, traps, and their upgrades. Sovereigns who focus on the Magic path cast a spell to erect a wall of fire, ice, or earth, build magical turrets with a mana cost, have artisans craft a giant statue and imbue it with essence/mana so it comes to life and acts as a powerful defender. This is how both a Magic and Warfare Sovereign can defend themselves from an army.
To attack either fortification with an army, a Warfare Sovereign would punch holes into a regular wall, ice wall, or earth wall with a siege engine, destroy regular or magical turrets in the same way, and kill defenders with the rest of his army. Getting past a wall of fire would be trickier, requiring the army to put out the fire in some way, place a slab of stone over the flames to act as a bridge, or requiring troops to wear fire resistant armor to pass through unharmed. Magical Sovereigns would of course destroy walls and turrets and defenders with spells.
To defend against magical attacks, a Magic Sovereign may choose to erect an anti-magic tower, a tower which activates during city sieges and damages anyone who casts a spell based on the mana cost of the spell. Other kinds of anti-magic towers can do damage each turn to summoned units, double the mana cost of all spells. The powerful statue come to life can be magic immune. But this is only for tactical battles.
To defend against magical attacks on the world map, a Magic Sovereign can protect the city with a magical dome that soaks up magical damage. One version can soak up a fixed amount of damage before it dissipates. Another version uses the mana pool to directly power the dome: as the shield withstands magical damage, it removes mana from the pool proportional to the damage. Other forms of defense could be a very very expensive dome that grants total immunity to spells from one school of magic, (useful against Sovereigns with many of one type of shard). So expensive that there is an additional cost of a shard to power the dome. While a shard is used to power a dome, it can neither power spells, nor grant mana per turn. Only one type of dome can protect a city of course.
Another form of defense is a giant cloud obscuring the city from view. Relatively inexpensive to cast, it reduces chances of a strategic spells like 'Firestorm' from hitting the city at the cost of lowering the food output of the city.
To defend against strategic or tactical spells, a Warfare Sovereign can ..... we need to be creative, even invent some new stuff .
To defend against Strategic spells, a Warfare Sovereign can build a disaster shelter within which units can hide. Shelters can withstand a certain amount of damage before they are destroyed. Another option would be some artifact or trophy that was acquired from a quest or Wildlands boss.
To defend against tactical spells, a Warfare Sovereign could again rely on artifacts and trophies. We could also make up a new resource that has anti-magic properties that can be used to produce protective armors for units or build anti-magic towers that are completely different from the set available to Magic Sovereigns. One version could lower the level of spells allowed to cast by 2. So a mage can only cast level 1 spells, and a master can cast only level 3 and lower spells. This works independently for each school of magic. Another anti-magic tower could cause damage per turn to each unit that could cast a spell using mana (does not effect magical creatures casting their abilities). A third version could halve the effectiveness of most spells cast, i.e. halve the damage or stat change, or halve the duration of the buff.
On a side note, I'd like to see Strategic spells that are more random in hitting targets. Because a Sovereign/Champion is not nearby, like in a tactical battle, where he could aim his spells at individual units, Strategic spells should be strong, but unreliable at hitting anything. To reflect this, a spell like firestorm should have a 50% chance at hitting an enemy and a 10% chance at destroying a building. Or that % can be dependent on how far away the caster is. The spell could also blast a hole in the wall but at a random point.
This also opens up more unit possibilities. Units, creatures, or summonables could have traits that allow them to pummel walls, climb over walls, or tunnel under walls. Flying creatures (dragons) could also fly over walls.
What I disagree with you is when you want to starve out cities like in Shogun 2. Realistic it may be, but I hate that. When I play shogun 2, I always end up starving the army inside the city and force them to come out of their castle to fight me on the field. It is a lot easier to take over cities this way, but it removes the satisfaction of a good old-fashioned castle siege.
What did you mean by "Spells and essence also play a huge part here." I can understand spells, but what about essence? And do you mean how essence used to be, or the new beta 4 version?
2) Caves, dungeons, and other planes of existence.
Although it would be cool to have other planes of existence where the Titans live, I'd rather focus the player's attention on the main map. The attraction of these other planes would, of course, be great treasures to be had at the cost of confronting powerful enemies. But the problem is why should I waste my time fighting insanely powerful monsters for loot / rare resources when I can just roll over the AI now.
The answer to this could be to make city defenses very strong.
Caves and dungeons could be places to stuff monsters into so they do not roam the world map, but I'd rather keep the player's attention on the world map.
3) Naval Warfare.
Absolutely not. this is the last thing I would implement after a long list of other features.
To make things interesting, we would need several types of ships. Then we would need to create a bunch of roaming sea monsters and summonables, which would be cool, but a lot of work to implement and balance. I'd rather they invest the time in fleshing out land battles. Besides, sea transport can be done by raising land.
No, no, no! (Sticks fingers in ears) LAAAA LAAAA LAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
I think that Elemental presently has an overabundance of magical items. It is good to implement many magical items, but when all champions are wearing them, they no longer feel special. Magical items should be unique to quests and monster loot, but even rarer than presently.
5) Independent City States.
Completely agree. No more need be said.
6) Lots of new tactical stuff.
Again I agree. That HOMM6 unit ability really does sound good. Let's steal it.
The problem with unit traits in Elemental is they are stat based. Perhaps they are fine like that from the perspective that they are not powerful, but they do not make my units feel unique. Perhaps we could split the traits into 2 categories: the weaker stat boost traits, and the more powerful non-stat changing trait like form HOMM6. A unit can be designed with 3 traits like it is done now, but only one from the non-stat changing category with the effect of giving that unit a role on the battlefield. I also wouldn't mind seeing some more abilities, like sunder armor, be applied to a weapon.
And someone needs to add 'mana' and 'golem' to Firefox's dictionary.