I really do appreciate and wish to give my congratulations on the progress and improvements made to this game. Although I'm sure many will disagree with me (hey...can't please everyone) I still have some fundamental core issues with the game. I'm going to discuss some major design choices that just don't work for me.
1)Unit Stats - There are just too many (needlessly detailed for the scale of the game), and in too high a quantity (an individual point doesn't feel relevant) . Character leveling just feels like "clumping points into a pile" and while you do see improvement... I feel ultimately equipment trumps even the most careful leveling bonus selection.
*** I think you really just need to boil it down to even more basic levels like move,attack,defense,hitpoints and resistance/magic and have the perks/abilities add more flavor.***
2) Heroes as Gods - Totally unbalanced with equipment and a few levels. I haven't felt much need to train almost any units when the heroes can do pretty much everything much sooner because it takes a while to research good equipment for units. Its nice for them to get super powerful...but it just feels too easy almost like I'm using an exploit.
***They should be more like a general with majority of the benefits coming from bonuses given to other units perhaps even attaching them to other units, right now they feel like uber powered monsters***
3) City development still feels like busy work. Building up a city just feels like a matter of time and mouse clicks and at no time do I feel like my choices and the order I build things have much impact on the overall game. Also I don't feel any major advantages or disadvantages to where I place my city down, terrain isn't relevant for the most part.
4) Quests as hero busy work - really just there for heroes to run around and get a few items. Don't feel that killing a bunch of wolves and getting a leather helmet as a priority for my entire kingdom.
***having monster guarding bonuses is great, just they should be guarding things that have relevance to a kingdom and not just a neat toy for a hero***
5) Races/factions don't feel like they have any differing characteristics or styles other than a few bonuses. Ideally they should each play slightly different otherwise might as well just have humans vs. fallen.
***I would be hoping for unique techs and units along with skills and city bonuses.***
6) Tactical combat doesn't feel very tactical. After a game or two I just pretty much auto-resolved everything. With units being relatively generic in function its always just a matter of slugging it out. Only times I don't auto-resolve is because i need to finesse the battle with magic.
7) Research! - its just there... sure it unlocks weapons and buildings and increases your effectiveness; but I still don't feel that the order in which I research techs matter much and some techs still a little too detailed...really just feels like a series of speed bumps in order to keep the game going at a particular rate of progression.
I've been a fan of Stardock since you've started making games. I want this to be looked at as just critical opinions and given in the most constructive of spirits. Right now it feels like the game has an identity crisis between CIV, MOM, and Heroes of Might and Magic; combined with some overly simplistic & overly complex systems the game is still all grind and no glory for my tastes.