Since the patch seems to highlight Resoln by adding some spider units to their repertoire, I took them out for a spin (they are quite frankly, my least favorite faction due to their blood "ailment").
Game settings: Large Random Map, Temperate, 6 other AIs at Challenging (Altar, Gilden, Tarth, Kraxis, Magnar, Yithril), Dense Monster, Dense Magic, Dense Resources, and Fast tech pacing
This is pretty much my basic game setup, with 3 kingdoms and 3 empires (Pariden seems to fail too often, so they got dumped). Played as Ceresa (despite really hating her magic picks). Mainly just trying to check out the improvements on challenging AIs.
I started all the way in the northeast corner, with a narrow path south next to a mountain range and another narrow path to west through a large forest. Pretty much all my game play experience is screaming Ctrl+N, because it's a bad start, but I persisted for 2 reasons: 1) I had a good start tile nearby (5/3), and my starter hero has air magic.
So I recruited the hero, stole her armor and dagger (Ceresa's starting staff is terrible - sold it for gildar), equip them, then immediately stole her soul to get air magic (need to get it early for more chance at it while leveling up). Now all I need is to get earth... which ended up being a lot harder than I would like (more on that later). In any case, I decided to explore south while building up my city (workshop, ToD, lumber mill) to get ready for some troop production if/when I need it. I thought about recruiting some spiders, but I liked my mana too much and shadow warg seems a bit better due to initiative and counter. Then things got worse... the southern path turns into a swamp and eventually opens up to a decent spot (4/4), but is guarded by some serious monster camps: a Hariden and some Slags... okay, looks like I'm not expanding that way anytime soon.
I trekked back up to my home city through the swamps and then went west through the forest... only to run smack dab into Altar's capitol Athica... /facepalm. That's what I get for ignoring my urge to Ctrl+N. Oh well, time to make some lemonade. I quickly asked Relias for his cities... and by "asked" I meant sic my shadow warg on them. Took both Altar cities that way without much trouble... then asked for his service and he happily offered his prestige to my cause. Seems like early game rushing is still as viable as ever. He never had a chance.
That gave me a good chance to test out the new un-nerfing of Broken Spirit. I recruited another hero, Poena (who only had fire, so she gets to live), and had her join Relias clearing out all the spiders and bears around Athica, Altar's former capitol. The two did okay, while Relias still felt a bit weak compared to another hero, he was usable. Meanwhile, Ceresa got fire 2 while cleaning up around Avalan, Altar's 2nd city, with her warg sidekick. That means I can go back and take out all the medium mobs I skipped out on with flame dart.
While exploring, I run into Gilden further west (who now hates me because I just took out Altar), and Kraxis and Magnar to the south. I also found out that Altar was pretty locked in as well. A bit south of Athica was an Ashwake Dragon (first time I've seen one spawn on the map) blocking the path... and with a bit of sneaking discovered a Forest Drake a bit further in too... seriously, there's no way those things should be so close to a starting location. To make matters worse, the other path near Avalan is blocked by a Hariden, a Drake, and an Umberdroth camp. Looks like I got my work cut out for me. It's hard being a sovereign in a densely populated world.
Staring down a dragon (starting loc can be seen in the minimap - that's as bad as it gets): http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m297/KStar099/Fallen%20Enchantress/FallenEnchantress_1336835248.jpg
I did some more sneaking around with Ceresa to explore and level while keeping Relias and Poena back to clean spawning spider mobs. After running all around the place, I managed to find my earth caster in some not-so-far off corner (it was actually rather close to my capitol, but I had to go around the swamps to the south and loop back up)... thank goodness I found him before someone killed him. So I promptly recruited him, then stole his stuff along with his soul to get earth magic (I wasn't about to level up yet another hero - did I mention I really hate Ceresa's magic picks?). Thanks to his earth magic I dug out a piece of a mountain and was able to settle my 4th, and soon to be my troop production city. I also gave his axe to Relias, works pretty well due to his low accuracy with broken spirit.
While I was building it up, Gilden declared war on me. He had never liked me from the start, but it was still a little silly of him to do it considering I was still leading in power rank, and he was only third with 3 cities. So I posted Relias and Poena along with a group (5) of custom spearmens (with traits) to the path between Gilden's capitol Tan-Ta-Kreet and Athica. He'd assemble an army, send them through, get hit with fire pillar twice and mopped up for exp by Relias. This happened a couple of times while Ceresa came home and picked up her waiting army of Chargers (spear wielding horsemen with charge). I would have continued it more, if the exp for killing troops was better... but it is virtually pointless right now, so, I just sent Relias and Poena back to their Adventure Guild in Athica. Ceresa arrives at Tan-Ta-Kreet to find it practically overflowing with defenders (so many troops that there's a bunch just standing outside)... but there's a significant problem... it seems Gilden had focused so heavily into Civics that while he had Higher Education and a college (next to last tier in civic research), he had failed to learn even basic logistics (he was still using groups of 3). Thus... the wraith legion descends upon the kingdom of Gilden...
The fall of Tan-ta-Kreet: http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m297/KStar099/Fallen%20Enchantress/FallenEnchantress_1336867927.jpg
The fall of Gildenshard: http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m297/KStar099/Fallen%20Enchantress/FallenEnchantress_1336869256.jpg
Who needs Dirge of Ceresa... those fights didn't last much more than 2 rounds despite all their defenders.
Tan-ta-Kreet was a 5/2 with 2 Apiaries making it a 7/2, it's the first AI city I've seen that is level 5 (had 900+ people)... too bad he chose Tenfell University. While Gildenshard was at 3/4, so those gets taken and assimilated. His 3rd city was one of those crappy 2/3 cities that the AI loves to build against the side of a mountain, so I just ignored it and demanded his surrender, to which he gladly accepted after the thorough whooping I just gave him, destroying those useless tiles in the process. Good riddance.
Taking out Gilden gave me control of about a third of the map with 7 cities (I had built another city while waiting for my army and fighting Gilden), while Kraxis has control of a large portion of the other, owning 11 cities (at least 4 of which were those terrible 2 grain cities). Magnar and Yithtril are suffering from their war with Kraxis, while Tarth... I think they got stuck in a bad corner like me or something. Unfortunately, with just the 6 chargers I fielded to mow over Gilden, I already had double the power of Kraxis, and 5x time more than the others. To make matters worse, I was about to field my elite companies... while Kraxis is still running around with groups (5 guys)... It was just a matter of cleaning up.
State of the world: http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m297/KStar099/Fallen%20Enchantress/FallenEnchantress_1336970970.jpg
Shortly after, the Spell of Making was casted because I didn't want to bother cleaning up.
1. I still don't like Resoln, and Ceresa very much. But I managed. The +3 hp per kill just doesn't do much for the troops when they are pushing 200-300 HP per group, and losing 5 or 7 (group size) times the level of HP per group... (that's often 50-70+ HP) ouch. Still, I didn't really need it too much against the AI. Ceresa's picks... well... I hope you guys noticed my creativity. It was an interesting change of pace to getting what you like right off the bat.
2. The new spiders didn't really add anything to the game. I built 1 of each to try them out, and the first spider (Bound Widow) seems even weaker than a shadow warg (due mainly to 10 less initiative), so the cost of mana building it didn't seem worth it. The 2nd spider (Bound Harridan) is completely disappointing, while pretty much an improvement over the Widow (2 more init, 6 more atk, double HP, better poison), costing 60 mana made it virtually pointless. That's the equivalence of 2 fire pillars. I'd rather just pay the wage for some spearmens (who still seems better) because gildar is so much easier to get compared to mana. As for the last spider (Bound Hoarder)... it just comes way too late. By the time you pick up the Hoarder, you could have gotten Drakes or Dragons from Civic which completely dominates in comparison (the Hoarder has very low init) or you're fielding elite troops. The 180 mana cost certainly doesn't help. I think the mana cost needs to be halved (10/30/90) and the Hoarder needs to be in a tech before the spell of making to make them worth using.
3. The AI is building a lot of units, but doesn't put enough effort into making larger groups of units (Gilden still using 3 while I was fielding 7, Kraxis using 5 while I was fielding 9). There's just no way the AI can possibly compete with the player if they don't focus a bit more on these "step ladder" techs. They need to realize that they need logistics as soon as troops starts becoming important (right after early settling), and to upgrade to Squads when war is starting to break out.
4. Rushing still works because early militias are just too weak. I've mentioned this before, but I really think units should start out with more HP, and gain less HP per level. This way, even the default militias can take a hit or two, and high level troops won't become absolute monsters (Wraith's blood, would have to be reworked if this is done, of course, but I'd hope for that either way). If this is done, then even the early militias would be able to put up a better fight against a warg or whatever else you quickly toss together to rush the AI. It'll also make those city attacks more of a challenge.
5. Map generation still leaves a lot to be desired. A player might be able to Ctrl+N, or quickly adapt but an AI is pretty screwed if they start in a bad spot (probably what happened to Tarth in this game). Also, I still think that there should be no 2 grain tiles... at least not on temperate worlds. There were plenty of places to settle, I even intentionally skip some 3/3 spots just to send nearby resources to another city.
6. Leveling seems a bit better than 0.913, I was able to get to level 19 being stuck in my third of the world (did you guys increase the map sizes?) for most of the game... and didn't do most of the high level quests. The best AI (Kraxis) got his to 15, and the others still got theirs to 13. Which was good enough to alleviate the problem with empire growth I mentioned with my 0.913 review.
7. I noticed that the monsters are a lot more fair this time around regarding who they went after as well. I was able to reliably predict some monster rampages, and cut off others right on time (then again, that could just be experience kicking in). I also saw several AI cities get mowed from those rampages... so I don't think the AI players are doing a good enough job of assessing the "threat" of an area. Still, I've also seen some strange behaviors where they just wander around a city like they don't notice it or the armies around it... and vice versa, the armies don't attack it like neither side could see one another. So improved, but not fixed.
1. The spell "Empower" gained from Sorcery Tech doubles the production per mat instead of adding 2. So if you had 18 production per mat on your city, casting Empower on it would raise it to 36 production per mat instead of 20 per mat like it's suppose to. Needless to say, this is completely broken.
2. I was able to battle Abeix after Gilden fell (he cleaned up most of the mobs beside Abeix himself), the battle works... but is still very awkward. Abeix, like all large bosses take up multiple tiles, so you can't just run up and attack with a click, you have to move up close, and then attack when you're in range. However, the map makes this very difficult because you really don't have any room to move. It's kind of hard to explain, but I would suggest making the Abeix tactical battle map a bit bigger. Make the path towards him at least 3 tiles wide, and the confrontation area a bit bigger (5x5?). I think that would fix the problem.
3. The Tower of the Sword, 1 of the 3 towers you are suppose to build before the Forge of the Overlord, can't be placed. It shows up on the list, but clicking won't show a place where I can put it, double clicking doesn't auto place it either. This happens in all the cities, and it's definitely not a spacing issue. You can load my save and try to build it for yourself and see what I mean. The other towers works fine. Also, you can build the Forge itself without needing any of the other towers built... and you can still cast the spell of making, and win. That... is a bug, right?
4. Sions who gets trained at a Command Post (start at level 2) doesn't get a trait pick when they are trained. Sions can also pick paths... while that's not particularly a problem... it might be if it chooses the path of a governor. I didn't test it out extensively, but it seems a bit too easy to level up some awesome merchant/administrating governors if you attached some Sions with your main army. Will test it out further next time I get the chance.
A Sions choosing his path in life... : http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m297/KStar099/Fallen%20Enchantress/FallenEnchantress_1336884264.jpg
Finally, remember that Ashwake Dragon staring down Relias?
Still sitting there after 70+ years. That's the kind of brilliant strategic placement I want from the AI... is that too much too ask? Okay so maybe that's a bit much. Shortly after this, he was mowed over by my chargers and converted into a Fell Dragon. Too bad it never saw any real action.
Fell Dragon: http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m297/KStar099/Fallen%20Enchantress/FallenEnchantress_1336883688.jpg