I just scrapped yet another game because some random nasty monsters strolled out of the forest and burned a city to the ground. WHYYYYyyyyy? Stardock, PLEASE do away with the auto-razing of settlements when an enemy faction, or more maddening bears, take it over. Putting all arguments of realism aside, it is an infuriating mechanic especially when combined with (a) terrifying, unavoidable, random monsters and (b ) the frakking salting of the earth after a razing. So you can't even rebuild! As if fertile locations were easy to come by!
Don't get me wrong, I like the terrifying, unavoidable, random monsters - it's scary! And if you lose a city it should hurt real bad. But not so much that you restart, or if you're lucky with an auto-save and some nearby help, reload. In the harder difficulties you need to spam cities just to keep up with the AI. You lose one of your border towns to some crazy monster the AI woke up, and next thing you know the hole is filled with AI pioneers who don't mind the smell of burnt fields. NOT FUN.
Thank you for your attention.
Edit: Alternatives from later in the thread, because I'm proud of them
(1) 5-turn delay on auto-raze. This remains the most faithful to the current state, but does give the player a chance to recover. It is also the same delay players face when they want to raze a city, so it's not like this is a new mechanic we're asking for. This option won't help you in the case of an early game dragon-out-of-nowhere, but should at least eliminate those infuriating mid or late game "oops" moments when you just didn't think that army could move that fast and there goes your second biggest city forever. Plus, in some circumstances you COULD possibly crank your taxes up to High for a couple turns, rush some troops, and save the day. So big empire-wide sacrifice required, but a compelling choice for the player.
(2) 50% destruction of buildings and population. Also devastating, maybe even more devastating than the 5-turn delayed auto-raze, especially later in the game. I think in Kael's Fall from Heaven it was like 90% destruction of buildings when a city was taken, which I always felt was a little severe - it would set back even the most developed city by centuries. But at least the city was still there so I could retake it and carry on. Also, since there's no "Barbarian State" in FE the bears would never actually "take" your city. Instead they'd continue to wander around outside, periodically re-attacking the same place and re-applying the 50% destruction. So unless you sent a relief force quickly, you'd still wind up with a handful of survivors living in ruins. But again, at least the city would still BE THERE.