Hm, looks like some nice changes.
The new hero recruitment system certainly goes into a less random, more decision driven system.
Does the leveling system mean you can pick any of those traits, save for the usual tree prequisites and maybe some specialisation unlocker? That would move it more towards e.g. diablo II which I would enjoy quite a lot. It also appears that there will be a lot more traits, in particular for improving quite specific aspects (extra healing, extra damage from fire spells).
I also feel that the growth change is a step in the right direction. Right now there just is too little penalty for a large empire. So, prestige gets split around? Meh, just construct growth buildings and eventually you will accumulate your population. With FE I just don't see how fewer cities are possibly better than many. Could use a change as announced.
Only, I was not that worried about the weapon effects. The already have different effects now and not only statistical. Bash, counterattack. Ok, ignore armour and initiative variance could be seen as statistical, but still. I felt the decision mattered. But anyhow, I won't oppose more differentiation.
Maybe races could be diversified a bit more. Yes, they have strengths and weaknesses, but there is potential for more I'd say (unique unit traits to chose from, unique techs, buildings, spells, ...)
In a way I was hoping for some more changes on tactical combat, like terrain influence and better integration of cities / city defenses during siege. But some improvements will be made and, frankly, it is already fun. AoW is kind of my reference here in the genre.