Completed my first game on 1.4. Played as the Tinkerer, Difficulty Hard, Land Size Medium, Shards Common, Rivals Insane Difficulty. I accepted the rivals I was given, but when I just tried to start a new game I couldn't seem to change them. Is this expected?
I enjoyed the game, the Doomsday Clock is now a genuine threat, which is good. I built a couple of Destiny's Flames, cast the spell to reduce Doomsday, was generally a good guy and had allies reduce Doomsday when they could, but I couldn't sit back and build up a strong empire like I normally like to in these games. In the end I had to use a save game and go back and commit Drogon the Dwarf and his Paladin when really I was hoping to get more troops for the assault on the Sorcerer King.
It just goes to show how powerful a fully levelled up Drogon with good equipment is though that he managed to solo the Sorcerer King! I managed to select and attack with just Drogon, he didn't even have the Paladin with him. Dwarven Rampage to give him another turn every time he killed a unit, plus Polar Vortex, Dwarven Fury and Cleave to kill lots of troops, plus equipment to keep him safe, was all that I needed. Merciless Strength was very helpful to improve his attack. The only spells I cast were Marksman's Boon, to give +100% accuracy (and counter Blindness), and Focus, to make his attacks more devastating and recharge special attacks. 50% fire resistance, 34 initiative and 45 defense was enough. Didn't get a chance to call the Draconian Ally.
I think I may have been a bit lucky, just tried it again a couple of times and died once and needed my Death Ward scroll the second time.
AI did seem improved, some quite scary armies were sent towards my cities. I kept regularly losing Paladins and had to use a save game a few times to save a hero (and avoid the +50 Doomsday, which could have killed me at the end). I have previously had the Doomsday Clock up that high before but that was playing as the Tyrant and doing some naughty things. I assume having the Doomsday Clock up at 458 on turn 102, even after taking every opportunity to reduce it, reflects the higher Doomsday speed and also better targeting by the Sorcerer King of shards.
I successfully allied with all except two of the Rivals; one turned against me because I allied with the Wraiths, the other went over to the Sorcerer King before I could complete the final quest. The Rivals did seemed to be fairly efficient at claiming city sites with pioneers.
All in all, a significant improvement. The game is now quite challenging on Hard, especially with a fast Doomsday speed and Insane Rivals. I still wish the Sorcerer King would cast more battle spells. He usually has bags of mana and spells to cast, and there's no loss of a unit's turn these days, so it seems strange he doesn't cast a spell at nearly every opportunity, especially in the final battle.
Possible bug: I'm not sure if my units were ever attacked by mobile monsters. For example I had a Pioneer next to mobile Barbarians, I assumed that was the end of the Pioneer, but nothing happened.
Definite (minor) bug: Aegethon was described as a "Flame Demon". It was definitely him though, I got a lieutenant key for killing him.
It would be nice if the skills which allow Drogon and Xii to move across the map were fixed; as far as I'm aware this is still broken.
I wasn't completely convinced about the new resource mechanism, it might need some tweaking. The logistics was a significant restriction, the metal, crystal and horses not so much. Some artifacts which requires Crystal I think are now easier to make. For example, Destiny's Force scroll requires 4 crystal, which now crystal goes up each turn seems pretty cheap for something which gives a permanent +2 initiative without taking an equipment slot. Maybe 8 or 16 crystal would be better? With 3 crystal per turn, crystal did not limit the number of Paladins I could build, Production and logistics were much more of an issue.
Future direction: more flavour in quests, more roleplaying opportunities please, more variety in gameplay (e.g. how to win). I think the core game is now looking pretty good.