Nice write up, worth a read. I wouldn't categorize the magic system as excellent though. I liked being able to summon my own army early enough for it to make an impact (or for that matter really freeforming it researching a vast variety of spells right off the bat). I do however love the terraforming spells and movement spells. My biggest gripe comes from the fact that there are not too many useful tactical spells imo. Even the straight damage spells are meh. Some require having 2-3 of one shard to become really effective and it's hard enough to obtain 3-4 shards overall. Not to mention that the damage potential of the tactical spells is no where near the damage of say, the war axe since you would get multiple attacks with the weapon (requires positioning and melee range however) but all your attack points are drained after casting one spell. Other then the "support" spells I feel the entire magic system as a means to bypass a sub par military just does not work.
I still play this game fairly regularly, however the more I play the more I want it to be a better game overall. The few things it does right is covered in mounds of bleh gameplay.
I really believe that E:WoM and the coming FE can expand upon the 4x genre in ways no other 4x game has (note: these thoughts stem from a single player version of the game only). The concept behind the original version of the game (the one released last August) is still in tact in that theres more of a sandbox feel to the game, you don't have to follow one or two optimal routes for victory, you can really play the game how you want. The functions of the techs would open up even more gameplay opportunities, this is important for the longevity of the game. Within the same spirit of researching for more "advanced" resources and "advanced goody huts/dungeons, I'd like to see the game expanded so that when you do embark on a new quest or delve into a new dungeon the option to play as your hero from an RPG perspective is available. For me, this would ultimately lead to the ability to actually traverse your kingdom/empire from a first/third person view and play a separate, more intimate version of the game. Who said 4x games HAVE to all be alike in that the primary focus is on empire building. I do believe that is one of, if not the most important aspect of a 4x game. HOWEVER, if the gameplay was expanded to allow you to take control of your sovereign and party in a more traditional RPG aspect at certain times and for certain events/locations, I think the game would succeed far more then if it were to continue to be an empire builder only.
With some of the ideas I've read about being implemented in FE I can see there being a road leading to more dynamic gameplay options within the overall game itself. These are a few ideas to really make the game memorable imo. Of course, the core gameplay needs to function properly first, then all the shiny cool new stuff can be added on to that.