After the tutorial crashed on me I decided to just start a sandbox game and learn as I go. I picked Capitar as my faction, medium world with a balanced(iirc) distribution, and three empires and two other kingdoms.
Starting position was good enough, on a narrow but green stretch of coast next to a mountain range, with sites for an orchard, grain farm, and air shard directly next to me. Both to the north and to the south I could just see a hero waiting to be recruited. Started building a merchant and researching harvesting to take advantage of the nearby resources, and headed north. Recruited the hero, did a quest and attacked two nearby butchermen. I looped round the mountain range, recruited the other hero and a third one I found on the way, did two more quests, killed a fallen hero, a troll, and an air elemental on the way. Explored east untill I found Magnar, then headed north past one wildlands that I avoided, killing some more fallen heroes, some bandits, and a few monsters while doing that. Thinking I was being a bit of a pussy, and this being just a test run anyway, I headed straight into the next wildlands I found, the Pits of Namtur. First few caves contained some nice magical items, and one had a cave bear that was easily dispatched off. 'This is too easy' I thought, heading for the next cave. That would be the cave that was guarded by 4 umberdroths and 5 stone golems. Me and my companions were all level 7 by now, had some more than decent equipment (I guess) and some usefull spells. We didn't stand a chance. We managed to get one umberdroth to about 50% injured before we all died.... Or so I thought. Somehow we were able to escape and return to the now distant capital, and after a few seasons we'll be good as new, with only one of my guys seeming to suffer from a slight case of amnesia.
Since it's about time for me to go to sleep, I thought this would be a good time to save and quit, and share my initial impressions with you.
First off, the game world. Some of the terrain is a bit bland, especially some of the larger plains and the mountains. The mountains just didn't look very mountainy somehow. But in other places it's quite pretty! Like my starting position, a nice stretch of coast with a medium sized forest to the south, and a more rocky barren stretch to the north. I saw a few places I could start a city, but large portions of the map just aren't suitable for settling. That's a good thing imo. And the monsters really make it seem more alive and challenging. A few I could handle from the start, others I could handle after getting some allies, equipment, and experience, and others are still too strong. Two of those stacks are right where I would like to build a city, I love that! Gives me something to build up for.
The heroes look good so far. They start out a bit weak, but after one or two levels the become quite impressive, one-shotting bandits and shruging off cave bear blows. They gain levels quite fast, maybe too fast. Makes me wonder how fast Relias and his heroes level, as they get even more experience from questing (combat too?). There is quite a nice selection of traits that they can pick up when they level. Some are straight forward stat increases, but others offer some options for differentiation. Like path of the wizard, that gives (iirc) an intelligence bonus, a spell power bonus, and makes combat spells 25% cheaper. And each path leads to other traits at the next level.
Initially a few heroes died in combat, but as long as Carrodus survived, so did they. After combat was over they had only one hit point, but they heal quickly, in like two or three turns they're back to full health. I like this, you don't have to spend countless turns waiting for them to heal one hitpoint at a time.
I haven't used a lot of magic yet, so I can't say a lot about it yet. I like that when you increase a hero's magical abilty for one element, you also get a few spells to use with that ability. Other than that, nothing to report yet.
I've done a few quests now. One was a familiar one, escorting a noblewoman back to her fathers estate. Another one had me destroy a sand golem so I could bring back some off it's sand. A third one was about a bard that would play a song that could wake a dragon or something like that. Nothing seemed to happen. The last one I did was buying a treasure map for 20 gold. Moving to the treasure location I found a very nice set of armour, but I could only equip it at level 9.
Which brings me to items. I love the variety in items I've seen so far. Weapons do different types of damage and have different effects on your combat stats. Daggers don't do a lot of damage but give an initiative bonus, while hammers lower initiative but do more damage. There are a large variety of mounts, and I've seen some pretty sweet magical items. My only peeve is the level requirement for certain items (only seen it on armour so far). I get that you want to balance things by preventing level 1 heroes running around nearly invulnerable in powerful magic armour, but the level requirement seems just silly. If you don't want me to use it, don't give it to me, especially as a reward for such an easy quest. Almost makes me wish it was a plain set of armor, at least I could have used that.
Combat had been quite good so far. It's mostly been just my heroes against one opponent, or a small group. Combat is mostly quite quick, although at times it can slow down a bit. When two opponents with some armour and a lot of hit points face off, and each only does like 6 points of damage each turn, it can take a while before one is dead. But other than that, it's quite engaging and fun. It almost feels like I'm playing an RPG when I and my heroes face off against some bandits or a troll. I haven't had any battle's between real armies yet so I can't comment on how those would go.
The UI is ok for the most part. Two things that could be better:
1) When controlling an army it's very hard to tell which unit is selected, or if I'm controlling the whole army. I've had it happen quite a few times that after changing some hero's equipment and I wanted the party to move, only the hero I had last selected moved. This needs to be clearer.
2) You can't go straight from a hero's equipment page to the trading page. You could go straight to the trade page and use that to equip you hero, but why have an equipment page then?
This is the only part that is not very interesting. My starting position had 6 food and 2 materials, which means the city can grow quite big, but production will be slow. And it is, building an simple merchants post took 12 or 16 turns, and even after growing a few levels most buildings still took 10 turns to build, units maybe a few turns less. To be honest I even forgot that there was a city to take care half the time, and didn't really care the other half. I haven't seen everything yes obviously, but this part of the game needs to become more fun, and feel more important. Some notes:
1) The 'grain becoming food' mechanic is nice in theory, but in practice it just means that you have to spam as much of the '+x food per grain' buildings as possible. You've replaced Ewom's building of houses with this, and the difference is not very significant IMHO.
2) City growth is still the same as in Ewom, it only depends on prestige. You've given it an other name (growth), but that's the only difference.
3) More of an UI problem, but when the city levels up and you get to select a building to unlock, it would be very helpfull if you could see the details of the city in question. I can't tell if I want a building that reduces unrest, or one that produces research, if I can't tell which building would be more useful.
FE is a giant step in the right direction. The world, the heroes, combat, and items are all done quite well I think. It's too soon to tell for magic and questing. Sadly the city building part has some way to go I think, before it becomes interesting and fun.