1. Factions still don't really seem to be very diverse. Slightly different starting tech, plus a couple 10% bonuses or non-raidable caravans does not diversity make. Here is what you need:
- Many, many faction specific traits for units, tie these unit traits to faction wide traits so you maintain the ability to customize. For example, pick the "Powerful" (trait that makes the trog race unique) faction trait, get a bunch of unit specific traits like "brawler" or "heavy hitter" all focused around having really powerful but less numerous units. Continue along these same lines with faction traits such as "Slave lord" (Unit trait, "Slave master", each time an enemy is killed you get a chaff "thrall" unit.), "Defensive" (unit trait, "Castle Guard", unit gets +50% to HP, attack, and def when inside a city), etc. Ideally, you would have 5 or 6 good unit traits associated with each faction trait. I might spend some time of listing out exactly what I think these should be, but I think you get the idea.
- Faction specific buildings. Same as with unit traits, give us a bunch of faction specific buildings that are also associated with faction specific traits. Instead of just giving a starting tech have the other trait give a starting tech, but also give it a bunch of unique buildings and other bonus that are unlocked when researching down that same tech tree. "Adepts" start with shard harvesting, big deal. You're a few turns ahead on getting a shrine up but a few turns behind at getting an apiary up. Its a wash in the end. However, if "Adept" also granted you a bunch of unique bonuses as one went down the magic tech tree then the entire game is effected. You have a much greater incentive as Pariden to focus here and you're much more likely to get the intended magic heavy Paraiden faction. If the functionality isn't in yet to associate buildings or unit traits with faction specific traits then this is a must add. Even if you guys don't do anything as far as content, it will allow the modders to go crazy and come up with a bunch of awesome stuff.
- More wild creature alignments, probably the most awesome faction specific trait you have right now is "Serpents Pact". Give us more like this, allow "Adept" nations to recruit elementals out of their little lairs. Put in some more "good" creatures in the wild and allow the kingdoms to recruit them: centaurs, forest spirits, honorable giants, etc. And please oh please, let us equip these allies. Dragons and giants are cool, dragons and giants with armor are even more cool.
Don't worry about balance, go for creativity and then reign the balance back in at the other end.
2. Movement. This was a problem in elemental and still is. Basic mapmove of 2 is just waaaaaay too slow. Boost it up to at least four or five. It just seems a little silly that it literally takes your units years to travel between adjacent cities.
3. City development. This is still boring. Almost all of my cities end up with the exact same complement of buildings, basically, all of the improvements. I know you're working on this aspect but a few suggestions.
- Make buildings more costly. Make them take either more time to construct, have a metal/gildar cost in addition to a construction time cost, or much higher upkeep costs or all three. Basically make it a big decision to place a major public structure. Right now I pretty much just max out my building que when I'm not building units, and end up with all buildings in every city on most of my playthroughs.
- At the same time make them much more meaningful. So a barracks now cost 100 gildar to plop down, takes about 30 turns to construct for an level 2 or 3 city, and has an upkeep of 3-4 gildar per turn. However, it gives a 50% increase to unit production, and cranks out level 2 units. Now were talking. I'll still want a barracks, but I'll just want one in on or mabey two cities near the front lines. As its way to costly to put one everywhere.
4. Make building placement meaningful or get rid of it. Sort of tied in to 3. But slightly different. Right now its just used for cheese tactics like instant movement across sprawling cities or octo cities that grow until they encompass resources. A couple of suggestions:
- As cities expand to encompass more space then their resource yield is the average (or total) of the resource yeilds on the tiles they occupy and the surrounding tiles rather than just the one at the center. Is the food yield of your city really dependent on how fertile the land is underneath downtown?
-Adjacency bonus. Steeling this idea from someone else, but I think its a good one. Put a barracks next to a training center and their bonuses are improved, put the barracks next to the town center and the same thing occurs but has a slightly different effect. For instance put the barracks next to the training center and the accuracy bonus of the TC increases to 4 instead of 3. Put it next to the town center and you get a reduction in unrest of 5%.
5. Lower the requirements for many of the diplo options. Currently you have to get to a level five tech to trade horses and metal?!? Seriously? I need decades of research to tell me how to go "I'll give you this horse for 500 lbs of that raw steel." And you need a level 6 tech for technology treaties? Whats the point? You're at level 6 tech, the tech tree's almost complete and you give me a tech boost now? Silly. There should be techs required to open up some diplo options, but open them up early. Don't continue the EWOM cheese of hiding lots of gameplay functionality down the tech tree.
6. The world eventually gets boring. The world starts out really interesting with all sorts of cool champions, quests, and interesting locations just waiting for you to explore. However, about halfway through the game these are all gone. The champions have all been recruited by one side or killed by the other. The resource crates are all gone. All that's left are a few quests sprinkled waiting for you to unlock some techs. Make the world dynamic, have powerful monsters go on rampages through you kingdom, have new questions appear at random, have new resources discovered, make volcanos erupt and spew out a hoard of fire elementals or have a bunch of cave trolls spill out of a crack in the earth. Have new champions spawn throughout the game. This last one is probably the most important.
7. Terrain is still relativity meaningless. The grain and resource addition to city placement is cool. Now actually do something with it. Right now its interesting for about 5 minutes each game, when you hover your mouse over the "settle" button to find the spot with the highest yield near whatever resources you want to grab. It needs to be dramatically expanded upon or it will remain just an interesting side note within the game. A couple suggestions.
- Make city yield tied to an average (or total) or the squares around the city. See note above in #4 Making building placement interesting. Tie the yield of the city to the square the city is on but also to the squares surrounding the city. I.e. the farms, mines, logging etc. going on nearby. So if you snake you city out towards those high resource squares you get a good production city. If you snake towards high food you get high pop. This would make the building placement much more interesting and meaningful while also giving an ongoing reason to care about the land surrounding your cities.
- Include the system above and make terrain surrounding cities razable. Yes, you can sit inside you heavily defended city, but I can pillage the country side surrounding it. Have each pillage action reduce the materials or food yield of a tile by one. Perhaps make it recover gradually after a certain amount of time.
- Some sort of improvement system. Obviously the current system takes some of its inspiration from the civ serious, but right now its a pale imitation. I definitely want to avoid the improvement sprawl of civ, but it would be very interesting if you could build a few improvements outside cities but not directly on special resources. Thus more than just the tile you found your city on would matter. It would be important if you had an area with a number of high yield tiles or just one high yield tile surrounded by a bunch of wasteland.
- More variation. Make the spread between tiles more dramatic and make a much more decisive trade-off between materials and population. The yield on tiles in civ could vary by a huge amount. Grasslands yielded 2 food and 0 production. Hills yielded production but no food. Differences of 100%. In civ you had population mega centers on floodplains, but they would be near useless as production centers. Here we have nothing of the sort. I normally always find a 4,3 or 3,4 to found on. In the rarest of circumstances you might find a 6,2 or 2,5, but its rather boring otherwise.
- Have it very much more in relation to the terrain you actually see on the map. Food should be high in plains and grasslands, production high new mountains and forests. Sounds very civ like, but lets be honest, the system they have works very very well.
I'll think of more, and might spend some time fleshing these out. But this is a start.