I've started a few games of 0.86 FE and played one of them a moderate way through. I was very critical of WoM, both as released and the final version. However FE is a different beast. I think a lot of work is still needed on all aspects of the game (AI, GUI, resource mechanics, unit/item balance, tactical combat, etc) but all these aspects are already much better than WoM and I think it is fair to say that with a few more bug fixes FE could be released now and scrape in as a B grade game. What makes me most enthusiastic though is that Stardock seem willing to keep working on it to make it an A or A+ game and THAT is an exciting prospect.
So, here are my thoughts. Two big issues.
- BIG ISSUE: Economics. The economics of gold production are screwy. Sorry but they are. The penalty for having taxes is so high and the rewards for getting loot off monsters is also so high that there is no sensible choice but to set taxes to 0 for as long as possible. Reducing the value of loot might help but the tax slider is still going to feel so punishing everytime you take it off zero. This is because it appears to be linear so there is never a point where you won't benefit from dropping taxes lower. Contrast this with MoM where there was usually a point at about 1/3rd taxes where none of your cities had any unhappiness and decreasing taxes further wasn't necessary. Similarly in MoM increasing taxes one or two steps from that would gradually impact production a few cities at a time, while setting taxes very high would begin to really hurt. Unhappiness in each city could be affected by buildings and garrisoned troops. This provided tools for the player to manage unhappiness and provided a reward if the player managed it well (ie no happiness even when on mid-high tax levels). I just don't feel that with FE, I don't feel I have successfully managed my taxes unless I have them set to None.
- BIG ISSUE: I don't feel that I know what is going on with my cities as well as I should. Materials and production is fine, I like the way these work (although I haven't spent a great deal of time studying the numbers to make sure they match what I think they should be). However grain and food seem very abstract and while I try to increase them it is very unclear to me if they have any tangible return - is food only an upper limit on population, in which case it can be ignored for most of the game? How does prestige interact with growth bonuses to affect my population growth? Is food a factor in this at all?
Bugs and minor issues or thoughts:
- Creating sovereign wasn't obvious that Save also ended editing of the sovereign and no way of getting back to finish them.
- Create sovereign screen doesn't show you the special abilities of the factions you are picking between (nor does there appear to be a way of bringing up the faction screen for an existing faction).
- Why when making custom sovereign does picking head remove clothes and similarly picking clothes sometimes removes hair??? Ah, clothes with hood remove hair. This should be done better, it should remember what the hair was so it can put it back when you go back to clothes which don't have a hood. Not sure what can be done about the other direction problem (picking hair removes robes with hoods).
- Would be nice if new game had option to randomise opponents.
- Technology tree is good the way it lists the things unlocked under it BUT the popup hint doesn't have enough information, needs to show that hedge wall requires level 3 city, watermill requires a river, Apiary and Orchard can only be built on special things etc. I guess you can usually get to that info by clicking on the tech then clicking on the building in the bottom right but it seems to me that just one or two more lines to the hint would give you everything at once in the tech tree.
- In tactical combat one of my guys got Webbed. Could see the status effect webbed on him BUT didn't seem to be anyway of working out what it meant (ie how long it would last, the fact that the webbed creature could still act but not move, etc). Similarly with other status affects.
- Doesn't seem to be a way of getting a breakdown of where your mana is coming from. (Note: it is nice being able to see what it is being spent on)
- Doesn't seem to be a way of getting a breakdown of where your research is coming from either, Ledger showed 3.6 from capital but my total was 5.6?
- Cursor position in edit boxes has slightly too big a box between it and the last typed character. Makes one think there is an extra space but backspacing will delete last typed character.
- City building screen only has two lines for description of the building project, several of the building descriptions are too long and don't fit.
- Easy to move a unit unintentionally after moving one unit and it is scrolling to select the next.
- There is something odd with the cursor selecting squares. It is selecting as though all squares contain a moderately tall <something>. So the selection box for each square only actually starts half way up the square, until then you are selecting the square underneath. I can see this is possibly to help with selection squares which DO contain something tall but it is completely wrong on empty plains squares. This frequently causes me to misclick when giving directions. Pretty sure I would prefer it if the click box for each square was actually the diamond that made up the square even if that meant clicking on the top half of a tall building/monster would mean selecting the square above.
- It is still way to easy to leave a city not producing anything for multiple turns without realising. Needs to be an option to have a constant reminder at the start of each turn of any city not building.
- Hit enter in save screen after typing save name should save and close the save screen.
- Misclicking when trying to train and hitting the area under the Train button instead closes the train menu (and indeed the city menu). Annoying as it is several clicks to bring it up again.
- Escape should close popup windows (eg City Details).
- Could right clicking on a hero icon (or any unit) in the 3 x 3 window on the strategic map perhaps bring up the details for that hero? Currently have to left click on hero to select then click the hero portrait on the left.
- When finish researching a tech the technology screen should open on the page which shows that tech (often seems to open on the civics page even when just finished researching a magic tech?)
- The restriction on not building cities within 8 of each other seems reasonable (or at least I can understand why you have the restriction) but because it applies on diagonals it rules out an awful lot of land. How about making diagonals count as 1.5 so it was only 6 (rounded up) on diagonals?
- Attacked enemy with a hero, battle info screen cames up with option to cancel/auto resolve/battle but in the meantime the map underneath scrolled miles away to the next unit of mine with moves left.
- It took me a monent to work out that when an item which increases stats is selected on the Equip screen your heros stats adjust to show the effect of the item. I think this is a good thing but it isn't very obvious until you try selecting a different item. Some text explaining it or maybe making it happen on hover mouse over instead might make it more obvious.