This beta is once again better. I have played one full game, and one half game.
Feedback on changes in this beta:
- A regression in how monsters guard their loot: they sometimes wander off their loot if you move next to them. This lets you steal loot. I don't find this mechanic fun at all.
- The TacAI which moves badly wounded units back is a lot of fun. However, the AI still moves low defense - fast movement units in first, which can cause 1 vs many situations, and the weak unit is usually easy to hurt. I guess it will be hard to decide when to rush in, when to move in in "good formation".
- The game seems to have more heroes to recruit. +1.
- The new game start screens. +1
- The changed rush mechanic: +INF.
- In general, the game is again a lot better.
Currently, my two biggest problems with the game are:
- Loot. There isn't good balance in how hard something is to achieve, and the reward of doing it. You sometimes get powerful items from weakly/non-guarded loot, and then you get +1 attack ring from a dragon. IMO there needs to be much stronger correlation between the work done and reward. Hopefully just an XML-tagging issue.
- Monsters. Most of them are easy enough to kill in the early game. However, those which are not can end the game in ways where you can't do anything. Currently, if a drake is somehow set loose in the early game, you are fubared. There is often nothing you can do to prevent the "set loose" part, and nothing you can do to stop the drake from attacking. In the early game drakes are unstoppable by anything else than extreme magic. Overpower is IMO overpowered, it means normal units are totally useless. If this is fixed by making the monsters less aggressive, then you don't need to actually conquer the chaotic surroundings, which isn't fun either.
It is probably too late for this, but mini-wildlands seem like a perfect solution. A 3x3-5x5 area guarded by a dragon/drake/demon (maybe normal weakling units, too). There is something interesting in there: resources, good city spot, treasures (real treasures, no wooden shields). If you go there, you _will_ get killed. If you don't go there, the mini-wildland might sometimes spawn weakish units. Otherwise if you leave it alone, it will leave you alone. There might be events that change how a particular wildland behaves. Even then, you will get a warning in advance that something is going to happen so that there are no "dice rolled, you die" events.
A small nitpick: Could you add some more info to the lefthand units panel for automovement? A green "A" char in upper corner if the unit has auto-movement, a yellow one if the unit has auto-movement, but is going to achieve its goal this turn. (Or, alternatively make it a number telling how many turns left). There is a problem because you have to check each turn for "is the pioneer 2 tiles away from goal". If yes, you want to move the pioneer by hand so you can settle this turn, not next turn.
And, last but not least: "buildable" resources right-hand icon: works like the "monsters in you ZoC" icon. Click it, and it will go through resources you can build on or upgrade. Seems like easy to implement, and would improve the game a lot.
In total, if the game was released as is I would recommend buying it. I do think it could be better by forcing you to really conquer the world. But it is good already.