First off, kudos to Stardock on the beta. I rarely finish a game of a 4x, I usually get to where I'm steamrolling and get bored. For all I tested and tried WOM, I probably only completely finished 2 games, so already finishing one tells me something about the fun factor in Fallen Enchantress. Bugs are off in another support thread, focus here is hopefully on the game play.
Started off a new world, all standard settings other than bumping the world size up to medium. Kingdom of Tarth (I usually make custom sovs/ factions, but wanted to try out the stock factions). Total game length was 87 years (which is about 350 turns?).
I did immediately notice the difference visually from WOM in richness of the world. I didn't see it as much in the screenshots, but in person it is noticeable. Its still Elemental, but much richer visually.
Started off by a river, in what I would later discover was a bit of a peninsula with a small neck to the bulk of the other players. The neck was pretty treacherous with a bone ogre (strong enemy) wandering there, which I believe is what prevented any contact with the other factions for the early game. On the positive side I had a good number of champions and quests all about, and some weak monsters. Bad news is that otherwise there wasn't much else. One air shard and a couple irons fairly distant that I would later build outposts next to. I liked this. It forced some early strategic decisions (avoid magic use), and felt like there was a built in goal (kill the ogre to move on in the world) that just happened to occur. Made the world have flavor, even without hitting any wildlands nearby.
I set about gathering up a merry band of 5 companion champions, reinforced with spearmen early on, or a summoned dog or sand golem from quests, and each companion was set to a different trait path as best as I could. Its probably the area I noticed the biggest improvement from WOM- my champions felt infinitely more personalized and more what I imagined I wanted them to be. I made my leader (with her bow) incredibly quick with tons of + initiative and accuracy/ dex as she leveled. I started to be able to get 2 ranged strikes in with her before anyone else even moved. A merchant I used to boost my early economy, then eventually made her an assassin with some of the better drops I found/ acquired through questing. I also ended up making a 2 handed warrior, a defender, and a mage (just to have one going that route- he mostly used a battleaxe though, which I'm sure stained something awful). It was quite fun finding some rare drops, or killing off an enemy champion and grabbing their poison dagger. A purple phoenix shield was the pick of the lot, though that came later. By the time I was able to beat the bone ogre in the neck of the peninsula, my army of 5 was considered a strong army.
Then I hit everyone else. While I only had the single real stack, I quickly hit two kingdom factions. They had been building far more cities, and had a much larger industrial base, and a lot more magic than I did. Luckily, they were ill prepared for my stack of heros passing through the ogre (now with his maul held by one champion, doing ungodly amounts of damage). I normally am a more turtle oriented player, and would have liked to explore, but I needed to expand fast or get left far behind. I declared war on Magnar, then realized belatedly it was Krax that was closest to me, and declared war on them too, trusting a good army of normal troops could hold the neck if needed. Again, a good point - I never really had a WOM map that made bottlenecking an issue one way or another -- more from enemy placement than actual physical layout. The npc "held" the neck long enough to make the terrain a strategic issue.
My band of champions waded through their enemies like wheat falling before the a scythe (or a very large sword that I nicked form a fallen champion). I discovered that part of the reason why the Magnar in particular were having an issue fielding an army to face me was that they built very close to a land of evil even worse than their own, and had huge armies of deadly foes that occasionally wandered into their lands to meddle with them. By this time in WOM I'd likely feel that I had won, and was steamrolling, and thus lose interest. I was taking some militia defended cities pretty quickly, and with the new resources starting to equip horses and full armor sets for my champions. But the sight of much more powerful enemies, and the promise of a few more factions I hadn't even found intrigued me. Plus I rather liked my leader of Tarth and her merry band.
The Magnar city on the edge of the land of many evils was a diamond I couldn't refuse to take, but it was a mixed prize. A former capital full of economy boosting goodness, but likewise I was now on the forefront of that battle, and when armies of 500+ HP monsters walked by the city, I imagine everyone cowered. I held my large band of heros there, having to call a halt to the wars, unsure if the change in ownership of the city would lead to the monsters spilling out and ravaging the land, or if they would stay near their own territory.
I had been saving my mana, rarely casting a spell, and my mage champion finally had his day. Waiting for the deadly 550+ HP stack to wander into my territory, my fire/earth mage sprung his trap. Two pillars of fire cast (apparently the max for one turn), root the enemy with his earth spells so they didn't escape back into their lands, cast pillar of fire more, and more, keep rooting them there on the world map until they were at half health, and the full game's worth of stockpiled mana was nearly spent. A frenzied rally from the city for a tactical battle, and the stack was defeated. Too bad there were other sracks just as bad further inside, but they didn't come out in my direction. A quick run through the lands to pick up a few piles of metal and artifacts, and my own heros were by now considered a deadly stack. Again, kudos. I never had to use that sort of tactic in WOM, and it proved to me that a stockpiled mana bar was a bit of a nuke in my pocket.
With the worst out of the way, I took on my other empire foes, moving slowly through them, reinforcing cities, and making a few more custom stacks of very powerful normal troops with all my bounty of resources. I captured a few more mana shards as I wiped out the kingdom players, and discovered other threatening areas like the shroud. I was still having fun though, since I genuinely liked my champions and the quests they'd continue to find, some of those battles tougher than anything I'd face from the other factions . .and realistically I could have just blitzed the other factions faster if I hadn't gone on the quests. But I enjoyed showing off my flashy armor, and dancing boots, and OP axe of 12 maul attacks in a row. When the last of the kingdom players fell, I decided that the world had enough war and suffering, and in a benelovant mood, I befriended the remaining two factions that were about 1/3 rd of my strength, and finished a diplomatic victory after allying with them both. They were happy to do so.
Anyways, a longish story, but hopefully gives a bit to think about for those not yet in Beta, and some thoughts for the devs on what I found most interesting and/ or epic. I look forwards to when there's even more of various things, more traits to give, more loot, more balance, more AI, more polish. But even now I think its good. To me, probably not a 90 metacritic at its current state, but in the 80s, and has the potential for more.
The only bit I didn't find really improved from WOM 1.4 was the cities. Still felt too spammy and just build everything econ wise rather than specialize. I know its an area that ideas were requested on, so will give a few some other time once I've seen more of that tech tree. But perhaps more outpost benefit over cities, and more buildings that change things you can do, especially early on, rather than +flat material/ food/ +% bonus, then condensing those and making them take longer to build.
Overall though, had fun, lost some sleep. Finished the game, which as I said when I started, rarely happens to me in a 4x. Good times.