I played on normal and found the game challenging especially the last battle.
The new art layout for the last battle looks sweet
The wizard tree is a lot better (I wished there was better mana generation)
Happy to not see my administrator when the mauling panther visited my front gates
Happy to see checkbox for autofinish overwhelming victories
Rival races quests and general feel are pretty good. They didn't settle any cities though.
The bad: non-bugs
There's got to be a way to setup a tactical battle so that my squishees aren't on the front line. I fought at least two battles where a pioneer or wimpy mage got splated because they in the front line at the start of battle. There really should be a tactical formation.
XP giveout feels really screwy. I'd kill one darkling and get 1-4 xp for tanis and company but then I'd kill the 600 exp juggernaut battle group and I'd get 1-2 xp. Suffice it to say that Iwas not motivated to kill anything but darklings.
There still is no easy way to know when a city is going to grow. I know it's located in the bottom left hand corner of the strategic map but it's small. Please add something a bar to the city on the strategic map or in the tooltip under food in city view.
I'm not going to exaggerate on this next point, at a certain point in the game where building towers, defense and getting around by tower road is almost imperative, I'm ready to give up the game. I absolutely hate having to spam pioneers. It's dreadfully unfun. First, there is no build queue; so, every turn you have to double click on the city and add another pioneer. There is no easy way to add another pioneer or queue up one. Sure one or two times is ok but I'm talking about doing this for 10 turns in a row because the road spell is still too expensive and towers are the best defense midgame. If you could upgrade by clicking on the tower and sending it to the production queue of the closest city then that would be awesome. This is an absolutely fun-breaking design issue for me.
I know this is supposed to change but watching my backline mage get wasted by an archer 10 squares away with Tanis standing right next to the enemy archer is the height of absurdity. A person in front of another person should provide cover or standing behind a rock.
The ugly: seem like bugs to me
Enemy units especially darklings like to roost in my towers and prevent me from upgrading my towers.
The panther maul is still too powerful and is still basically an instant kill for any early unit and sometimes even later units. I never played out my battles after one of my tough soldiers got mauled. Auto-resolve is always the best option with them.
Scout was continually getting attacked. I stopped making them after I lost a few.
I played on normal, arena, plentiful shards and slow doom and SK never did his normally dialogue tree where he'd try to convince me to give some energy for troops or dialogue to be my friend. The first he talked to me is when I had 5 shards and then when I destroyed a city. He really got excited with the Tower of Mastery; otherwise, no dialogue and I've played each edition since alpha.
SK settled every single available buildable settlement spot by like turn 50. I thought SK didn't settle as many towns as quick. It made for tougher game because you don't want to destory his cities due to threat and his cities were everywhere.
So to build leather armor early on as Galor required metal and hide. Not sure why metal is required. Seemed like a bug.
Overall I had a lot of fun with this patch. The art looks great and I enjoy the races more. It's that pioneer/tower issue that seriously bugs me. It's bad enough for me that if it stays the same then I'd have to consider just not playing the game. It's that unfun for me. I can't be the only person that this bothers. Otherwise, I was having a good time with the game.