I have played a very hard Mide campaign on both versions of the ancestral update and have some feedback for CA.
Comparing the two versions, this new update has greatly slowed down the overall steamroll and progress that I used to be able to do in both the release version and the first beta. In beta 1, I was able to quickly expand my Irish Kingdom without much worry about food, income, public order, character loyalty or enemy invasions. Within about 50 turns I had conquered much of Ireland through force, annexation and help from allies. Food and income were a non-issue relatively quickly once my economy was up and running and my characters were all loyal and not a concern for me much. Overall, beta one was a great improvement from the release version.
Beta 2 on the other hand has shaken up the campaign progress significantly. No longer an I steamrolling the map with my armies, with no concern about food, income, loyalty, rebellions or invasions. The first 30-40 turns were a slow struggle which i will detail out;
- Income was relatively difficult to improve, albeit over quite some time it did slowly go up with the right building improvements and good governors. I was struggling early on to maintain a fullstack plus a halfstack and also have enough left over to build. It usually took a few turns of stockpiling to build a building. The AI on the other hand appeared to be able to field 2 full stacks with ease.
- Food was always an issue, there was never enough of it to build buildings or train units. Most buildings require some food to build and I feel that the requirements are too steep. It effectively is asking you to swap 10 food for X amount of income or to forgo hiring a unit into your army and early on these are huge considerations. You need units to defend your lands and conquer new ones, which will improve your food and income, but you also need buildings to increase your income to support more units. This is a huge change to the formula and I think that perhaps the building food requirement should be 75% or 50% of what they are now. The I have not played into the late game to see how these changes will shape that phase, but when I loaded up older saves, where I had food surpluses at or above 1000, they were now negative by a few hundred. I think this needs to be changed or tweaked to bring the requirements down just a bit.
- Character loyalty was almost always low, the base loyalty appears to be 3 or 4 for all characters upon hiring, with traits, wives, difficulty level and low estates usually bringing the loyalty down to rebellion levels. This was a huge change from before where loyalty was not a concern, just equally distribute some estates and problem solved. It is a struggle to bring your character's loyalty up to 5 as so many factors are now working to bring it down. Throw in the fact the once one of your food settlements gets captured and your food slider goes into famine it brings with it public order issues and negative traits for your governors if you are unable to recapture the settlement.
- The AI actually invaded my lands and took settlements from me, surprising! Many times my plans were brought to a hold because I had to spend 10 turns chasing a rogue single unit army that would capture settlements, build units and then move on to the next, always just outside of my army movement range. While this was mildly annoying, it did slow down the steamroll enough to make you consider how to position your armies to block the AI from being able to do this while you were invading their lands.
- Legitimacy and the new Decrees system were not used at all by me in Beta 2, and I am on turn 78. Never was there a case where I had enough Legitimacy and coin to actually use the new mechanic. I don't think they are worth it in the early game as the cost is too high for the benefit, it is usually better to spend the money on building, unit upkeep and, with the new loyalty changes, it usually demands that you spend it on increases to character loyalty or you will have a secession on your hands. I liked how the system worked previously, as i was getting the Fair of Tailtiu every few turns and was able to afford it. The bonuses it provided were very nice to have for the campaign as they helped out with many of the public order problems. I was also able to use Legitimacy effectively to annex four factions very quickly in the early game, which catapulted me to dominating Ireland. In Beta 2, Legitimacy is something that I am not even thinking about as there is never enough of it available, I am unable to get enough of it in quantity and it decays much too quickly. I have yet to play around with this mechanic and I am assuming that it is the same for the other factions as well.
Overall, he updates have definitely changed the flow of the game, some aspects for the better and some not so much. It is now much more methodical, slowed down, challenging and must be planned out. I can no longer steamroll across the map without much concern about any of the points I mentioned above. While I generally like all of the new improvements I think that there needs to be some tweaks made. I think that food requirements for buildings are now too high, character loyalty is edging close to becoming difficult to maintain, Legitimacy was non-existent in my campaign and needs to be changed back to how it was before or reduce the natural decay, decrees are ignored as they are much too expensive for what they offer in the early game (they may be useful once your kingdom has good income and Legitimacy gain), Character loyalty needs to be addressed as it feels much too low now, the estates system can be a bit confusing at times when your characters desire more than the faction leader for no reason or get the "Jealous" loyalty reducing trait, from what appears to be handing them out from your kings holdings to your subjects; this one needs more clarification.
I like where the game is heading and applaud CA for taking the time and effort to polish this great game into something even better. Hoping the changes I mentioned help in that process.