So, I saw Hegemony Rome and decided to go try the previous title first. Here is my feedback. You devs said you wanted it. This isn't a rant, just letting you know what I would tell my lunch buddy when we talk about new games. Hopefully you can consider things to incorporate into Rome as its progressing.
) Troop management is a bitch
Troops have home cities, when they are defeated they return to their home city. Even if it is clear across the map. So if you have your NW army hotkeyed as 2, you have to hit 2, select one guy, double click him, then right click, shift right click, shift right click, all the way across the map. You then have to repeat this for every unit in your hotkeyed group in order to get them back together again.... Meanwhile you are being raided on 5 fronts, so you lose a city or two and have to group armies to go get those back. It wouldn't be terrible if I could just hit 2 and then click on the map where they need to group. Additionally, troops sometimes get stuck and you have to go hunt them down and help them find their way.
Also, sometimes you can bring up the assets list, double click a unit and the map zooms all the way out, translates over, then zooms in to a location other than where the unit actually is.
Another problem is units in cities are represented by circular stacks at the bottom of the city, but a city will have stacks for any unit, including slaves, workers, and sheep. So, when you go looking for a nearby hopalite unit. These graphics representations aren't going to help you. You'll have to rely on the asset list of 20+ hopalites and hope you memorized city names and their locations to find one close by. You might also have to rely on memorizing where your hotkeyed groups are and "borrow" one for awhile.
Suggestions for improvement:
1 Fix Pathfinding
2 I know them returning to home and not being able to home out of other faction's cities is part of what makes losing a battle a punishment for the player and an attempt at increasing difficulty for the player, but there is a huge difference between challenge and annoyance. I'd personally let troops "station" for where they return to and "home" for where they draw recruits from. The AI will have to be increased in its decision making to make up for what we just made easier for the player to keep difficulty up.
3) Do not zoom the map out, just move the camera very quickly to the units correct location. Even though the map is pretty, we don't want to see it 20 times in a row as we are organizing armies.
4) Come up with some way to graphically represent different unit types in a city. Colors, stripes, Checkbox map filter options...something! I want to quickly look at 6 neighboring cities on the map and know right away, oh i have a hopalite there, let's get him here.
5) Show which units belong to which hotkeyed group on the asset list. Maybe another column.
6) Possibly allow us to rename units
7) Possibly implement a...what does the army call it...order battle something? A dialog that will let us name and represent an army, while naming and representing the units that belong to it. Maybe expandables like you did the faction names and hostility in diplomacy.
) There isn't enough room to fight, so while the game touts formations and battle tactics, in the end, it will be 2 of your best unit type against 2 of there best unit type because no more will fit! So, you are going to get beat down when it really didn't leave you any other choice and that gets frustrating. If you could run away without losing moral and dealing with troop managent issues this wouldn't be a huge deal, but even then I'd increase the fighting room on the map. Chokepoints are good, but there should be areas where I can get 5 or 6 units fighting at once, especailly around heavily fortified cities. A city with 2000 in walls in a pass where only one unit can fit, containing 5 units hopalites ins't a challenge, its annoying.
Suggestion: Increase fighting room, but keep historical chokepoints, while not letting them choke quite as much. Maybe some areas 1 unit may pass, others 2 and 3, and some areas wide open. Right now the map is boolean, 1 unit passes or you can fight with ~3
) You can't run away!
Part of strategy is knowing when to fight and when to flee. When I get caught by the AI, I am 100% guarenteed to lose moral on my entire army, because they have no choice but to be engaged. Unless, they happen to be a mounted unit and not engaged already. Once touched by an enemy unit, you cannot disengage at all without getting wiped. Then you are back to the dreaded troop management problems to reorganize.
Suggestion: Getting caught should be painful, so keep heavy losses, but make it possible to disengage without getting completely wiped. Also you might want to specifically add a "flee" button that makes the unit run away to his "stationed" city (if you take that suggestion. Also allow the AI to do the same and make it do so when heavily outnumbered. I haven't witnessed the AI flee without a moral and number wipe once it got touched, only before the touching. 60 infantry shouldn't be reduced to 3 with no moral when they turn away after 1 second of combat.
) Supply isn't as manageable as it could be.
This is one of the challenges to the player and adds depth to the game. We have to figure out how to feed our armies and I love that aspect. However, it isn't exactly easy to figure out how to fix your starving city in time before you lose it, because it isn't evident whom is supplying whom with how much unless you click on every surrounding city and down their lines to neighboring cities. Lots of click and scans.
Suggestion: I think it would be brilliant to graphically represent supply lines "upgrade level" on the map. This could either be done via thickness or 3D stacked lines. This would also add to our strategies when taking on an enemy and cutting his supply!
) Available nodes aren't visible. I wouldn't even say this is a problem, because you can mouseover, but I have a suggestion.
Suggestion: Possibly graphically represented on the map how many nodes a city, fort, or mine has. One way might be to just have a stub jutting out a tiny bit from the city but not going anywhere until it is connected. I am not sure how this would work out with cities that have like 12 and if the map would zoom in enough for it not to be messy, but its worth a shot.
) The game doesn't have much strategic depth. I employed braincells, but I had a lot to spare. I felt like I had to go through motions over and over rather than have to think and overcome. The latter is key to what gets me addicted to a game.
Suggestions: More unit variety, I heard there are buildings in Rome, that would be great. Ability to change the terrain i.e blaze a trail though the woods, entrench your units for oncoming calvary, dig waterways the enemy will have to engineer or be slowed over, etc. Leveling up didn't have many choices, more would be great.
) I didn't like that I couldn't level other factions units
This is another mechanic that seems to make the game more challenging for the player, but it leaves you scratching your head as to why. Are those foreigners just to dumb to learn from battle like my elite Macedonians? It doesn't make immersion sense.
Suggestion: Allow leveling of foreign unites, but make them more costly another way such as more gold, a higher ratio of men to draft, loses moral quicker, etc.
I think that's it for now. I'll edit later if I think of more.