The progression really kills my vibe for sure. Early game is nice, it's fun doing some quests/tournaments/struggling a bit in fights (if you handicap yourself in some ways at least). The small party really fits my playstyle and it feels like every soldier counts.
Comparing it to late game, where there's 0 need to do quests and tournaments, you don't really struggle anymore in any sense (economically or battles), you don't really care about your soldiers that much, as winning battles is really the only thing left to do in the game. The lack of variety then makes you bored and impatient, and now you just F1 + F3 your troops in to just get over these repetitive encounters on the battlefield. Or you find a superficial goal like trying to raise your medicine skill so you suicide your units, until you realize it was not worth the effort. All this happens because of not enough things to do in the game. Where is some spouse relationship development? Just pay a cow and get a wife. Player hideout, bandit lords? None. I want to interact with some fief-less "lords" and join them to conquer the world as a bandit from 0.
There simply needs to be more things to do, as the game is just empty late in the game. Mid game also! We needed to have our own upgradeable hideout, for it to be a time and money sink, we need more reasons to get castles... For me there is absolutely 0 reason to take a castle. In the beginning it feels like an accomplishment, so you struggle to get your first castle. But then what is left? To defend it and attack another castle... that's all. Why even care to upgrade it? It doesn't belong to you. An enemy can take it right back. No attachment to castles at all. If I had my own little hideout to upgrade and care for, that would feel like a home. Castles and towns feel like nothing. This whole point of conquering the map seems like a really boring concept. And I don't know why. Games like Rome Total War were fun, because they're more strategy focused. I can't put my finger on it but something is truly lacking... the casual nature of the game must be making it so. Even the "hardest" difficulty makes it impossible to get a challenge late game, as all you really need is a bigger party to defeat even the "hardiest" of lords...
So to recap, what I need:
1) more things to do
2) more variety in battles etc, lords need obviously different/flavorful tactics and personalities that really shine. Relationship development with family/spouse. Hideout, bandit lords. Let me have a bandit family and have them live in a hideout! Make it a roguery perk to make it possible to make your own bandit hideout, pls!
3 Also challenge. Please give me a difficulty setting that actually gives the AI an advantage in battle (reduced damage dealt to enemies). It's obvious by now that the player will always outsmart the AI and it will never be challenging. If you put this option + make the AI not recruit a full party in a couple of days (more consequences for AI losing battles), I think you'd have a great game... Impactful/meaningful battles + struggle to win battles, that's what I personally need.