- OOBs have been overhauled to a considerable degree - especially in the West and Far West. Players get more free units at the start, there are some new generals added to the game.
- Decisions have been added. It's a nice feature but for the most part flavour. Although it appears to offer some new strategic possibilities: in particular I like the option to devastate territory that I have to give up anyway and thus extracting the most before retreating my troops. However due to the limited number of times these decisions can be drawn, a scorched earth defence on a broad scale is impossible.
- Fleshed out Far Western theatre of war: In the first iteration of this game, the Far West was barely more than 2 off-map boxes. Now it has become a fully fleshed side-theatre. Granted it's ultimately inconsequential but it is an entertaining distraction. The same applies for Mexico and Canada - I didn't get a foreign intervention in my game - but I am pretty sure they are a lot more interesting now when you actually get to fight in more than a few off-map boxes.
- Battleplaner: nice feature and appreciated. I would like to see the treshold for it kicking in to be lowered, though. Early during my camapign I had a few engagements in Missouri that featured even forces of 200-300pw each. Later during the war such a battle is small fries but during the opening months these were the biggest engagements, I had. I believe that having balanced forces as well as commanders present on both sides, should be the decisive factors, not so much the size of the involved armies.
- The game is still pretty good. It draw me back in quickly and I enjoyed kicking Athena's old butt.
- Calritiy of the UI: The main menu definitively looks a lot more attractive. The in changes to the in-game user interface are a mixed blessing imho. There are even more sub-menus than ever before. As an old player it took about 5-10 rounds to get used to the changes but for new players this is increasingly becoming less and less accessible.
- The strength of this game lies in its incredible detail offering an unparalleled amount of historical accuracy. But somehow I feel sorry for players who want to learn this complex game without having prior experience with AGE games.
- The slow start of the 1861 campaign. This was always the case and it is historically correct. However it takes some enthousiasm to get through those first few boring months. For a new player this slow start with lot's of seemingly arbitrary limitations (inaccessible regions, disabled options, ...) can't be motivating. He has to take a lot of fundamental decisions and - tooltips nonwithstanding - will have little idea about their long term effects. Again this is a double-edged sword: it assures a simulation that represents history as well as possible but it comes at the cost of gameplay that - at least initially - lacks excitement. Luckily, there are smaller scenarios and tutorials (haven't looked at those but in the past, they were mediocre).
- On the whole, the amount of inovation seems somewhat underwhelming. The differences to AGEOD's first Civil War game are only in some details - huge amounts of data have just been copy-pasted - including large part of the OOB, events and the basic gameplay elements. Knowing what a small company AGEOD is, I can forgive what would really piss me off coming from a bigger developper. But like I said above: there are some nice new additions and the new game has been brought up to the latest standards of the AGE engine. Still the feeling of disappointment remains: I would have expected a bit more new content from a fully prized game.
- Graphic overhaul: Granted it is extensive and thourough. But this is obviously a question of presonal preference. For my part, I am not thrilled about this part of the game. Compared to the hand-drawn maps of the past, the new style seems outright ugly to me (and has ever since its first iteration in PoN -I understand that it is a lot cheaper and practical, though ...). On the other hand, there are some nice new unit graphics. Only the leader graphics don't please me. If I am not mistaken, they were produced by colouring old photographs. A lot of leaders look bloated/lifeless to me (Longstreet would be an example). I liked the old leader graphics better.
- Complexity is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. And although tooltips are plentiful and of good quality, the learning curve must be a nightmare for anybody but veteran players. With every new layer AGE games become less accessible to new players which firmly limits AGE games to the hardcore historical simulation fans. I introduced my older brother to RuS two years back and although he is a major history buff and enjoys complex strategy games, he gave up frustrated after two or three hours. Admittedly coming from Total War games, one of his biggest gripes was that the actual combat is removed from his control once the troops collide. But the complexity did just as much to make him lose interest fast.
- AI: Athena needs some steroids. After a two year hiatus, I was able to beat the crap out of her (I was almost ashamed of abusing an elderly lady). AI McDowell stumbled around like a drunkard in 1861 which enabled me to capture Alexandria early on, then I wiped out several smaller stacks until I finally managed to trick the main Union army into stumbling upon my well entrenched forces. I pressed my advantage and denied the Union any chance to recover in the East; this allowed me to capture Washington in January 1862. But my main issue is that the AI still makes completely idiotic moves on a regular basis. One example: during the late summer of 1861, it smashed 3 newly built and leaderless brigades + an observation balloon into my entrenched army that was just sitting still at Alexandria. Such senseless attacks used to be a staple of AGE AI, just like an incapability of handling supplies or plan ahead to build proper supply lines to support advances. All these old weaknesses still seem to be present.