I am gonna preface this message and state that I understand some of what I have to say here is not going to be popular. I have debated writing this because generally when you are dealing with people who pay a premium for alpha you have a rabid following of a game and its tough to give criticism, warranted or not without it turning into an echo chamber of people reassuring themselves that everything is fine and the OP doesn't know what they are talking about. That being said, I am gonna do my best to keep it constructive and go from there.
What it comes down to for me is this game is not fun. At all. I have more hours than I care to admit in UG:CW and Gettysburg and as soon as I saw this game was in the works I Had to have it. I loved the concept, I loved the ideas and I love this time period. I came into this excited because based on previous encounters with these dev's I found that they made quality games and I found them to be quite engaging. Not so with this one. I will try to explain why I am so down on things on a point by point basis. Some may agree, many may not, but at the end of the day I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't at least try to give feedback to a studio I respect to keep them from falling into pitfalls. Based upon my experience it only takes one dud of a game to lose many people that you worked so hard to build a following with.
That being said, here we go.
1) Linear and forced path:
I came into this game hoping like crazy that we would have more of an open world experience and less of a scripted arbitrary timeline that we had to follow. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I absolutely hate the artificially imposed timelines that we have on when we do what activities. Why did you go down this road? A recurring theme you will hear me preach throughout this review is to let the players play how they want to play. I cannot for the life of me understand why I have a limited number of time advances. Let me play through the content at my pace. Let me go do all the side missions. I am a completionist and I hate leaving things undone. The way the game is currently structured I don't have enough ships or time to do what I want to do.
The excuse I have heard when I have brought this up previously is "balance" or you will become too strong if they didn't force you to move forward... So what? I get in UG:CW why they had to keep you going at a certain pace. That made sense. This game does not.
2) Sailing / Ship Battles are annoying
I Will preface this before people jump all over me and say I understand why the wind has to play a factor. It historically accurate, and generally the single biggest deciding factor of RL naval engagements of the era. That being said, whats realistic doesn't always translate to "Fun" and that after all, is what we are trying to achieve, right? Some I am sure, find the wind to be fun, but I personally think its implemented wrong. IT also causes a bunch of issues that make no sense to me. I don't understand why with the wind at my back, my cannons lose range. (see attached picture) I am sure there is some reason for it, but I can't figure it out. Doesn't make sense to me how I can shoot into the wind and have my shot go further than with the wind at my back.
This sort of piggybacks on the previous but I absolutely hate how much micro has to be done to play this game effectively. I enjoyed how with UG:CW we could set our troops, and check on them here in there but could focus on other things and keep the overall strategy in play without having to click like a competitive starcraft player in order to be effective. I don't want to control a massive fleet because every additional ship you give me to control creates that much more micro to do and the AI from my experience is horrid at controlling my ships.
4) Surrender - I appreciate that on land battles I can kill my prisoners. I hate on sea battles how I am in situations where a ship surrenders, I don't have enough sailors to crew both ships effectively so I basically have to leave a ship sitting next to the surrendered ship or they will magically rally and rejoin the battle. If a ship strikes its colors on a sea battle, they should be out for the entirety of the battle unless an enemy ships comes along and boards it or sinks it. Almost every fight I feel like I am outgunned, I certainly dont have time to leave ships babysitting other ships so they wont rally and stab me in the back.
5) Land Battles - Right now I don't enjoy them either. I cant quite put my finger on it either. Cannons feel OP so far from what I can tell. Charge damage doesn't take them out fast enough and rifle volleys don't rattle them and cause them to waiver. The rifle damage seems very underwhelming so far in this game. The AI also seems far more intelligent from my experience and loves to participate in guerilla warfare.
6) National Flavor - Would have been fun if the ships had a bit more distinct flavor based upon the historical values of the ships. If you read 6 frigates you would know that the american frigates were built like brick shithouses and were far superior to the enemy frigates but they could not contend with the ship of the line. British obviously had a more experienced officer corp so it would make sense to have them get a national XP bonus to officers and troop training.
7) Upscaling - In my experience the AI always gets better ships / more ships than you. If I bring a 6th rate, they bring a 5th rate. Again, just my experience. I understand that there are some loop holes and you can capture a few ships early on that will give you a huge advantage, but its very annoying to feel by in large that no matter how well you play, that the AI is always going to be better than you. I get it, the canned excuse, its needed for balance, I don't agree however. Some battles you should be stronger, some you should be worse, The battles should be the battles without the AI shuffling ships to ensure that your at a constant disadvantage.
I understand that much of this is personal opinion and many of you will not agree with me. I hope the devs have some time to consider feedback and give options to us as players to customize the game on how we want to play it rather than how you think we should play it. My fear is the game in its current form is going to be so niche that its going to only appeal to a small section of people and even those like myself, some are going to say "Yuck, not for me." If I had the ability to I would refund this game. I personally buy my games almost exclusively based on feedback ratings from players on steam. Anyhow, apologies in advance for any offense to anyone, its not my intention.