[My background & prupose of writing] I consider myself a hardcore gamer and have been spending most of my free time gaming for the last ~20 years. Though my studies and job were primary, I mainly took my vacations around game releases. E.g. when I started playing Grim Dawn I soon took two weeks off and spent that mainly playing the game – and it was fantastic. I had this plan with FF as well, though I feel I got through the game with ~70 hours: I managed to get a fully developed city under vanquisher difficulty on arid peaks – and I lack the motivation to continue playing. I do understand this is early access, though I feel to make that 70 around 700, new high level considerations need to be introduced (which should be part of early access if they exist already). The below ideas can be mixed.
[Map & Scenarios] The basic idea is to have a series of sessions somehow connected. Unlike the traditional campaign format, which is usually linear, there could be different areas and layers, reflecting difficulty elements. E.g. some parts poses more raiders, but is rich with minerals. Each session has its own goal: number of inhabitants, hoarded amount of a given mineral, etc. The player then selects where they want to extend the Frontier. So if stuck and a bit bored with the highest challenges in the raiding area, can go on with dry & low fertility ones, then get back later. The narrative can be adjusted easily: instead of a small exodus of a few settlers, there can be few persons who lead their own group of people and try their luck in their respective areas. Maybe the player can select their chosen leader for each area who provide some personal advantages.
[Nations] Rome: Total War comes into my mind in which though the scheme of playing was the same for the nations, each had their own unique thing which made the game feel much broader. For example, in FF, a viking-like nation would work such that they are not that good in farming and herding but can build ships which helps fishing and can be used to create raid parties. The raid itself would not be micro-manageable, but the choice where to go is meaningful. Some other nation excells at trading and can „order things" or haggle with prices given they buy a larger amount. Crop types could also vary.
[Achievements] My impression is that there are many possibilities to get through the game. I just stuck with my own approach what to focus when (when to make the 1st crop fields and what to make there, when to start relying on work camps instead of labourers, etc.) and as it works I just don’t feel like changing that for my own entertainment. Though I know it might be benefitial. I think an achievement system can help with this to explore the game in depth.
[Story] A linear campaign, which is nothing more than a series of ever harder fixed maps, provides the player a chance to create a narrative by making choices between sessions. I understand that the narrative is at minimum as of now, but I think adding this element would make us feel engaged for a larger amount of time. Also, narrative approaches are very popular nowdays.
Hope you found the reading useful!