Straight to the point:
Once it was decided that WoM would not be MoM 2.0, the decision of a not a 4X turn based fantasy strategy game is what hocked me in.
While lots of people seem to be talking a lot about dynasties that was by no means what I expected to make WoM unique. In fact I was feed up from dynasties from paradox crusar kings....
The deadland setting and the ever hard choice to spend essence to revive it or share it with champions or hoard it fom your sov was the core of the game. It would prevent land grabbing and make every game play very different depending on the essence distribution. The moment th at mechanic was droped was the moment the original WoM died and became a generic 4x game.
I remember quite well the original tests involving essence and it being dropped. The idea was sound and great, just a little hard to balance and many people really wanted a 4x game more like MoM, instead of the original game that was conceived.
Brad's exemple of the lord of the rings opening scene Sauron vs Heroes and armies and he saying you could be playing either, it all depends on how you choose to use essence is what I expected.
That being said I would love to sees the non 4x idea back along with the essence mechanic, everything done right this time. BUT to actually make me spend any $ (I really would not pre-order anything this time, given the past dissapointment) the grand game that was promissed would have to come to light, not simple mod essence in the existing game.
As I am writing I remembered what was hinted/promised and that I missed the most when game was released:
-not a 4x
-essence mechanic back, balanced and working
-dead, dangerous and devastated world setting. the environment is your first and ever present enemy
-Facing dozens, even hundreds of very capable AI players (that was a huge one for me, instead of the few large empires that we have in MoM/Civ/etc, we would have many small ones, each one unique because of the way it was shaped by the spending of the AI). It was so long ago that I remember discussions if the game should be 32bits or 64bits (before even low end systens shipping with 64bits OS) to allow really huge maps and that many players. Even remember brad saying that he expected modders to provide variety, with an spore (it was a thing at the time) system like sharing the best/approved designs so we would no be facing the same factions over and over again.
-challenging AI players (the galciv way)
-dungeons (while I never cared for the first person version, or even expect that It would work with a strategy game), dungeons as a source of "goodies" requiring in game effort was another not a 4X great featur since it prevent "goodies hut"driven exploration
-in dept character building, not the min/max way, but with relevant choices. The idea was that you could have a administrator sov and still be competitive/powerful in his own way
-lots of magic making the difference (not necessarily raw destructive power) in gameplay (event what we have today in FE/LH is way less than a magic based game should have, if we cut to the ones that are useful we came really short on the magic front)
-terrain and environment control/alterations (again the hard choice on essence expenditure make one/few heavenly cities, grab as much land as toy can, or simple settle with whatever the random make gave you and use essence for other ends)
-huge army battles more galciv than MoM. I really don't remember when it was dropped in favor of traditional limited unit based tactical combat (I even don't remember if was among those crying for more unit control, but seeing the result, even in FE/LH it was a mistake)
-neutral cities/faction. the where supposed to do everything the players could, but without the magical aid of the sov. I remember that they where not supposed to be speed bumps or free cities but a relevant factor on gameplay when they where tested it was just a market/crappy city for conquering.
-Dynasties with gameplay influence. Obviously no sovereign will give away his empire just because you married his/her daughter, but I remember that the idea was that marring would give you claims to neutrals, bring them to your empire, influence enemy cities etc. It was supposed another way to victory, or at least a tool. And choosing to mix yourself would have a price also, like offspring rebelling, cities defecting, having to spend essence on several occasions, etc...
Unfortunately as the system was rolled out it was just a (weird) way to produce champions and/or boost diplomatic relations. Truth is a dynasty system doesn't play well in a world where the sovs/leaders/champions never die.... It could work with things like expiring/mortal champions (at least the non imbued ones), neutrals leaders passing away opening succession opportunities, and a lot of other ideas that are not the object of this thread and post.
I really don't know how much of the above ever got past the brainstorming phase (i've been lurking in the forums since the very beginning) and was intendend to be in WoM, but those are many of the features that I expect and that should be in for a true "directors cut" WoM. Else it will just be some stupid DCL (witch can be expected form other companies, but not stardock) and another major disappointment.