I love the update. But some critical comments nonetheless:
1. The game also got considerably harder in the early stages. Lethality amongst my brothers is higher than ever. The new armor system + an AI that focus fires fairly well means that I suffer losses in engagements that I would have considered “easy mode” before this patch.
2. Early game balance might be off. With higher prices, your brothers tend to wear weaker equipment for much longer – which is good – but it also means that there are more enemy bands running around the map that a low-level mercenary band can not defeat. Result: you spend a lot more time running away!
3. The new stat system for backgrounds has made weaker backgrounds lose value. Under the old patch, I used to take chances on weaker backgrounds. If the stats proved unsatisfactory, that battlebrother got to suicide in battle or was simply fired as soon as I could afford a better replacement. I have found some pretty amazing talent that way.
Under the new patch, you will still hire a few cheap guys to get your company started but they tend to suck. Only the expensive backgrounds seem to give you real quality. In contrast, these backgrounds now give much better stats than ever before.
Simply put: I think you went a bit too far here as well. Weak backgrounds tend to be too bad now, while the elite backgrounds are so good anything else is simply not worth hiring … unless you are too poor.
4. I hope the next point on your to-do-list is a world map overhaul: A larger map with more locations (cities/villages/etc) but also other more exotic stuff (the hut of a heremit, an isolated abbey (perhaps offering some healers that could patch your band up?), a fair (a loaction where you get a really great market with good prices or even some exotic goods – however this location woulnd’t be permanent but only available for a week or so), the construction site of a big castle (you might be able to hire some stoneworkers there), broken down bridges, the ruin of an old city (perhaps with some rare treasure?), the forge of a mastersmith (rare weapons/armor available for sale against truely hefty prices)). There are countless possible locations that would make the world feel more varied and more alive.
5. Another long time issue: it would be nice to have more contracts available. Too often there are none available at all – but your mercs depend on contracts to keep the band running (especially early on). More choices would be nice as well.
Last but not least, a big compliment: This is an exceptionally well run early-access! Your small team does a fantastic job communicating with the people who bought your game: Frequent blog updates, Paul’s art corner, …
Keep up the great work!