I already gave a bit of a negative preliminary review
, and during the holidays I have finished the game; now I can give my final verdict. And a bit of analysis.
In short: I am still disappointed by the game. To put it into perspective: There are any number of other games I bought and deleted after trying them out an hour or two. So there is something in the game, but still: There are also some good attempts which failed nevertheless. And of course, having played some winterwolves and taleweaver games, I have been a bit spoiled and increasingly demanding.
And now to the details, and beware of the spoilers
The base issue is, in my opinion, that there were too many good ideas. The story of the shapeshifter twins is a good idea. The empires hunt for dark wizards is a good idea. The slaveholder city of dingirra is a great base for a story. Same for the intrigues between the four houses and the great mogul. Same for Shacklesplit. The list goes on and on.
However, there are too many ideas, and not enough cutting them. This hurts the game in a few ways:
Purely from a stroytelling perspective, I am never quite sure what this is about. First this, then it takes a sharp angle and becomes something different, and then again. And again.
Secondly, despite all you did not manage to develop all ideas fully. Especially the escape at the end of the second act was not really foreshadowed, it suddenly happens. There is the issue that some of the threads do not feel like they are really closed. Because there are so many of them, the closing of any of the stories is incomplete.
Or, as in the shapeshifter-thread, it comes a bit out of the blue: In the first act there are some hints, which are no longer followed up in the further acts, until in the final act they learn they are shapeshifters, have incredible powers (which would have been handy in the fights, BTW), and the wolf is a sibling. The resolution for a mostly forgotten issue comes too much out of the blue.
Finally, all the things you are trying to tell force the game to railroad the player. The story must be told, and all of the good ideas must be developed (which they were not really), and things must move in a certain way to accomplish it - and the player MUST be prevented from interfering with the storytelling.
Please compare planet stronghold to SOTW: Planet Stronghold is a nice little game. There is one story to be told (or two, if you count the different forks) and a bit of fluff - optional fluff - in the char sidequests. Note that the story - the idea for the story - is not especially sophisticated. But because - judging by the blog posts from the time - you had to finish it in a short time, you cut out everything which PS did not need. In SOTW you added too many of the ideas which came to you. The result: PS tells a story, provides an experience where everything fits together. SOTW, on the other hand, runs off in too many directions.
The above may seem a bit harsh, but as I said: The game is not so bad per se, only if compared to say PS or Loren...