So… actually going back on topic…
I mostly agree with what you say.
The game is best until somewhere mid-game.
A lot has to do with character progression and the flood of SPs.
I have to say at this point I actually prefer the previous system. Yes, yes the TFs were giving more Exps than combat and that was wrong, but the (soft) cap made for more interesting builds where you actually had to think about what skills and stats to invest in.
(As I have said a few times elsewhere I would like number of SPs given per mission to be inversely proportional to the number of missions, so that at first you get more SPs and then eventually much, much, much less, and 30 SPs per level instead of 20, to make recruits that go through TFs slightly better).
I prefer a faster, soft capped progression to a slower one, so that you can get powerful soldiers fairly quickly, but they are never too powerful and where soldiers are all different, built for different roles. Right now (playing on Legendary, mid February in game time, allied with all factions) all my veterans look very similar: all have 20 in speed, 12+ in WP and 20+ in STR and a lot of skills they don’t really need for their roles…
IMO, 300SPs is the sweet spot for a soft cap, just as it was in the previous system. After that SP acquisition should slow to a crawl (2-3 SPs per mission?) and if the players really want to improve their characters they should dip into the common SPs pool.
There is another thing about character progression that I have been thinking about and that’s the role that augmentations play in it. I think ideally they should be shortcuts to more powerful low level troops, which makes sense given that they appear around mid game.
Finally, I think there should be an option to recruit higher level recruits from havens, and raw recruits from bases, though I would make both options contingent on diplomacy (that is, raw recruits in small numbers would be available unless at war with the faction/haven and higher level recruits only if in good standing with the faction).
The point is to have different paths obtain the necessary human resources, so you could spend time with the TFs training raw recruits, “buy” experiencied troops taking advantage of good diplomatic relations, use augmentations to quickly turn raw recruits into better troops, or take them on missions to give them combat experience, probably alongside veteran troops (as I’m sure many players are doing now).
EDIT: As to geoscape, I wish that diplomacy & base/resource management were much closer integrated in a single system, either as I suggest here Diplomacy and base management overhaul proposal, or something else along those lines. It just seems a pity that all the things to make for a more engaging system are there (the havens with their districts, leaders, population, etc.) but it’s not really used for much.
For combat I’m really excited to see what will happen with the new Panda evolution/research…