Alright, time for a playtest review from my side! After playing the latest version for a good five hours on stream, here's my impression on the most impactful changes:
-I'm really a big fan of retaining the hijacker's identity. In his current iteration, he seems to be a great addition to the Soviet roster - maybe even a little too good. His stun weapon allows him to freeze any unsuspecting vehicles, mostly harvesters. Now that his actual game mechanics work like they're supposed to, it might be time to tone down his crazy speed - keep in mind that it was buffed to 72 in order to compensate for his buggy behaviour, so right now it's impossible for vehicles to escape his clutches even if you spot him and immediately pull your vehicles back.
-On a related note, I have been playing around with an idea that might make for fun tank heists: Now that the thief can enter refineries, how about making him able to enter war factories as well, stealing the first vehicle that comes out? That would cement his role as a counterpart to the Allied spy with his plethora of different gameplay options. This would further tie in to faction balance:
Up against Soviets? Better make sure to protect your ore fields and war factories with spotter rifles, or hijackers will take what's rightfully theirs!
Up against Allies? You better destroy any husks after a battle, or mechanics will salvage what's left and patch it back up into a standing army!
Imo a fair way to balance out the Sov's lack of husk salvage.
(Also, the WF heist could backfire horribly if your opponent notices and cancels the current vehicle for a supply truck to get a full refund
-One last point pertaining to the hijacker: Personally, I'd vote for a streamlining of stealth mechanics. Us veterans know how to work our way around five different stealth traits, but the burden of knowledge is too high for newcomers if you ask me. Right now, we do have:
Submarine stealth, Mine stealth, Hijacker stealth, regular stealth and spy disguise (technically not a stealth trait, but similar in that it can be revealed by certain detector units). The unintuitive part about this is its inconsistency: All infantry reveal hijacker stealth, but only spies and dogs reveal regular stealth. I'd say we axe hijacker stealth and give him regular cloak when he's standing still - maybe even reworking the stealth system altogether in a future playtest. He's got a cape after all, can't detect that level of coolness with thermo vision.
-The engineer changes: I understand that this was a necessary step towards coming closer to the behaviour of the originals, but I'd make it an opt-in for competitive games. The old engineers provided you with a great little escort-mission minigame that could yield amazing results when you managed to keep your VIP engineer alive. Right now, it feels like most of the skill of getting well-timed engineer snipes is gone since they're not on the field for a long time; as a result, the earlygame has become a lot less exciting. I'm not a big fan of increasing the cash rebait upon derrick capture or decreasing capture time either; all it does is exacerbate the problem of lowered skill ceiling and more stagnant earlygames.
-Dog behaviour: Amazing stuff, even the running animation has made it in! That might open up the viability of a slightly earlier refinery for Sovs with 2-3 dogs out for early safety, and the pac-man dog leap is gone too.
-Aircraft behaviour: There have definitely been some regressions (notably the attack move on frozen actors being broken for helicopters - this should be an easy fix, as explained by pchote in stream chat). Shift-queuing attack orders with aircraft has become more finnicky, and they no longer chase targets into the FoW - not sure whether that's an intentional change or a regression.
-Changes to actors frozen under fog: The elephant in the room. I appreciate that using artilleries and V2s got a lot harder, but I think it needs to be followed up by a fix/workaround to the bug I demonstrated on stream where a fire command on targets that you lose line of sight on turns into a move command. This makes the V2/Yak combo almost impossible to use right now: You want to scout your opponent's army with your Yak and give your V2s a fire order, but any decent player will keep his army moving. So to prevent your Yak from being shot down, you move it away from the army, briefly losing LoS - which then prompts your V2s to go on a suicide mission even if you tried to forcefire the ground instead of a unit (!). This makes it impossible to lead shots on a scouted army and takes a lot of joy out of an otherwise amazingly fun playstyle. My workaround would be to make ctrl+fire moves target a specific cell instead of a unit, and I can't see any scenario in which you'd want to target an unit instead (if you want kill your own stuff, targetting the cell they occupy will still get the job done).
-Mechanic changes: Good for teamgames, keeps the best of both worlds by still allowing you to acquire double tech in 1v1s (keep in mind Soviets just got a massively increased chance to acquire double tech as well with the hijacker buff! Ask Netnazgul who stole my MCV live on stream
All in all a really good playtest, I'm hyped for the release when most of the kinks will be ironed out!