There is a lot of merit and potential as far as how the upgrade system can go, with even triple A games having no degree of talent when it comes to making all stats count or by making each skill serve more than just one stat alone; but along with the simplistic spells and skills counterparts comes this lackluster basebuilding, detached character building or "disregard for actual role playing", and boring attack animations.
Now to break that down individually.
Let's begin by pointing out the prominent "base building" aspect, and reduce this to what it really stands for: counterproductive padding and a bizarre form of Ad - Revenue. Why do I regard this with such disdain? Because this sort of "game play" should have died with MySpace where it was utilized to massive effect and then built this crap genre of "cow clickers". In my fun, single player, "role playing game" I don't want this sort of nonsensical padding, particularly since it is completely integral to progressing through the main game. The RPG part kind of just acts as a sort of murky reward that is unfulfilling due to the sluggish animations and sort of "obvious" capabilities of heroes, which we should get to the actual skills, attributes, and combat to discuss what is done right and what, the combat, is done wrong.
Now at first I had issues with the attributes you can upgrade, but as I played more and more and read through the abilities list I realized that the abilities within the list actually are encourage a wide variety of playstyles, including straight up "jack-of-all-trades". Things like increased strength on the first hit or increased crit on first hit, protection cast as a starting passive, encourage players to not feel entirely trapped on a single route of decisions, and although abilities do feel recommended towards particular playstyles with characters, it does provide a great deal of leverage while leveling up your heroes. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. But where these great decisions fall apart is in the combat itself. It is no surprise that the most common way to dispatch an enemy in most turn-based games is by using as much aoe as possible, so at the end of the day the real choice for optimization in this game is simply to increase mana up as much as possible to both increase damage, and make it so you can spam aoe effects with the characters over and over and over. To say the least, combat in this game feels repetitive and underwhelming because although there are interesting skills, the player roles are all much more easily filled with aoe and sniper abilities to effectively progress and win fights. This greatly reduces the importance or usefulness of the other abilities. And I must say that in the end this makes the seemingly important amount of variety all that less useful or various. But while abilities do have some reflection of the character you are playing, there are some that feel too similar to one another or are wasted opportunities. There are abilities that simply raise stats, and those abilities feel the least genuine in terms of a good roleplaying experience and provide very little in terms of entertainment or being useful. We may like rpg's to involve numbers, but we also don't like it if special perks or abilities are wasted on increasing strength more or your crit chance as a generic passive boost. The latest Fallout games have been criticized for this time and time again, but Obsidian, Black Isle, they really understood those roots as being avid fans of GURPS, which is a system tailored for a brilliant and unique RPG experience every time you make a character due to the fact that it's perks, quirks, advantages, and disadvantages all have unique changes that they provide to the way you play and also give you just that little edge in terms of defining who you are in the world you choose to play in.
Lastly is my most important criticism and that is calling this game an RPG. RPG is a very generous term these days, used to express pretty much any game where you play a hero with hair wielding a whatever and fighting a whatever while also utilizing numbers for skills and leveling up after killing enough baddies or exploring enough places. This is not what an RPG should be. When you play an RPG you should feel like you are playing a character, that you are taking their identity on as your own and this identity should feel like a tailored experience where you can express yourself through decisions while still maintaining the rules and guidelines of the character you play. Obviously I can provide good examples of this such as playing Geralt in The Witcher, who is always Geralt and we know we must still play him, but we still get to enjoy that extent of custom choices and armoury. This game lets the cow clicking kind of take hold of the main events instead of the characters aside from the brief dialogue before the beginning of new fights. So much so is the base-building more integral than the part of feeling like we are playing actual characters, that even the stupid cannons have to be shot out of the sky as sort of a result of enhancing our airship back home before properly dealing with the future.
Base building hinders the actual role playing aspects that could be there, which are only representative of the combat you can get yourself involved in. The tedious nature of padding through the wastes the world's most valuable resource, time, and gives way for excuse to acquire Ad - Revenue in an oblique, and yet bizarrely misplaced way. (Though the revenue is forgiving, programmers got to eat too and as of yet this isn't a nuisance for me.) Skills and abilities provide a casual sort of "choose your build" experience for each party member, which is nice, but is intruded upon by the simple combat that usually asks for damage as a primary solution above all else, in other words: The trappings of every potentially good video game. Curse you dependency on damage!!!
Because of all this I give the game a score of 1.5. I do believe greatly in subtracting the importance of my score from this because this arbitrary number has little definition involved in it, and has a very abstract concept. The problems in this game are easy to show and announce, but the real reason this "score" is so low is because I'm not easily impressed by turn-based games these days. They really need something unique to show and a strong grasp of how to keep turn-based combat interesting by understanding the principles and nuances of experienced turn-based games of old. This, in my opinion, does not show a strong relation to those nuances.