They're on patch 184.108.40.206 now, and it's pretty stable. I'm about 1/5 way through the game, and it has only crashed once (probably my computer's own memory problem), got a character stuck in a weird part of the map once, and done something weird in a battle once (i.e., it lets you attack a boss that's behind a bunch of minor enemies after a certain point in the battle; nothing big).
I haven't played FS3 so I can't compare, but here are some of the features that I think are improvements from FS2 anyway:
- Multiple autosaves (1 min ago, 5 min ago, 10 min ago, and right after the last major event). It's great for those times when you're so immersed in the story that you forget (or don't want to) go save.
- From the main menu, you can access the "Treasure Box", which documents all the events/movies/stills you've triggered, as well as all weapons and enemies found (plus their detailed information). So if you want to watch a movie again or make a screenshot from a still, you can go directly to that instead of having to find the last saved game.
- Simplified weapon upgrade system: No more visiting strange worlds to get your items upgraded! In the regular in-game menu, there is a function for you to "crush" existing items into "magic sand", and to combine the "magic sand" with another item to create special items.
- Streamlined item/gear system. When you buy a new piece of equipment from the store, you get the option of equipping it directly. This automatically transfers gems equipped on your old gear onto the new one. This little feature actually saves a lot of time.
- Skills are presented in a tree system. You can see which skills your character can learn, and which skills are prerequisite to others. (Avoids those dead-end, useless skills in FS2.) You get one skill point per level, and each skill upgrade requires just one point.
- Character "development": Just like FS2's pets can develop into either fairies or demons depending on which skills you develop, the main characters in FS4 can also develop along 2 different paths.
- I forget whether characters "die" or not in battles in FS2. But here, if someone's HP reaches 0 in battle, they simply withdraw from battle and don't get experience points. After the battle, they have 1 HP (no need to waste revival items).
New features that are "chicken tendons":
- UJ keeps touting the colour customizing option. You get to design the background and frame colours of the in-game menus (pick your own RGB combination). Whoopie-do. Their "suggested defaults" all suck, though.
- Voice acting. While everyone but Zi Cheng's voice acting is well done (Zi Cheng's sounds like a commentator reading off a script, and sounds too old for his age. I was originally worried that they'd all have Taiwanese accent, but it turned out that they all had very standard Mandarin/Putonghua), I didn't feel the VA added a lot to the game, since it only comes on during movie interludes.
- The new formation system. The formations are simplified and it looks like each person only knows one formation. The formation area is also increased to 3x3. It's nice, but I didn't particularly feel that it's much better or much worse than previous systems.
- You can change the angle of the camera in battles. Not that it's any useful...
- Limited pets (I've got two, and it looks like I might get one or two more). They just show up as part of an event/plot, and then behave just like another character in battles. No more transformations or whatnot. And when they die, they get revived just like anyone else. The good thing is, ALL pets receive exp points, not just the one that participated. So you don't have to worry about switching pets around to develop them. But really, do you really need that many pets?
- Battles are more challenging than in FS1 and FS2. I can't put my finger on why, but even playing on Normal (at max speed, though) I find myself busy clicking things and looking at health bars instead of enjoying the special effects of the attacks or keeping track of who does what damage.
Can't tell you much about the plot/characters just yet, since I'm not done. But so far it seems like a fairy tale that's set
in the Three Kingdoms period, rather than a fairy tale that's about
the Three Kingdoms. I think this demonstrates a certain level of confidence and maturity in story-telling. They also broke away from the traditional RPG characters/skill types. None of the main characters wield an oversized sword, yay! Instead, we see a zither, a giant ink brush, and a football/soccer ball (don't ask me how it works). (The other two characters are more stereotypical---a big guy with twin sabers, and a delicate female river spirit with twin fans.)
Here are two nonrepresentative screenshots:
(Yes, Liu Da.)
And Starscream, this one is for you:
I wish they stop giving female characters oversized boobs and indecent cleavage...