PoE, despite other parts, good or bad, had a sin of making stronghold - useful, but empty and unimpressive. IMO, of course. But there's was distinct feeling of "I should move it faster past this location" for me. Consider everything I wrote below, as nitpicking, maybe too harsh for some of you, but not in a way "And because of that - PoE sucks". Not at all, it's just, what I think, wasn't that satisfying and might've been done better. But I don't know their focus, what they had in terms of priorities, funds, man-power and time on this.
1.1. I thought that was Raedrick's one, we'll have, at first. It is more complex and interesting, has platforms, three different levels outside and three different levels inside (there's a dungeons), lord's room, a tale, how you heroically got it.
1.2. Instead we got Caed Nua, which has it's pluses, but is not that great. It's was decent, but Raedrick's was great and player shouldn't compare one thing part of the game to another and ask himself "Why didn't we got this?". Keep in mind, that everything below is concerned of Caed Nua, I have no idea, how to substitute one with another, just pointning, that it would've been great in my opinion.
1.3. Caed Nua were given to a player too easy and too quick. It weren't earned, we weren't took it over themselves, as part of interesting plot. One conversation with former holder is not enough to feel it, apparently.
2.1. Stronghold mechanics was made, but it had no intertwined connections neither to the main plot nor secondary quests. And while Stronghold has Endless Paths, it isn't tied to them directly. What you make with Stronghold stays in Stronghold.
2.2.1. I don't have anything against whole magical telepathic thing, in general. It was supposed to make player's life easier, after all, and it did. But ithink, it would be more engaging, if there was a few quests to make initial rebuild and, take a few walks back and forth, recruit at least few NPCs to inhabit it. Reawekened magical throne, after few quests might've gave us a spare of not returning every time and send our orders to living senechal. Pacing here is a key.
2.2.2. Stronghold would've won from taking these simplifications further, though. If, there is nothing to ask, it was possibly convenient to make orders from merchants from a Stronghold interface.
2.2.3. Add an option to rest without going to second floor of Brackenbury, each time!
2.2.3. Make manual resolve of attack a travel option, while you aren't indoors or a part of major plot (Like Defiance Bay after *SPOILER*).
2.2.4. A quest loot and herbs might go directly into the stash. Special subspace, few clicks and it's in the stash with other stuff.
2.2.5. Et cetera. Crucial here is part, that automatization system, if you already have it should help you to defeat repetitiveness and keep good, useful parts available, while other things is wearing out.
2.3. There is a reason, why I didn't liked to traverse Caed Nua after some moment. Repetitiveness without much reward. Do you know, what might make it better. Bunch of NPCs. Alive. With various levels of fleshing out. Probably, Dragon Age 3 spoiled me as Devil himself, but there is so much to learn from Skyhold and Heaven, even if you despise that game.
2.3.1. A living senechal to counter niceness and idealistism of our steward. I mean, someone, who can check workers job, have a hands, body and image. Some mini-story between mundane senechal and magical senechal. Or maybe, just executive, Anything. Details do matter.
2.3.2. Few guards, even without badass army and barracks to great you once in a while and warn you about special guests.
2.3.3. Random guests, merchants and guards is soulless husks. Almost any merchant everywhere has at least something memorable abou themselves, whether is was information or quest... But it made them at least somewhat special. In Stronghold... not. For example, herbs merchant, who asks to fetch dragon eggs. Why couldn't we recruit her? What's a point standing in a far, far village all the time, if we can effectively make a Stronghold, that we visit again and again. It's about making connections with both protagonist and player.
2.3.4. Other cute little details. Like, who's gardener? Do we have a servants? Do they have a story about their previous life or kids? Who's in charge of Black Meabow? Who cooks? Who hosts a traveler?
2.3.5. Damn, you might've put some of that backer's strangers, who had nothing, aside from soul story, who might've randomly stay here each time (aside from their original placing).
2.3.6. Overall, in more dense and short game, than AAA-title, having a massive Stronghold with high levels of abstractness is not a best approach.
2.3. Dashboard (news feed, log, whatever). You know missed opportunity, when you see it. It's a great tool of storytelling, actually. You don't need to put as much effort, as in NPCs to make a place more alive, coilorful... Couple of servants got married. Son of saved peasant came to become a guard. A holiday is about to celebrated. Donate? (y/n). A holiday celebration story. Some reccuring story about specific NPCs, you might meat closer to the end of the game, or never at all. Quest or piece of loot somewhere, you might fishing out of a rumor. Something bad. Something funny. Something tragic. Something romantic. Something, that makes you feel anything about damn mount of pixels on a screen. Think about it.
2.4. Quests and random events once more. I don't mind trashing through mobs in Endless Paths. I don't mind EP of CN has more battles, than a story. But at least, it had a story. I don't mind sending unused party members to their own adventure, though war table missions in DAI was better decorated, than this (see previous paragraph). I don't mind random merchants and guests, but why are they... dull? Head hunter missions is fun, but it's not a quests. Bunch of strange guys, who mobbed you on a road is not a quest. Like, there is no point of prison, if it has use only for... four characters? Hm... The way it was in a game, wasn't a best one. And, as I said. It would be fun, if having done some quests might've influence othar parts of a game, making it easier and more interesting. Secondary quests, main storyline quests, [Stronghold] or [%Specific Building%] dialogue options as part of recruiting, intimidation or diplomacy. Major spoilers (2-3 Chapter) ahead: