I've flirted with CE several times over the past year. The first couple times, it kept repelling me for reasons I found hard to articulate. This last time, I stuck with it through many frustrating playthroughs and I've documented as best as possible what it is about this mod I find very hard to digest. Kudos, as always, is afforded to SS and all contributors for their hard work on a very thorough, impressive mod. But there many design choices I disagree with:
-Most importantly, with the array of new weapons and ships out there, the player dies (often), but usually not knowing exactly why. In the base game, you might suffer an unavoidable loss due to bad luck, but even in those scenarios it's still quite clear why you died - you got boarded by 4x Mantis as Engi B, or you got overrun by the fleet since you ran out of fuel - it's due to a known weakness of your ship, or due to poor choices on your part. In CE, things just sort of happen to wreck you and it's not entirely clear why, or what weakness of yours is being exploited, or how you could have shored up that weakness and avoided that death. Weapons like effectors, heavy ions, and mine/missile drones disrespect the fundamental Rock Paper Scissors relationship that defines encounters in this game. You're rock, so you know you beat scissors and need to watch our for paper. Then CE whacks you upside the head with a clothes iron and you're left wondering how you were even supposed to respond as your ship breaks apart.
-This is compounded by some poor audio/visual choices regarding the weapons. Seems many or most of the new weapons have extremely loud reports and/or very fast projectile speeds. This leads to situations for the new (or experienced!) player where all they hear is a loud BANG and a flash of light, and suddenly their pilot is dead and their shields are totally down. It perpetuates the feeling that the game is just sort of mindlessly aggressing on the player, rather than presenting clear challenges with knowable solutions.
-The player should be in absolute control of himself, his ship, and his crew at all times, except in the event that a clearly defined 3rd party has compromised that control. Events like enemy mind control or system malfunction due to enemy hacking events are fine, since you know who the culprit behind it is. CE adds a bunch of mid-fight events where your ship just powers down or catches on fire for No Damned Reason, which is deeply insulting to the player's sense of agency. Now along with facing enemies from without, there are enemies from within too. The crew and ship can't even be trusted to do their job. Imagine if you told your weapons guy to go fix the O2 room and instead he just walked over the airlock (no mind control), opened the door and suffocated himself. If that's unacceptable (and it is!), then having your crew and ship fail inexplicably to do their job through event dialogue is unacceptable too. This extends to the piracy / diplomacy gameplay as well. The player shouldn't even be given the option to go through with an act that'll cause crew to revolt. If he has a piracy-enabling item, show the blue dialogue. If he doesn't, don't show it. Leaving the piracy option is a false choice (you'd be dumb to ever take it without a blue option) and just further instills in the player the sense that his crew are not his to control, undermining his sense of agency.
-Extend this further to certain combat augs, especially Targeting Jammer. The jammer itself seems to jam more often than it works. For an augment that's eating up a slot and forcing me to reserve two power for it (even if it fails to 'hit'), it is unreliable to the point of uselessness. If the Jammer failing was uncommon as getting engine-hacked is, it might be fine. But as-is, it is the first thing I sell off of Slug A and just build myself Shields 2 with the proceeds. I don't know if the other combat augs (internal effector, are there others?) have this same success rate or not.
-Negative outcomes in blue choices and shop nodes. CE is ten times more fickle and openly hostile to the player than the base game already. All that danger and uncertainty needs a foil - something, somewhere, sometimes in the game that is unambiguously good for the player. In the base game that's always been blue choices and shop nodes. In CE I sent mining drones ahead to mine an asteroid for me (blue choice that sets a quest marker). When I went out of my way to get there, I'm greeted by zero rewards, automatic hull damage, system fires and an interminable wait game as my crew fix the engines and my FTL charges. Or, another time when I visited a shop and was immediately greeted by a gang of four Rock thugs that pulped my slug crew into slug juice. That's not a challenge. That's just spite.
-Trading is enough bother already, clogging up an aug slot with no guarantee of payoff if you can't find a shop that'll buy. Getting a rebel fleet advance on buying AND selling trade goods unless you have ANOTHER near-useless aug that enables instant trading, just makes the whole process unappealing in the extreme.
-There is a lot of pointless fiddling-around in written events and game descriptions that conveys a sense of meddling ineptitude, frankly. For instance, I encountered a slaver event where "drawing straws" was changed to "drawing cards." Nothing else about the event seemed to have changed. But someone had to put their finger in that pie and swirl it around, just because they could. Another example: "Stealth Weapons" augment changed to "Advanced Cloaking Field." So, an augment that tells you what it does right there in its name has been changed to something you have to read the description for to find out what it does. It all lends an unprofessional, kitchen sink feel to the mod, that everything's been altered not because it needed to be altered, but just because it could be.
-I think even beyond the emergent RPS issues with all the new ships and weaponry, the starting zone has gotten buffed across the board? All I know is in vanilla or smPK, I can at least survive zone 1 in Normal mode nine times out of ten (unless I'm playing one of THOSE ships, like Stealth B). In CE, I'm luckily if I don't die in zone 1 nine times out of ten. And that's a reversal of fortune I don't think I can entirely blame simply on getting blown out of orbit by new enemy weaponry.
Well, summing all the above up, my feelings about the mod are that it is deeply, gleefully spiteful, and truly delights in killing off the player in a way I don't even think anyone contributing to the mod really designed for. I hope I'm not wrong on that account. It's an emergent feature of jamming so much shiny new functionality into one mod - "how about this? why not these? how about those? oh, and this too, that'll be great! put all that in!" - that affords the game a zillion new ways to shred the player into tiny pieces, without giving the player much more in the way of defensive options to counter them. I suspect this becomes less so the case in the later game, when the usual zero-damage strategies of weapon pre-ignition or stealth+hacking are as viable as ever. But I've played the mod five or six hours now (normal) and not yet gotten past zone 3. It would have been fun if my losses were comprehensible to me, but as described above, for the most part they weren't. It was just a fickle universe slapping me around for the hell of it.
The mod in its current state is not one where "your mistakes will be punished. Severely." Rather it seems to be one where the player gets punished (severely), just for playing the game at all.
That's my probably very unpopular 2 scrap... if it seems like a lot, it's cuz I had a lot on my mind. Really wanted to enjoy this mod, and really wanted to explain (to myself as much as others) why I seem not to be able to.