I like A18 more than A17 thus far. Here are a few critical points though.
1. Melee needs tweaking.
2. Too much firearm ammo vs. arrows, cf. also point 1.
3. Loot vs. hassle ratio of large vs. small POIs is completely off balance.
4. Farm plots cause a rotten meat shortage vs. plentiful fresh meat.
1. There has been a lot of discussion about melee, and I also think it needs tweaking. With the wonky animations and hitboxes combined with the zombie rage-mode, it may be much more of a thrill now to melee but it also gets you maimed pretty easily. I like the direction A18 is taking here but it needs balancing and tweaking. Melee is also made less of an option due to early access to guns and to huge amounts of ammo – which gets me to the second point:
2. There are too many bullets in the game, making not only melee less of a necessity but bows pretty much obsolete (whereas in A17 I would prefer bows to bullets way into the 50+ days, preserving firearm ammo for the horde and emergencies). Since feather collection has also been nerfed (I agree with this choice however), I find myself lacking arrows and having too many bullets. It used to be that the main reward for fighting with melee and arrows was that you did not waste bullets, and getting to self-sufficiency with ammo production was a major milestone in the game. Now I'm on day 15 and I have 1000 9mm ammo and 500 7.62 ammo. I think that's insane. Not only are bullets easily looted, the mining overhaul has made it child's play to make a thousand pieces of bullets early on. Although I already have insane amounts of bullets, I COULD have five times more if I wanted. Also since there is a smaller chance of waking up other zombies in A18, I can quite literally go in guns blazing and won't have to worry about waking everyone up. So my stealthy bow and arrow tactic is now dead.
3. I happened to move in next door to the Shotgun Messiah factory. I decided to go for the gold and loot it. The place was absolutely teeming with zombies compared to other places (it seems that unlike other POIs, here the zombie count has not been reduced). So it took me three (3!) days to loot the place, killing easily more than a hundred zombies and... I got almost nothing out of it! The big loot at the end gave me just some arrows and ammo in crates and some leather armour and what have you. Pissed, I raided a small cabin around the corner... six (6!) zombies and five minutes later I had better loot than I got in the Shotgun Messiah! The difficulty vs. loot balance is currently completely off. I think the WEAPONS FACTORY of all places has been the only POI where I spent more ammo than I looted. On the one hand I like it that even the smallest huts have great loot; on the other hand they now have about the same amount of great loot as the biggest and baddest POIs, minus the hassle. So now I'm just looting cabins and houses, and getting tired of it. I see absolutely no reason to loot the big places anymore, while in A17 it used to be the way to get awesome stuff and not just another set of cans and pipes. Please consider making big POIs worth it loot-wise! Since I can get dozens of great loot crates within minutes of game play by storming a row of small houses, a factory could easily have dozens of such crates at the end and not <10. It would not feel like an overkill after wading through the sea of zombies. (EDIT: It was days 7–9, I had two points in lucky looter, and lucky goggles. But anyway the point is not that I had bad loot in that big POI but the relationship between big and small POIs. Overall loot is great.)
4. I like the new farm plots, as it was too easy to farm your way into not having to worry about food and drink ever again. But now I find myself in the odd situation that I am happier about rotten than fresh meat! Since self-made food was nerfed with food poisoning chances, I prefer to eat canned food, so now on day 15 already I have almost a thousand pieces of meat that I don't use. Yet I have to go hunting for road kills and body bags to get rotten meat for my precious, precious farm plots. This should be rebalanced: no way a post-apocalyptic survivor is going to prefer rotten meat to real meat. Yet I do. A quick and dirty (and perfectly sensible) solution would be: make rotten meat craftable from fresh meat. It makes zero sense that I can't take my meat and let it rot. To keep farm plots precious, the rotten meat requirement could be higher. The issue is not the difficulty of obtaining farm plots but the ridiculous search for specifically rotten meat.
Keep up the good work!