Hey Leon was really nice meeting you at the event the other day! I'm getting to work on a new build very soon so this feedback is very valuable. Hoping it will fix a lot of these issues you ran into.
The main things I will be adding to address the above problems:
1. Lots of level building. I want to really build up the world to be a nice big place with lots of cool places and secrets to explore. I want to get zone 1 and 2 done with a couple secret areas. I agree there is too much complexity in area one, so i'm going to take out item drops from there, and also remove the ranged fish, and make it so you don't find pistols which allows you to swap until you reach area 2.
2. I'm going to experiment by moving the text box to the top of the screen, rather than bottom right, hopefully this will allow for more, larger, and easier to read text that doesn't get in the way of the gameplay. I also plan on totally revamping where I place NPC's. Less NPC's in combat areas or more out of the way. Hopefully this helps.
3 & 4. I'll take a look at the UI, I agree it can be a bit overwhelming, but not sure what UI isn't necessary to be on the screen (Feel free to reply and clarify what specific UI is bugging you). I do realize the constant display of the current exp gained is really annoying. Things like regen and wounds are always showing up on screen. I'll see what I can do!
5. I'm hoping as I build up the world and make new areas with unique music, and art it will become more obvious when you reach a new zone.
6 & 7. Yeah this needs work, I am planning on revamping a great deal of NPC's so there is less talk about the game being in a beta, and more talk about story!
Really appreciate the feedback, Leon. I've been thinking of having a special fish in the game that gives a thank you to everyone that gives valuable feedback during this early phase of the game. Let me know if you want your name added to the list!
Expect a new demo in the coming weeks that addresses all of the above and then some. Big dev push coming soon. Always happy to have engagement here, feel free to add me on discord if you ever feel like chatting about the game: illtemperedtuna#4015