Some small suggestions, not meant to offend or make things even more complicated, just some thoughts...
In the film Nausica of the Valley of the Wind, there were desolated areas where gas masks were necessary, much like the different areas of AVWW and the ice and heat suits. In addition to bad guys and beasts being enemies, there were places in the film where some of those bad guys became allies, and some of the beasts became friends.
And factions that were fighting each other, not necessarily just the good guys, so it might be interesting if some of the monsters or bad guys were fighting each other when we moved into an area, that was a bat area being taken over by espers, or robots fending off an invasion of rhinos.
I think it adds an interesting layer of moving through the world.
It might be nice if different areas needed different things, like gas masks in one area, ice suits in another, heat suits, and or underwater suits that make moving through and even colonizing water areas possible.
In this way, we would need several different 'things' as we move from place to place, like the gas mask, like the heat suit, like a water suit, etc... this could be used as a way for characters to level from area to area in a way that is a little more elaborate than just moving freely from one area to the next right now.
Though the lava flats and the water areas i haven't figured out how to get into yet.
Apart from the film, an idea that i have had, which probably won't be received well, but i thought could be interesting, is if each type of area, like the ice plains, the jungles, the deserts, were all separated from each other by levels, say ice from 0-10 and desert from 10-20... etc. there may seem to be no reason to do so, or perhaps one area like that for so many levels is boring or restrictive, but i thought if it were divided into sections, there could be "switch' kind of areas, where once that level is reached, something happens, or areas where bonus items, or bonus stats could be given, or new portions of the story of the world could be added.
Perhaps there is a better way to get bonuses without restricting the areas, or a way that has already been decided for unveiling story, or having the story vary from one instance of the world to another.
I'm probably not good at explaining, but if one world has opening A, and then parts C, Q, R, V and W... another instance of the world could have opening K and parts, D, H, J, M and I, or whatever... so each of them are different from each other. Using however many parts are necessary to cover alternate openings of the world ending, perhaps from each of the nine ages in the game, like A could really be Ice A, and there might be a completely different Desert A from another characters point of view...
You may want to string only a dozen parts together to make the story of what happened, though i am guessing, if you wanted to get completely off the wall, you could make a dozen different kinds of stories, one is SF, one is Fantasy, one is Horror, one is Mystery... where the world ends and the reasons for it ending are all different.
You could even... hmmm, well... if you wanted, have player entered sections, like epitaphs, but in this sense, so many levels in after killing perhaps the first area warlord, a screen comes up, saying, "please enter how the world first shattered."
In this way, the stories for each of the games are not so dependent on Chris or Keith deciding what to put in, or what they have time for, or what they prefer or don't prefer, could be left for players... who of course might come up with some very wild and wooly stories for what happened...
The Faerie Princess was kidnapped from the Fae Kingdoms by Demons of the 12th Hell, and her sweetheart Severin17, set out to save her, finding that only the magical stones could form the key to the puzzle that would open the last level of Hell where she was taken by the Overlord of Overlords...
Or Star Force 5 ships crash landed on Environ in the second century and struggled to regain their heritage and knowledge that was shattered when they crashed...
Anyway, what i am saying is that players could take the story in different directions...
As a matter of fact, an idea that just occurred to me, that could work, is that each section of the game that adds parts of the stories that are added by the players, could be uploaded to a database, and then randomly downloaded, or added to a small database inside the game when players connect to each other online, so there might be no reason to have to have a single database to do that, each small database added to the game for each player could add new pieces from those added by other players when the come online together.
Gratuitous Space Battles has this type of system for their uploaded player fleets to fight each other and is very cool. At least i think so.
But if we made something like this for story, or for other parts of the game, say raiding parties? Groups of different types of characters? Maybe we could have scout npc's, or warrior npc's, or healer, or teacher npc's that could be added to players available groups when they go online and play community games with other AVWW players.
This could add a very deep level of story that the developers would not have to build and implement themselves.
Anyway, i have found most of my ideas are off somewhere else, which makes me wonder why i even write them, most of the gamers playing this see something else.
Maybe one of these days, something will sound good to other players.
Thank you for listening,