A lot of people liked the wilderness, that was there since like 1.2 I believe. I didn't because it meant that you were very stuck in place until late game. Using the old unit combat stats, you would be getting str 8 champions with bronze and there would be multiple str 22-24 beasts between you and the other civs.
Then with 2.11, the version we use came the new barbarian forts, with the Threaten/Bribe/Ignore/Taunt events. These are cool, but the relative combat str of them is silly. They send multiple STR 11-12 units into your territory where you probably have str 7 or 8 available UNLESS you rush warrior cast... so you are kind of shoehorned into taking warrior caste very early. Compare with normal FFH2 - you have Str3 warriors, and the barbs are STR 2-3. So you still need to invest in fighting them... but you can do so with production and use beakers for something else.
I find the early game in MoM way more boring than it SHOULD be because of this. Meanwhile, the guilds/religion stuff is on point especially in extended. But the barbarian stuff cripples the AI, so once you have 4 cities you've basically won the game.