That's also the fantasy that the game evoked for me. I'm happy that there's rules in the Game Master's Guide, but I'll surely tweak things and borrow from other systems.The tone and atmosphere presented in the game suggest to me that it would be a perfect opportunity to make a hexcrawl*/endurance game, where survival, exhaustion, and morale could be used as ways to influence how ready the PCs are to fight the next abomination from the depths or negotiate between barbarian cities or save the goblins from the local petty tyrant or whatnot.
Understandable! It's also a headscratcher for me as to why they didn't. The Core Rulebook heavily focuses on combat in its rules, and I'd even add that the fantasy evoked by the setting is one where you'd want to avoid most fights. For me, it's the same as when products like Pathfinder 2E come out without a starter edition for almost a full year.Oh, hey, I forgot those were coming (I guess already have come now). Clearly I stopped following the release schedule before this release.
I can't reflect too much on your other criticism, I'll need to play it. But that part (exploration rules) revealed true after a quick glimpse in my books. There was absolutely a lack.