Retribution should be changed so it only affects enemies close by. And it should not penetrate armors as it does. It should be a magical ability that is defended against ...
But of course since armors work as they do, this is practically impossible to do.

This fundamental armor change is the core issue that affects all other mechanics and distorts them to fit, some bad implementations aside.

The overall goal and reason for these changes is removing what ignorant dimwits call "RNG" or "randomness", thats why you have armors that work like binary force fields and Hard CC. As well changed Initiative which has been simplified into no initiative at all. Larian simply chose to pay more attention to audience that is bothered by this fundamental misunderstanding of what "randomness" really means, instead of improving the mechanics.

But that is the audience who come to TB rpgs from mass market action/rpg hybrids and they simply dont understand how TB systems really work and keep expecting and demanding same fucking Real Time mechanics and style of gameplay over and over and over. It has been the same for the last several decades of RPG development.

Larian decided to please that audience, and thats why we have these horrible dumbed down mechanics in otherwise pretty good game.

Ive stopped playing until some better mods come out so i cant comment on the narrative and writing except that in the first area which i find very well done.

Ill just repeat my solution to this again, in hopes some moder sees it and makes a mod:

Armors should work as percentage based damage reduction and magic defense.
There should be more soft Cc effects which can penetrate the armors - also percentage based.
Obviously - because we dont want binary yes or no outcomes. These Soft Cc effects should improve chance to succeed, their damage and duration through investments in their respective skills and basic attributes.
So Strenght, Finess and Inteligence would be valuable for each type of damage.

Hard CC can be kept but it should be only critical strike success dependent.
Wits should increase chance to achieve these critical strikes, Con should give defense against these criticals.
That would make both attributes very valuable for all builds and it would fit perfectly with any build.

These changes are simplest possible changes and they would change the combat from the hard CC slug fest, into combat where basic skills and abilities, including elemental magic and effects, play a much bigger role in course of every combat scenario, while Hard CC are the cream on top, rare and therefore much more satisfying epic achievements.

Players would be able to make builds that achieve more of them and that effort would then feel very rewarding, while other builds could still sometimes achieve them but wouldn't be useless at all.
This would also make elemental damage feel much more valuable again. Instead of minor annoyance as it is now.

Overall it would change combat from - apply one of two damage types until you can cast hard CC - crapfest, into a much more nuanced and options rich environment. Both for the players and the enemies.

I cannot see any negative effect of this change on the gameplay at all, while benefits are numerous and multidimensional. Best of all it would all be naturally and easily understandable even to complete newbies.

Larian will never do this, so its up to modders.