Areas should always require checks before affecting pcs or npcs.
Cantrips generating the area effect is op. I think if they could do things like ignite oil or grass and freeze blood if cast directly on the surface and not on characters.
I like the surface control, but I understand the sentiment of not having thid become a surface spam mess like dos2. It should be something harder to come by, requiring more preparation and stronger spells than cantrips only.