Strongholds were awesome if we get that high level.
I also liked your comment:
friendly interesting and unique random world battles based on areas, time of day etc...> aka : random encounters.
*Why they should add certain features first (like day/night) because they inspire creative story elements in time to flush them out.
Your other comment of feeling like a "pocket universe" is not good first impression. The first area needs to feel lived in, even if has been disrupted by recent events.
spot on though.