I hope you don't mind me spewing for a while. These are some interesting topics that we put a lot of thought into, so I find I have a lot to say...
Huh... a "go away" emote. That's a pretty good idea! You can scare them, of course, but maybe more fine control over this would be nice.
The chaos of keflings everywhere is interesting, because two of the top comments we got about A Kingdom for Keflings were: (1) There are not enough keflings, and (2) By the time I'm done it's like a ghost town because I've used all my keflings in buildings.
So, we were very aggressively fighting the ghost-town feeling. The "keflings everywhere" thing is very intentional.
Now, part of what you're complaining about is that they're underfoot, and I agree, it can be a real problem. To some extent, that's the natural result of having a thriving busy world (and, as you say, dense placement of buildings). And to some extent that's under our control as designers. We DID pay a lot of attention to this and tried to find a balance between keflings being close enough to interact with when you needed them and far enough not to get in your way. Quite a bit of fine-tuning went into this. We found that if the keflings aggressively stayed out of your way, for instance, you'd get really frustrated when you were trying to pick one up.
I think there are other reasons this game is easier than the first, as well, and I'll just throw a couple out there:
* The mid-game on AKFK got a bit tedious, and I hated working on big boring buildings (The Freaking Guild Hall Of Death) with nothing to break up the monotony. We worked hard to avoid this in the new game - very few individual buildings have big complicated blueprints. It's the overall story and three kingdoms that are big and complicated instead.
* The builder brothers bringing you stuff is HUGE. I spent a ton of time in AKFK lugging pieces across the map, and that's almost entirely gone in AWOK, thank heavens.
* The controls are better: You used to have to try several times to target the proper square. It may be a bit subtle at times (nobody has mentioned it) but the AWOK controls were very carefully reworked and augmented in multiple ways to make the experience better in general and when placing building pieces in particular.
Each of these three things are what I would call a distinct weakness in the original game. Fixing these made the new game "easier" in those areas, it's true.
But the new game is so much deeper, I'm not worried about that at all. For starters, the big story and quest system (with much more interesting quest mechanics) change the focus of the game to be more story-driven and less tech-tree-driven. And, separate from that, there's so much to do outside the main story (sharing collectibles, unlocking emotes, and building cannons) that I never worried about the player not getting their money's worth. (And I'm glad to hear you backing that up!)
Finally, I have to say that it takes me longer to do a fast playthrough of this game than it did AKFK. (Maybe that's just me, so I'd be interested in hearing everyone else's view on that.) And I'm certainly more entertained while I'm doing it.
I'd be interested in knowing how your playthrough times actually compare between the two games.