I expect the 'new' features will be something like
-Some additional naval stuff
-And increased management of conquered settlements
This. More fluff that is utterly boring, that no one in the right mind actually wants to do. You can tell this is what they will use for boosters and paid in game items. They're saying levels are less relevant but then say gear choice is more important, meaning you'll still have to make 20 different animal species go extinct across the course of the game just to upgrade a sword so it does a "+5 damage" every hour. My guess is while the levels themselves may not mean as much, gear level and grinding as well as settlement grinding will make up for the lost profits.
Although again disappointed this will be another bum rush brawler rather than a slick assassination game, the theme is interesting. The idea of bombarding and laying siege to coastal fortifications like in Black Flag seems appealing. I just wish Ubisoft had the fortitude to not fill it to the brim with RPG mechanics that are boring and encourage spending more money.
Fun naval combat is one of my most missed things from Black Flag... but just as I didn't enjoy it much in Odyssey, I don't anticipate enjoying it much here. Naval combat was fun for a ship decked out in cannons and mortars. When all you have is a bunch of arrow slingers, something get's lost. The settlement stuff they are talking about isn't of interest.
Agreed. The weaponry in Odyssey was just lame, and the naval combat itself wasn't slick. The controls were atrocious and upgrading was far too difficult, especially as you had to grind hours to upgrade your ship ever so slightly. It was one of those things they utterly screwed up in that game where it was pretty much perfect in Black Flag, again partially due to the time period.
I'm sure they can make it at least functional this time around. But I'm not sure how fun it will be without cannons/mortars/puckle guns.