While "less freedom" does tend to sell better (*cough* Call of Duty *cough* wheter it makes better games is very questionable. After all, how good is Deus Ex? How much freedom does it give the player? There's your counterpoint, no big article needed...
1. Had an excellent tutorial.
2. Every strategy was viable at all times with minimal investment of resources. Just pick up a gun or an aug or invest a couple thousand points.
3. Made most strategies simple to carry out and obvious. You want to sneak around? Crouch and don't let enemies see you. You want to blow enemies up? Pick up grenades and throw them at them.
4. Put overwhelming power in the player's hands from step one. With a gep gun you can kill any enemy in the game untrained with two hits, and most groups. With a sniper rifle you can kill 90% of the enemies in the game with one headshot untrained.
1. Laughs in the face of tutorials.
2. Requires ten or twenty turns or more and new cities to set up any new strategy.
3. Requires great effort and great understanding of the game's innermost workings to set up any strategy.
4. Gives you little to no power early on.
The difference is in deus ex freedom doesn't matter and in warlock freedom matters. In human revolution where choice did matter due to the boss, people got annoyed.
Now look at WMotA, let's assume rock as all non flyer and non amphibious unit, scissor is flyer, paper is naval. No, don't assume they fully counter each other, to a lesser extend yes they counter each other.
Remember that rock will turn to weak transport ship, paper defeat rock, let's assume we do a suit in water scenario, i get paper, you get rock, i should win, but what levitation and water walk do is change your attribute to scissor and i lose because of that, ever watch a god of gambler movie? they played a card game, the good guy got bad card, and should lost the game but a guy in that film is able to change your card, let's say his enemy have queen and your most powerful card is jack, that guy change your jack to king (yes i know the game they played is far more complex than this, this is just for an example), that's what levitation and water walk do.
Basically freedom is good if it doesn't screw the game rules (this apply to all kind of genre), i.e: in the land->land unit is the king, in the water->naval is the king and in the sky->flyer is the king. Freedom that screw rules can be good, if, after the rules are screwed, the resulting rules are still balanced.
In warlock that is not the case. Now, let's put that aside and look at the problem and how to solve it, imo the problem is either levitation and water walk are too good or ship and flyer are too weak, imo both are true, but if i want to balance it, i'll buff naval and flyer.
Regarding freedom in game, imo it depends on the genre of the game too, in adventure/rpg too much freedom is better, in 4x, rts and tbs too much freedom=bad.
Well, spells are quite a waste when any positive effects such as making units cross bounderies is removed. Then it's really just a camouflaged healing system.
Dispell is king. Chess has very specific rules, and it's boring. There is a reason we rather play games like this than chess, right?
Also, there are various exceptions to said rules in many games, in Red Alert eventually you could get tanks with anti-air capabilities. Surpeme Commander? Amphibious ships. Most modern RTS pack invernability or invisibility and such as unit abilities to turn on on the fly... so yeah, I don't think it's really hold to that strongly in games.