I was originally going to post this in the Essence is Broken: How we might fix it thread, but it was too off topic and risking thread high jacking.
I really liked that OP's ideas, and I suggest you read it.
However, there are two tangents to that idea I wanted to discuss about. Restoration of land itself, and shards. Two things that are a bit bland atm. But I think we can fix it
Restoring land seems so dry right now. I know they originally intended to make restoring land something very personal to players...so that the players can feel connected to the game's atmosphere as they are bring it back to life (or death). Right now its nowhere near that unfortunately. Increasing your essence total as you restore land seems like a perfect way to incentivise it (this was talked in the above thread I linked).
Instead of costing essence to restore land, make it cost mana and other non-essence methods (this was also talked about). But please, don't continue the automatic land restoration once you get it started...This completely depersonalizes it for me, and makes the whole process bland. I'd like to personally restore the land inch by inch, tile(s) by tile(s) and feel satisfied knowing it was all because of me. Stroke my narcissism. Make it almost like advancing the trenches.
Go back to only being able to build on restored land. So no more magical land restoring pioneers (but they are still needed for founding additional cities, but they must do it on restored land... or big penalties for building outside of restored land). If you want the city to grow, a player must restore the land around it. Then, only allow players to restore land connected to other restored land, OR (...wait for it...) land connected to a shard. Which brings me to another point...
...shards seem to be very disconnected with the rest of the game. Sure they are needed for larger spells and now they are used to calculate essence, but they don't feel like a central feature that they should be. It almost feels like they are in the game right now only because the game was originally named after them. I'd like to see them being integral to the game. Heres how I think it could work...
Shards would not only grant you the ability to cast powerful spells and such, but act as the starting "seed" for land restoration. This would go back to the original idea of the entire game....the world is barren because the 'life essence/magic/force' is trapped in the shards, and only you, the mighty channeler, can unlock it and restore the land. This would mean that players MUST start with a shard near them (maybe at sovereign creation, make it mandatory to choose a type of shard to start off with).
In order to spread out and colonize, a player must locate additional shards (or piggy back off someone else's restoration somewhere else). This further adds to the importance of shards. Since shards would be much more important now, a random map with very few shards would be a bummer. So give all channelers an other basic starter spell that allows them to "find" a hidden shard. In game terms, it technically creates the shard, but with a drawback that there must be no other shards close to where you cast the spell (say radius of 30 tiles..or something). The lore reasons being that the land is barren because the "magic/force/essence" is trapped in a shard. So if there is barren land and no shard around, it must mean the shard is simply hidden somewhere. We all straight on that part? great.
So its time to finish the thread, and I really have nothing snappy to end it with ...so /end