I agree with you about CA losing sight of the what the game is supposed to be about. There are a few key features missing that makes the game feel as if they've forgotten what made Rome 1 so appealing in the first place.
I think the first Rome: Total War encouraged a connection with your generals and family members that made the battles feel really intense and encouraged the player to create stories about the characters on the map. There was a family tree, which made me feel like I was a part of a greater legacy. It was cool to look at all the dead characters that were once your heroes and villains, and it made it seem like your accomplishments were a family thing that just kept going.
A new family member was the son of a current character instead of just appearing from war academy or something like in Rome 2. Having that new character pop on the map alongside his father made me care about them; it encouraged me to create stories about them that have stuck with me for years. The second game doesn't do this - I couldn't care less if the new Julii general lives or dies because he essentially came from nowhere. The son of Cassius the Mighty (my greatest general for 30 years) was somebody. Even when he was a useless 16 year old without any sort of stats that boosted him in battle he mattered to me.
I remember being up against a wall when defending Athens from the Macedonians and agonizing over the decision to commit the son of Cassius (who fought the Macedonians his entire life and died of plague within sight of their capital) to a fight that he probably wouldn't win. From a pure game logic perspective it was the only thing to do - he was my only available general and Athens is an important city. But it wasn't that easy, because he had a legacy to uphold - I didn't want to throw his life away here and let him die without heirs. I didn't want to rob him of the opportunity to avenge his father. I was horrified when he died in a hopeless cavalry charge trying to kill the enemy general and cause a panic among the Macedonian troops. I remember almost reloading the save and thinking better of it, as if it would dishonor his sacrifice somehow. There was a real sense of legacy there, of lineage. I felt like a Roman.
I've played Rome II for a long time, and I can't remember a single character. There's no reason to; they're disposable. It really disappoints me that features like this were left out. It felt like such a core part of the experience back then, and it was really the thing that kept me coming back.