Right. So played through a second time, and 100% everything this go-around. Ended up liking the game a lot more than I did originally. For those on the fence, here’s how the game works:
Main story-Starts of with one branch to introduce everything, splits into three branches which you can do in any order, comes back together at the end. Similar to JC2.
Side stories-The first section of main missions also introduces three side characters. One trains the army. One needs help with his archeological work. One is filming a movie. They all have their side missions. The army ones are training missions for newbs. The archeological guy needs help solving physics puzzles with big stones (think Raiders of the Lost Ark) and having to get them on pads. He also has 12 hidden statues around the island he needs found, but they’re not a part of a ‘mission’. The movie person has essentially checkpoint races for you. The points you earn from those missions unlock upgrades to the grapple based on who gave you the mission (there are three functions that the grapples uses, all introduced by these guys), but you don’t need any of them to complete the game (in fact, while two of them were nice, I never used the third function other than when it was introduced).
You don’t 100% towns/cities/etc by blowing things up. You now have a given number of side activities to perform. You can shoot down surveillance airships (ie, blimps). You have speed stunts where you have to drive/pilot/etc a vehicle at/above a given speed through a ring. You have vehicle ‘stunts’ where you have to drive a specific vehicle (usually found nearby) through a ring. And you have wingsuit ‘challenges’ which are all the same in the sense that you have X number of seconds to get through 3 rings. It’s always 3 rings. No more, no less. There are never 4 rings, nor are there 2, except for when you proceed to 3. 5 rings is right out. Anyway, those challenges give you lesser amounts of points for two sets of upgrades above.
As for making main/side missions available, that’s where the maps/regions come in. You start off with a given number of ‘troops’, and you need a certain number of them to take over a region that neighbors one you already own (sometimes, a given front won’t be available for advance, so you need to take over a neighboring region). You earn more troops through chaos - destroying all the things just like the first game (base stuff, soldiers, vehicles, etc). You also get troops back if you advance with more troops than you need for a region. Also, most of the regions have a mission you need to complete first before you are allowed to advance (probably about 90/10 percent as to whether a mission is required or not).
That’s it. Hopefully that helps those of you on the fence at least understand the gameplay for the game. For me, I ended up liking it more than 3, but less than 2 - but if 100% towns were a mix of the side activities and chaos - I think it may have been great. Alas.