I think it's the opposite if anything. Forcing yourself to play through this obscenely long, middling, unpolished game in a few days to hit your deadline would probably make me like it a lot less. But there is absolutely something special here for a certain type of player. I really can't wait to see what they do with the next one, I'm expecting a significant step up with more resources and lots of lessons learned. My final session with this game was almost 12 hours long with barely a break. I can see everything wrong with it laid bare before me but something about it just grabbed me after the slow start and held my interest. A bit of a curate's egg perhaps. I was constantly thinking "if they just did this" or "if they tweaked it like that". All the way through, in a way I weirdly enjoyed because none of those shortcomings annoyed me - it was more the case of seeing the potential they might realise in future rather than getting frustrated they didn't always get there on the first try.
I captured probably the most fun moment, fighting two hordes at once by accident
My top tip for improving the game, if I was making a sequel, would be to utilise their cool zombie hordes better. Have missions which are like tower defense, missions which are about leading a horde to an enemy base, trapping a horde or having them topple off a cliff to kill themselves etc. I killed every horde in the game in the same way (see video above). Defending the towns you're helping from giant roaming hordes would be great.
I'd also add more customisation for Deek in terms of clothing and loadout, some branching narrative (e.g. pitting camps against each other, morally grey choices that alter your path and make you choose between the top tiers of upgrades at different camps). Better balance of weapons and items - I didn't use half of the stuff they gave me once. Up the RPG elements with more bartering and crafting. More survival elements, but not simply hunger/thirst bars. I mean more dynamic elements that conspire to mess you up unless you react accordingly.
I feel if they simply take the mountains of player data and feedback they have and address some of the main concerns they'll probably make significant improvements. Get hiring and training and grow the team as needed to deliver a sequel which takes the themes and elements of the first and really push them over the finish line. I quite liked the story overall, it was earnest and buttoned up for the most part. But plenty of room for improvement.