The game isn’t perfect, and I, too, felt similarly at the very beginning, times thinking “well, this is ridiculous”, or “a game about watching progress bars fill”, however, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
The main problem, IMO, is its being a touch too unforgiving for new players, not easing them into the experience gently enough, rather than any glaring issue with balance or its being underdeveloped.
Past the initial struggles, the game shines, with plenty encapsulated moments of brilliance, and radiates incredible ambience. I can see flashes of other games I loved, in TLD, like Skyrim for a sense of place, the sound design of Lone Survivor, the cycle of life-death-and-learning of Dark Souls, the many little, thoughtful details of immersive sims, but this game rearranges them into something that I’m tempted to call unique.
The lower difficulty levels tone down the survival elements so, if not having a good time, there’s no reason to soldier on; at the same time, guides may also provide some insights to make your life somewhat easier.
Wintermute, BTW, is not Telltale bite-sized episodes: the first two should last at least 15 hours, possibly more, so playing all five in a row may not be the greatest idea anyway, but that isn’t the reason behind my suggestion…
…Wintermute doubles as an introduction to the game (so, no need to play the whole episode 1: I haven’t yet either) - sandbox basically just drops you inside the survival sim to figure out everything for yourself, which can be painful and frustrating, as your remarks seem to indicate (FTR, it’s totally possible to spend the night out, even early on. I was forced to do so, and the Night Walker achievement is the second most popular in the game)
Personally, I felt the game-as-intended experience level moved a little too quickly for what was my skill level (lack thereof). I kept trying in both modes, and eventually I had my click-with moment while in Sandbox (which I’m still playing), but dropping the difficulty is probably the better idea.
1.19 has a problem in Carter Hydro Dam, which resets every day the trailer on the left, when looking out. Depending on the specifics of your game, that bug may actually make it significantly easier. For me, it provided a convenient source of water and calories.
If you’d stored stuff in containers in that trailer, you’ll find everything inside Carter’s main entrance. Items that have been dropped outside a container, like pelts, may be gone forever, though.
I haven’t run into other problems with containers thus far in Mystery Lake, where a beginning player should be anyway. If you did, please let me know!