Like I more or less said before, "didn't take the effort to make it good" is somewhat subjective. I'm sure that developers themselves would say that they put plenty effort into making it what it is, and that they've done plenty refining. Current story is, playthrough-wise, set up to do the number of things. It sets up the conflict against the Ruin with the starting mission, in which it destroys Earth. Then, it gives us a mission per each progression tier, as depicted here. It also gives a themed mission and boss for each of its races. Don't tell me that you didn't feel the least bit impressed by grand dungeons such as Ceremonial Hunting Cavers, or Grand Pagoda Library, or Great Sovereign Temple. Additionally, in each mission we meet an unique NPC, who joins us by the end. Before you do each of the racial missions however, you're driven to explore their villages and dungeons, to meet them in person, to find their codexes, and to scan their furniture to find out more about them. At the end of your journey, you have a final confrontation with the game's recurring antagonist, and then you confront and destroy the world-destroying monstrosity, concluding the story. I'd say that works perfectly for a sandbox game. It drives you to explore the sandbox to begin with, gives your travels and your in-game actions a sense of purpose. It's what Terrene Protectorate sets up as well. Your regular gameplay, such as building housing for people, aiding them by doing quests - before it all felt somewhat disconnected, but now it feels like exactly what a Protector would do.