The issue here is that there is a clash between the modeling of species and the modeling of individuals - that what is fun for one may not be for the other. Playing as an individual is inevitably going to make players want more and better equipment, more speed, more agility, and more strength. And it may not be enough to simply shove some artificial RPG-style tradeoffs into the game. There are excellent strategies, such as high reproductive rate, hibernation, or moving in large herds so that predators only take the weak or sick, that do not create fun or meaningful first-person gameplay whatsoever. And what’s the priority here: creating a successful species, or fighting exhilarating battles and using super camouflage to hunt?
(Also, it would be tough to implement cooperative behaviors - displayed by many, many non-sapient animals here on Earth - without a strategic perspective.)
What’s the solution here? I do think that we should only control one individual of a non-social species at a time, but from a distance, like in a top-down RPG. We should also be engaged with the species as a whole, having information like birth/death rates, biomass, encounter outcomes, expansion across the planet, etc. I’d personally like the ability to switch to another individual at will.
I’m not sure if these issues have been already discussed extensively, so please don’t tear me to shreds if I’m butting into an old controversy!