Am i the ONLY one who PREFERS raayas children over the ascendancy? i think they're more of a challenge as it's a rush to gather what's needed, get the jobs maximized in a timely fashion to prepare for the first boss attack, soothsayer.
ultimately I think the thing I do first depends on what my attempted scenario is for that time around.
if i'm doing a Manhattan playstyle which is a city on an island, compact with tall tall buildings, i first chop down the trees on the island and use the wood to construct a bridge to the mainland where i can gather berry bushes and more resources, i might take a small small section of the island and cut it off and away from the main island and build a mineshaft on that piece turning it into a mini mining island and then go from there, building first floor structures, roads, etc. granted the maximum of 50 hearthlings makes it difficult to refer to it as a CITY but it's more compact than a village the way i'd build it so it's for all intended purposes a city lol.
other scenarios i attempt are TOWER homes in this case a single structure to contain all of my hearthlings and their needs. i look for an area where i can have the tower kept safe in an enclosed area with only one way in or out. as usually i look for berry bushes, chop down trees, etc. dig out a mine in the side of the land for easy access near the foot of the tower.
I've attempted under ground cave cities digging to the lowest point in the map while systematically moving my starting location down with the resources i've gathered to that point. i find a location underground with dirt/mud so i can plant farms and dig a hole down to that location for sunlight (would LOVE to see lighting effects for this kind of stuff in the future like godrays and stuff to give the feeling that there IS sunlight being gathered down there by the crops. even if sunlight currently isn't needed for them to grow)
the list of scenarios i've played through go on from there but now that i'm thinking about it there are only a few things mandatory for an playstyle really, gather food, get shelter going, train your hearthlings. there really is only ONE proper way to play these kind of games for the best results regardless of the scenario you wish to attempt to play through.