I've never really had much issues with the early game. It's mostly just about being careful about when you reveal yourself and how you use your grenades. As for the pods, I never thought they were bad either, since as the game continues, you usually have to trigger more than one at a time.
If you don't like the pod limits just switch to long war it adresses all your grivences.
I also think that the new DLC ads a lot of extra factors that makes encounters more varied with the chosen randomly joining fights.
Plus the whole theme of the game is this "covert guerrilla" feel encounters.