I must admit I'm a bit confused on exactly what it is you want here.
You say you don't care about real-time interaction or AI, but then you say you want to make interesting AI and environmental systems (which, I assume, involve some level of interaction.)
I think you need to go back to the drawing table and figure out exactly what it is you want to accomplish. It sounds like you've got some vague, airy ideas but you're stumbling on the concrete execution of those ideas. Do some drawings, sketch up some preliminary design work, nail down some goals and then take that design and see if you can tweak Unity to do what you want it to do. If you can't, then try another tool.
But there really aren't a million simple shortcuts or tricks. There are actually very few shortcuts in this line of work.
Sorry, I edited the post to make it more clear. I've already planned out a lot of what I want, including sketches and diagrams for how systems interact, and really it would be a playable game if you sat down and played it as a board game. That ought to help, right? So there's AI, in the sense that creatures have a branching set of considerations and actions, but there's not 20 creatures all fighting on screen at once, and chaotic action -- which simplifies it for me so I can see what works and how. Does that make more sense? It's turn based.
"Shortcut" may be the wrong word. Even finding the language to describe things is tough when you're a beginner, but there are obviously very inefficient and very efficient methods for accomplishing the same thing.
@ minibutmany I don't want to make a 3D game yet, I really just want to start at the logical starting point. You say I shouldn't make a game as my first project, but a "game" is just a program that people can have fun with, right? I know that Visual Studio has those tools, I've got it downloaded already but I'd like advice on what language/program would be best to start testing this digital board game idea. Thank you a lot