Academy is way improved nowadays. So is Zvezda from what I can tell. KittyHawk still has the worst instructions ever - I can typically figure out even the most confusing drawings but KH actually printed instructions with pieces missing. Plus they botched the 'Hawk rotor heads so badly you have to cut them apart to build them. I miss the 'Hawk heli kits in 1/35 but I spit on the grave of Kitty Hawk Models.
Zvezda has definitely improved. So much so, I’ve started buying them again.
I’m about done with a Zvezda T-34 and it’s a really nice kit. Bought a couple more.
I bought an Academy Panzer III on armor_buff’s recommendation.
That is an example of a model I skipped because of the need to replace the tracks. Adding up the cost of the model plus replacement tracks plus shipping, there are a bunch of things I would rather have at the same price point.
Edit: To be clear, I do not hate Academy. My closet contains at least a dozen Academy models including a Panzer 35(t), purchased perhaps two years ago. It just so happens that three recent projects, all by Academy, involved a bunch of surprise hiccups that caused me a great deal of consternation.
With regards the Academy Panzer III Ausf. N, I have a Dragon Panzer III Ausf. M on deck. It has the same problem as the more recent Academy kit–included tracks have solid guide horns. According to my research, Panzer III M and N tanks came into service right around Kursk and they all wore tracks with open guide horns. A short time after Kursk, 40 cm tracks with solid guide horns came into service. However, looking through all my books and online, I could not find a clear picture of a Panzer III M or N tank wearing tracks with solid guide horns. The best I could come up with was a Hungarian Panzer III M, appearing on a Bison decal sheet, showing solid guide horns. I never found a picture of this vehicle.
Therefore, in the specific case of the Panzer III, if the kit comes with tracks with solid guide horns, I skip it. If a picture turns up clearly showing a Panzer III wearing 40 cm tracks with solid guide horns, my opinion will change.
The absolute worst kit I ever tried to build was the Dragon first issue of the Nashorn! I futzed around with it foe a couple of months, even tried a resin correction set. Ended up aking the kit, box and all out to the burn barrel dumped a gallon of gas on it and burned that sucker.