It feels a lot like Heroes of Might & Magic had a baby with Master of Magic.
I HIGHLY suggest reading some of the reviews here. The negatives aren't all bashers, the positives aren't all fanboi's. You'll get a good picture of what this game offers and where it is lacking. This is my take.
The hex-7 combat. You can flank prior to engaging, but you may leave an army vulnerable to attack (it affects placement in the battlefield.. except against a city)
The hero "Leader" capabilities. Each army (group of 6 units including hero) can have a hero as a leader. Heros can pick from abilites to strenghten themselves or provide army-wide bonuses.
The Dreadnaught Class (while overall not high on my personal list) is really neat. They are mech-based, rather than magic. If you use their higher special units, you need other special units to heal them. This matters most if your empire included multiple races. Healers can't heal machines, and workers can't heal normal units. I like that concept. :reusgreed:
Spell options are "random" which helps split up the monogamy of game play (with a few exceptions).
Underground & above ground, + teleporters, water tunnels, and 6v6 "dungeons" with unique item (Strong, Epic, Legendary, and Mythical difficulties. :ghlol: )
The basic race & class units are carbon copies of each other. Slight differenced being pure damge vs a resistance-based damage type)
The buildings are all exactly the same (except the T2 & T3 class buildings.. but the resource from them isn't a game changer).
The spell system is lacking, in comparison to Master of Magic. There are obvious "winners" for large maps/games, which are to be avoided in smaller/shorter games.
As above, there are several abilities/spells which only have true functionally in MP... thus wastes a spell slot.
Again, as above, the spells are generated "randomly" based on your leader choices. While not entirely bad (MoM was like that also), the MultiPlayer-biased or large map-biased abilities aren't balanced out of the choices. Likewise, they don't recive more weight in those circumstances.
So that's really just one big one, split into 3 parts and the last being a pro & con.
I've not gotten the xpac.. but that's supposed to add a few more nice things to the game. Worth the expansion price? Not sure yet. Next sale though.. ;)
There are a few things they could do differently, from a deisgn standpoint, but given the origins and overal gameplay.. It's definitely a good $20-30.00 game. Not sure about $40-45 (not counting the expansion)
Apparently there is a bug that can crash and lose all of your data. I haven't run into that one yet. It does have occasional "lag" on the large + maps.
I defenitely enjoy it, so far, I'm just a bit picky about things.
What they could do to "fix" some of the holes in the game:
Make a couple of "difficult" races, that are OP'd, but cost more.
Make a couple of "easy" races, that are weak, but fast to max out.
Mix up the complexity of the city structures. Maybe Orcs only get a shrine, not a grand temple, etc... then balance it out other ways. (can tie into above)
Get rid of the "Knowledge Points" resource. It becomes 100% worthless at some point in the game. :angrytitan: Merge "Mana Income" and "Knowledge Points" and let the player balance the resource between the two. (mana income if dor spell upkeep, unit purchase, initial spell cast, etc.. Knowledge Points only go to how fast you research spells)
Unbalance the spell system some more. Let a Mastery level always yield a really bad@$$ unit and global power.
Weigh out some of the spells that favor different game maps and MP vs SP. There shouldn't be a clear "winner" for them, on that front. (These are in the Class-specific spells, regardless of your focuses, and the one focus realm of expansionisim.) If a balance can't be reached easily.. simply making a counterpart (with a note on each as to what they favor) that is equally beneficial in the opposite playstyle is fine.