Etherlords II feels like a game lost in what it's predecessor could have been, and what it wants to be. It strives to give the same sense of battle as the previous game: turn based card battles in the same vein as Magic the Gathering. However, it has taken all jeopardy out of those battles. Normally, for me this would not be a bad thing, and indeed it is helpful, in that the game is formated much more like and RPG, like a story. So each battle gives much needed XP and strategy information for further battles, and if one tactic doesn't work, another might.
This would all work wonderfully, but for the fact that the story you gain is so scant, and the game primarily turns into a map crawl where you guess and pick and choose at which creatures are the best to pick this time. If the game made the battles interesting, it would be one thing, but as a person who finds chess ultimately dull, this game made me horribly bored. Plus there was no risk; you could just "try again" at any battle, having lost nothing, so the game turns into an exercise not really in strategy per se, so much as a guessing and recording game for each of the story lines, where you figure out what is effective through tedious trial and error, then reenact it on any higher level monster of the same type with the same types of creatures.
The lack of investment this wrought, for me made the story boring, the battles tedious and the tactics canned. With the sound and the graphics obviously salvaged from it's predecessor, this is barely two steps up the ladder from the first game, which was in all honesty more difficult and with a higher risk, but also much too punishing. This sequel makes the opposite mistake, where there are no stakes, no worry, and the only thing this serves to do is waste the player's time trying to determine the best way to play, or to engender cheating using anything from guides to actual codes in an attempt to grasp the story.
I cannot in good faith recommend this game.