First off this is one of my dream games. If you want a Civ style game within a fantasy setting, that is turn based and promotes combat focused gameplay over creating a vast empire through peaceful colonization, then this could be for you.
Basically like the Civilization games you create cities, upgrade them, and recruit units to protect them and attack those of your opponents. City management is not very deep as you just focus mostly on combat action and do not need to spend much time micromanaging your cities. Cities grow organically and depending on their level you get to construct a building every time it grows in size.
Research is performed only for magic spells which can be used to affect units stats, blast enemies to dust, or buff/debuff cities.
The range of buildings provides you with a range of points for four key resources with which you spend on unit recruitment and upkeep, spell research and casting. They also give access to a variety of unit types and ability upgrades which are unlocked once the required building is constructed. There are three races: Monsters, Humans and Undead, with each one having its own variety of buildings and units.
There are also special buildings that can only be built on certain hexes which give the impetus to explore the game map and found cities in key locations.
Perks are the abilities that can be given to units when they rise in experience and also by casting spells on them. Some can even be assigned to cities. The range of these is simply massive. Some can even be purchased for units, if the relevant building has been built. The sheer number available means you can develop a multitude of strategies as to how you create your army.
Whats more not only is the land filled with a vast array of random monsters with respawn points, but there are portals to "other" lands with even more dangerous creatures like dragons and elementals - waiting to blast your troops to pieces if you are not careful.
Together with these variety of opponents, the myriad of buildings , the number of spells types, units, combinations of resources, map configuration and victory conditions - the replayability value is enormous.
The AI is even competent enough to mount limited attacks and knows when to retreat its units and even is able rest them and cast spells in a clever way. It even excels in defending its cities. It still needs work on mounting an effective assault, as its attack usually are too easy to disrupt.
What's stopping the game receiving a higher mark is that a) there is no multi-player yet b) or a campaign c) the game needs some more polish d) the AI needs some more work.
Gameplay is fast and frantic and the alert system which queues the actions you need to take every turn so you dont miss anything make for a game that has that - "just one more turn" feel.
Some people say its just a Civ clone. Other say its not quite the sequel to Master of Magic. For me its inbetween both. Similar to Fantasy General, but with better graphics and stands on its own two feet.
Overall the game is rough around the edges, but deep with in is a diamond waiting to be unleashed. For the price, you will get much, much more value than what you paid for.
With the possibility of multiplayer and other enhancements coming in DLCs, this could be a contender for biggest surprise strategy game for me. What it does... its does really well.
I award it 7.5/10, but if they can make the few changes above its up there with a 8.5-9/10