The graphics from this game are pretty much the same as they were in the previous game. However, this can only be a good thing, as the graphics were approved by many. Of course, as a sequel, there are a few new effects for attacks, powers and so forth. As the game utilizes several new factions, designs for their buildings and unit types had to be innovative, and I'm happy to say that their improvisations are top-notch and passable. As far as the terrain, rather than just grasslands and savannah, a whole score of new terrain is available and looks gorgeous, especially when coupled with the lighting and shading effects upon buildings and units AND terrain.
Balance wise, this game is very well done, and the newer features, such as shifting positions from attack to defense, to being able to have your forces get into formation, are implemented perfectly into the game. The resources change, which converted from having set points to build buildings, have now been replaced with placing those buildings at points a distance from each other to achieve maximum gathering. While this may be disappointing to some, it should be noted that doing this is not as difficult as it seems, and more often than not, you will find yourself building resource buildings more to expand you reinforcement count rather than your resources. It also adds a new element in strategy by forcing you to consider where your buildings should be. Added in also are defensive buildings such as archery towers which can now be used to garrison troops within to increase firepower, balancing out the resource change.
The Hero units that were added increase the depth even more, as now they are not free to build- they now take up space in the army. Their abilities more than make up for this, of course, and a few new abilities from those new units allow the game to stand up to it's glory as a good sequel.
The game is fairly easy to get into, even if you haven't played before. The game includes a basic and advanced tutorial to aid new players. Hotkeys are also available to those who enjoy using them, and like most real-time strategy games, they sport creatable hotkeys using ctrl + (number). The camera options are easy to use and manipulate.
This game was reaching for a lot of places, and it is to be commended for doing as much as it did. It keeps the spirit of the previous game while adding in a number of new elements, and while not all of them are done right, or seem incomplete, one could say that the game needs only a little polish to be complete.