So, this game is excellent. Surprisingly excellent. They took everything that was good about the original, added in everything that was good about Heroes of Might and Magic, and then mashed them together and added more goodness on top. The writing is clever and often humorous, and the main character is a bit of a wiseass, which is refreshing in a fantasy game. The world is extremely vibrant and lively, chock full of little doodads to find, and it's lots of fun to just ride around exploring. Think back to those nights playing Baldurs Gate or KOTOR, when you said to yourself "Self, let's just finish these two quests and then we're going to bed." And then while you were finishing those two quests, you found two other ones, and then while you were finishing THOSE two quests, you found two more, and pretty soon it's 4 in the morning. This game is like that.
Much like the original, the game has a non-random map filled with randomly seeded monster dens and items, and your time is split between running around the world (doing quests, exploring, hunting for geegaws), and combat. Running around the world happens in realtime, combat is hex- and turn-based. Morale and Leadership still exist, and are handled far better in this version. Roaming enemies will try to engage you as you explore, and just like in the first one, you can dodge most of them if you're not in the mood for fighting. The character system is greatly improved...you now have a WoW-style talent tree, various equipment slots, and you can get married, have children, and then get divorced when you find a prettier one. And in this enlightened society, your wife only takes a one-time cut of 20% of your money when you show her the door. The magic system has also been revamped; spells now have various schools which you can specialize in, and each spell has multiple upgrade levels.
The world is enormous; I've been playing in every spare moment for the last three nights and I feel like I'm not even halfway done. The assortment of monsters to fight and recruit is quite large, and half the fun of the game is playing with all the various types until figure out your favorite army mix.
Combat starts out feeling fairly simple and constrained while you get the hang of the system and build up your abilities and army, but starts to really click once you hit the second island. There's a good mix of easy and challenging encounters, and the ability to constantly mix and match your army keeps things from getting too repetitive.
I could ramble on for awhile longer, but this game is well worth the money. There's a demo without the copy protection out now (thanks doogiemac!) if you want to give it a peek before taking the plunge.
I shall return later with some helpful starting tips.