Although it's fun and I'm certainly buying it, MoM-like it ain't. It's been simplified too much to bear much resemblance to other 4x games of this ilk like AoW or MoM (or FE for that matter).
I agree that they stripped it down to the bone but I believe it is still very MoM-like.
The missing tactical combat doesn't really bother me. It uses bacically the same combat as Ino-Co's previous Fantasy Wars and Elven legacy games, which I liked. What puzzles me is why they did not include the ranged defensive support fire that's in those games. That was also a big part of Fantasy General and Panzer General. It allows for the use of combined arms and provides more tactical depth. They obviously felt the need to dumb it down there for some reason. Very dissapointing and I think it was a mistake.
I wondered about this myself. After putting in over 50 hours with the beta I decided that it works the way it is. Ranged defensive fire is cool and I would like to see it added in an expansion but it's loss is no big deal.
The spell reseach is a greatly simplified and scaled back version of the random MoM research choices. You can't choose starting spellbooks as in MoM and basically you just get a much smaller selection of random spells to research. I'm okay with this I think. I'll have to play the full game to see.
I am OK with this but my #1 want in an expansion is for them to add more customization options to your wizard, including choosing starting spellbooks like MoM.
There are no heroes at all in the game which is really the biggest departure from other similar games and the biggest letdown for me. Even their Fantasy Wars games had heroes. A lot of the fun of these types of games for me is recruiting, leveling up and equipping your heroes. Hero skill choices can be almost a mini-game in and of themselves.
No heroes means no equipment either. Major bummer. There's no swords of firey wrath or shields of +3 movement in this game to be had via monster lairs or quests.
At first this was my biggest gripe. I love the Heroes and Artifacts from MoM. When you get into the late game of Warlock your High level units and your Advanced units are so powerful and get so many perks that they feel very much like Heroes. I have seen some Nodes on other worlds that I have not managed to gain control of so far that I hope will allow for some massively expensive weapon perk that will be like an Artifact but as time goes on I find that missing Heroes and Artifacts is not making this game less fun. I hope to see them added in an expansion but will not be upset if this does not happen. This game is a blast as Warlock but it could be a perfect MoM2 with a few additions.
Although there are a goodly number of victory conditions that appear in the setup at the start of a game, you can't pick and choose the ones you want to be in your game. Instead, all of them are always in play. I've seen some complaints about this from beta testers who don't want their game to suddenly end because one of the AIs got a diplomatic victory or cast the master spell or whatever. Frustrating for the conqueror types.
Related to that, when you are playing, there's no screen to track victory conditions and how each race, including your own is doing in the game. No stats, no nothing. It's quite frustrating.
Again related, when an AI victory condition is met, you do not have the option of continuing to play, the game just ends.
Finally, as far as I can tell, there is no score given afterwards or any post mortem stats page.
I agree, these things are anoying. The developer is adding the victory conditions as well as multi-player. I have not seen anything about a score or charts after the game ends but I hope to see that.
All of these odd omissions leads me to strongly suspect that the developer was operating under the constraints of a lack of time, funding, or both. maybe Paradox pushed them to get a no frills game out quickly and cheaply, telling them that if it does well, they can add the other stuff later in an expansion or DLC. That's the most likely reason, in my opinion.
The gameplay as it stands seems pretty tight, simple and appealing to me. But for how long, I wonder? The game seems wide to me but not very deep strategically. I do wonder if it will hold my attention after I play a few games.
At 50+ hours of beta time in I am still not done playing the Humans. Every game is still fun and I still have yet to see all the different neutral units. I have high hopes for the longjevity of this game as well as DLC and expansions (The pre-sell of the game went well enough that they got the green light to do Multi-player as a DLC).
Check out a review of the game http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2012/05/07/does-warlock-master-of-the-arcane-understand-the-art-of-war/