Like Leaders, each side will have a 'Wizard' that functions as the head of the army/empire. You create your wizard at the start of the game, apparently like a Leader, and he is a Unit in the game. Wizard's now have personality types, like Expander, that will affect how their empire performs. You will still be able to alter/grow your character throughout the game. Wizards are no longer associated with a particular 'race' and will have a greater ability to cross racial barriers than the Leaders in Age of Wonders 1.
Non-Wizard Hereos will still be present in the game.
Cities can now be built from scratch, starting from small outposts and growing to major metropolitan areas. Cities appear to have a variety of improvements that can now be purchased/built. You can still raze/loot cities. One such major addition is a 'Wizard's Tower', that apparently has varying levels. When your Wizard is in a Wizard's Tower, he is now capable of exerting his influence over a larger area of the map. The size/number of your Wizard Towers (each town can have one) will affect your Wizard's casting potential. Your Wizard can use two Wizard's Towers to move units and himself around the map. Your Wizard can now interven with spells in battles occuring within his influence sphere, even when not directly involved in the combat himself.
Units built in cities will now be more closely associated with the race that built them. The greater units, like Mammoth Riders, will have representatives of their race (riders) of their race. The more 'magical' units are being moved to the summoning spells in the game, which will have increased importance over AoW I.
Many map objects, such as Reflecting Pools, Mines, Nodes, and Teleport Gates, are still around for now.
Lennart has played Alpha Centauri.
There are now mana 'Gods'. You can curry favor or earn the ire of these gods. If you annoy the Nature Goddess by burning down a forest, she may ask you to Raze a Death Node to earn her favor back. Gods will give gifts, like gold, when you are in good with them.
"Out of gratitude, she's willing to give us either some gold, some mana, or some Nymphs; And we'll take the Nymphs... Always take the Nymphs." - Josh Farley
Tactical Combat has been compacted and moved to a 'smaller' map. The units look bigger and have much more fluid animations. Placement at the start of combat can vary, depending on the attacker's approach. You can now 'ambush' enemies and begin a Tactical Combat surrounding them. Units now operate on new combined move+attack system, where they are no longer required to do one or the other. The more a unit moves, the less it can attack. Ranged units can now run & shoot. There are terrain levels on the tactical map that will affect the battle, like the accuracy of ranged attacks. Terrain types, such as Swamp, Dirt, etc. will still play a factor in determining the effectiveness of your troops in a combat (sounded like they're keeping in the Morale idea from Age of Wonders 1.) Status effects, like Stunned, Frozen, and Burning, are still present.
A new race is called the Draconians, they're a very Dragon-like race.
Terrain-altering spells, like Freeze Water and Raise Terrain, are still present.
Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne will focus more on empire-building but still maintain the relatively low resource micromanagment requirements of Age of Wonders 1. Only a few resources, like Gold and Mana will be used. Diplomatic and Race Relation models will be improved over Age of Wonders 1. Multiplayer will allow for LAN, Internet, hotseat, and E-mail, to support up to 2-8 players.
A random map generator and map editor will be included.
On the surface, the 'feel' of Age of Wonders I has been preserved. The Tactical Combat graphics have been radically improved over Age of Wonders I; it looks FAR better. Spell effects still maintin their very vibrant, flashy, pixel-style effects (and look better too).
Utterly amazing. The Age of Wondesr II demo impressed the hell out of me. I could hardly contain my disbelief that they had already made so many improvements and still had nearly an entire year left until shipping.