I would agree that a lot of the initial bad reaction to this game can be ascribed to misplaced expectations (which in turn is probably due to non-existant marketing before its release), although the game does have some weak points. Whether you want to buy it, would depend on what you want out of it.
Personally, I bought this game only for the multiplayer, since I wanted an online equivalent to the board game. I've been playing multiplayer for about 3 weeks now. I've had plenty of 2- and 4-player games, and even some 6-player games. I don't know of any other game that offers the mix of gameplay features that this game has. Multiplayer can be a lot of fun, but only time will tell whether there will be enough players for the metagame to evolve.
- Victory does not depend on conquest alone. Instead one has to contest prestige points, which can be gained in different ways. This means it is possible to come back from a large deficit in points and still win.
- There is a large selection of agents that one can use, each one offering different strategic possibilities.
- There is true deception in this game. It can be quite delicious to watch an opponent send an envoy or assassin around, unaware that you have already bought that unit off, making its actions meaningless.
- It is in real time. Some people wished for some sort of Total War clone, but I for one am grateful that they did not go that route. 4-player games take about 20 minutes, 6-player games about 30 minutes to complete (with 100 prestige). That is a big plus in my book. A turn-based Total War campaign with 4 to 6 players (which does not even exist at this stage) would never finish.
- It can be challenging. If you don't enter a game with some sort of plan/strategy, you will probably struggle. The units in the game move relatively slowly, which might lull one into thinking that not a lot is happening, but this is not the case. One has to constantly keep track of what is happening on different fronts, giving orders to units and reacting to enemy movements. Thanks to the relatively slow speed of units, however, one does not need the APM of say a Starcraft pro or something, making it still manageable.
- The biggest problem the game has at the moment is the lack of players, which is probably partly due to bad press scaring off buyers. The amount of players online differ according to the time of day, so depending on where you live, you may either see no one, or find enough people for a 2- or 4-player game (maybe 6-player if you get really lucky).
- I find the single-player campaign terrible; the units available are forcibly limited and the level designs are simply bad. Fortunately I don't particularly care about the campaign, since I am only interested in the multiplayer.
- The combat mechanics are lacklustre at the moment. The problem is not the types of units available or the resources required (gold/food), but rather how these units interact with each other. Units bunching on top of each other do not make for the most satisfying of combat. I made a previous post about that if you want to know more of what I mean. Combat is not the main focus of the game, so its impact on the total fun is relativized.
- The production values are not great. The graphics are average, the sounds are ok I guess. Considering the high production value of other products associated with this franchise, this is disappointing.
There have been two patches so far. There are still aspects of this game that I would like to see improved, and I sincerely hope the devs continue working to improve this game.