Illyriad’s own blog (mainly a discussion of HTML5 and general techie cleverness) recently had a post about how there is much more detail in the art than there needs to be.
Certainly the new art is beautiful. And certainly there is a lot of detail in the character portraits. But this is also true of the game as a whole – Illyriad has much more detail than it needs to have. It is much more complex, much deeper. I’ve played a lot of strategy games – and almost all of them were (a) much easier to get into than Illyriad, and (b) much less interesting once I got into them.
I’ve been playing Illyriad for over a year now, and I’m still loving it, because all of it – from the game mechanics to the world background to the art – is much more detailed, much more complex, and much more interesting than a strategy game needs to be.