I think the homecity could be more involved, it's more customizable than in AoE3, but it lost some functionality as well. The art-design doesn't bother me at all, it seems more like AoM to me this way.
Gameplay wise, out on quests and such, it plays more like AoK with a few AoM/AoE3 improvements. It certainly feels more refined. And it's not gonna be subscription based so that's a plus.