I fully agree, and have the base game from DVD. I am VERY much thinking about taking this game off and putting that on. There were problems, for sure, but that game was FUN a lot. This one isn't. (50 turns to research "Find Familiar"...on FAST speed, no less...is just plain boring)
All I really want is CIVungeons and Dragons (get it, CIV + DUNGEONS; okay, stupid, but I am dying here), and this game has the foundation and then falls (TERRIBLY) flat trying to do it.
This is what happens when developers assume the hardcore players on the forums represent their entire customer base. All I've heard from day 1 is, "the AI is too easy". For us casual players, I thought it was just right - it offered a decent challenge, but I could still finish a game every once in a while. Now, I'm usually dead before turn 50 on the easiest setting and I haven't even researched metal weapons yet.
Everything about Elemental has become more difficult, everything is harder to research, and the fun has just been sucked out of the game.
This is the only game I've bought that uses forced updates (I don't buy off Steam either). I stick with Gamersgate or GoG because I get total control over my installation. If I want to rollback to an older patch, I can do that. I can't do that with Elemental - I'm stuck with a game I didn't buy.