Hey, just wanted to give some feedback on the game in its current state. Might be a bit longer post.
I have played galciv 3 around its release, essentially in a different life (after playing a lot of galciv 2). I am aware that it was not the most glorious period of the game (technically, I think Mercenaries was out already), but there was a mod out there which made the AI use way better blueprints for ships, thus keeping it interesting.
I played the game around a year ago as well, Retribution was already out, on someone else's machine, and now, with my own. I would like to give some feedback, with the good and the bad. First of all, I would like to point out that despite the bad press, I think galciv 3 is a really interesting game, with a lot of strategic depth, role play potential and flexibility. I really enjoy it - and keep in mind, I can't stand the Civilizations series, too historically inaccurate/random to me (I am a paradox gal, mostly playing Paradox games with mods, like EU4 with Meiou and Taxes mod).
Last time I played, it took me around one week of intensive play to "figure out the game", and beat the AI handily. I never play normal difficulty, and I am aware that the AI needs serious 'cheats' to stay competitive - especially in this one, where the player has so many tools. This time, I played a very slow/very slow game on gifted difficulty against 12 AI's on a huge(?) but sparse map (I had 7 colonies before taking more from the AI). Once I surpassed every AI in every category but military power (more on that later) I started to build custom maps and play on genius. Here's what I noticed, and the 'bad' part. The biggest issue the game currently has is AI, which in some ways worse than it was early at release (in most ways, including infrastructure/economy management, colony rush, building up planets effectively, etc., it is much better, but warfare is not its friend).
The AI cannot wage war. I remember from earlier versions, and saw it on 'Spiffing Brit's' "review" I just watched, that around crusade the AI actively try to destroy starbases and asteroid mines. The pirates still do (I do not enable bases due to performance reasons, but random events sometimes generate them). But the actual AI factions seem to ignore infrastructure entirely, which make them really tame. Literary, you can build a starbase next to their home planet while being at war, and they will ignore it. I am not even sure what they do with warships - they appear to spam them, thus inflating their military rating which reflects nothing, and try to garrison their own planets and escort their transports. No infrastructural damage is being done by them. A lot of the ships appear to wander aimlessly from what I have seen. And even though they rush the logistics techs, they fail to stand up to a player-made fleet due to forming their own fleets with outdated ships.
Malevolent AI's, for some reason, prefer to invest heavily into weapons, but not into defenses - often at all (others do). A year ago, when I played, I remember that there was an arms' race, and all AI tried to develop both weapon and defense techs. In the current version, they do it slower if at all - the gifted, the genius appear to do it way faster, but in general, genius AI is twice as powerful, or more, than gifted. The gifted ones meant no challenge at all, whatsoever, while the genius does test my skill in management.
The AI also appears to ignore speed techs for some reason, and this was the case a year ago as well. However, in my first game, I enabled the Thalans as a faction. With tech trading on, they probably sold stellar folding to a lot of people, including me. I will not, however, enable them again - on one hand, I feel like it is a bit of a cheat to get these techs fast, and more importantly, the Thalan AI is the worst of the bunch. Primarily because right from the beginning of the game, they build everything with stellar folding - a stellar folded engine (or whatever it is called) costs 8 times as much as a starter engine, and thus they end up being smaller and behind everybody, including the player.
Self-balancing: I am trying to figure out the perfect map size and self-challenge. I am set on seven planets, but even that might be a bit too much - sadly, I like large and spacious galaxies. My custom faction is essentially the Altarians, with certain and ancient abilities. Mostly for RP reasons, I really like the concept of living, organic ships (my own ships are often a combination of Inconian and dread lord ships), and the 'different, magical faction feeling' of certain. That, and who wouldn't like country-sized BDSM clubs (intimidation centers) next to healing pools. The problem, however, is that both are broken. Now I balance myself by setting both crystals and artifact rare, and the custom map I started to play on (auto-generated huge, loose map with uncommon stars and habitables, but with my own addition and pre-set starting places, with the AI having more planets to colonize to balance their inability to build any starbase but mining ones). However, in my first game, with two crystals and 5 artifacts, research became meaningless. It is still way too fast on these larger maps, even with 7-10 planet empires (very slow pacing, but -50% becomes meaningless pretty fast). Certain is also broken, you can end up having so much money that you can't even spend. But it is cool.
Anyway, long story short - the game is very interesting, however the AI could be much better if 1) would be ridiculously aggressive towards the infrastructure of their enemy, would actively seek out and destroy starbases and hyperlanes, maybe even asteroids. 2) would try to form effective fleets. I know that they cannot be taught not to spam useless ships, at least it inflates their faction rating. 3) would research speed techs more effectively, especially on larger maps 4) would research defense techs, at least the basic three defenses (some AI do, some don't). I can't think of anything else at the moment.