I've recently had the option of purchasing a few other strategy 4x games out on the market now at a discount on Steam. However, upon researching them, it turns out that the AI is pretty braindead if not wholly reliant on cheating to be a challenge. No matter how nice the lore, presentation, UI, or perceived reputation of the game, you can never substitute a challenging AI for anything.
I know we're all awaiting the next expansion. But the fact that we have received such a massive, sweeping and ultimately engaging overhaul of the AI in 2.0 for free makes that wait far more tolerable. I personally deeply appreciate that Stardock made it a priority to release this for free FIRST and for everyone, rather than making us wait for months and just releasing everything in one shot with the expansion.
All of this gives Galciv 3 the robust base game experience that makes it likely for us to continue support for the future. As someone who doesn't play multiplayer much, having an AI that can out think me is absolutely fantastic.