I've been playing GalCiv since the original came out in my early college years. A fellow student told me about the game, and we both geeked out after class about how much we liked the game.
Of the franchise, I certainly logged the most hours in GalCiv 2. I tooled around in the beta a little bit, played it lightly after release, but really dug in and played many games after Dark Avatar, the first expansion, launched. I was hooked on the mechanics.
GalCiv and Sins have been a frequent companion over the years, to give me an escape from real life. I'm actually a bigger fan of Sins these days than GalCiv, but looking back, I most certainly got my money's worth for GalCiv 1 and 2.
I played GalCiv 3 a little, but it seemed to be missing something... je ne sais quoi. The graphics and the opening campaign were really impressive, especially compared to earlier versions of the game, but the gameplay didn't really hold my interest.
I haven't played GalCiv 4 yet, but I did buy it to support Stardock - a company I like very much. I am probably going to wait to play it for at least 6 months, to see what gets improved and fixed. There are enough people saying that the game has bugs and gameplay issues that I'm not going to sour my experience before it's right and truly ready.
If indeed playing a tall empire is completely impossible in GC4, I'll probably just hold off from playing it until/unless that changes.
And I will conclude by saying that, while GC4 is different from and has every right to differ from Stellaris, I now hold every 4X game to the standards of Stellaris. That doesn't mean every game has to be identical to Stellaris; but there are many innovations it brought to the table (and, most importantly, did it all together in a single, cohesive game, instead of a bunch of separate games). Any new 4X game should be compared to it.
I hope that GC4 one day achieves the depth and flexibility of play style that Stellaris has. I'm not expecting GC4 to reach the level of story-driven narrative that Stellaris has; I know that's not a goal. But I want the gameplay to reach a level of depth, even if different, that compares well to Stellaris, which I've logged hundreds of hours in (hundreds more than all of my time in all GalCiv games to date).
Keep it up, Stardock - I'm confident you'll make GC4 a great contender in the 4X space genre, even in a post-Stellaris world. No way will I ever request a refund. But for now, based on testimonial from fellow players -- not from IGN, whose opinion I don't put a lot of stock in -- I think I'm going to hold off.
Meanwhile, I'd like a Sins 2, please!