I'm a huge GalCiv fan and have been playing since GalCiv2 game out when I was in high school (hell, I remember loading the game up from Impulse hahaha). I got GalCiv 3 on release and found it rough but ultimately ended up enjoying it a lot. So, as someone who's been playing the franchise for many years now, here's my thoughts on the latest installment and what I think the game (and perhaps even franchise) needs...
-Research system needs to change. The randomness is jarring and odd. I understand the thought behind it but it just doesn't work for a game like this.
-Research victory needs to come back. I know alliance victory is planned for next patch.
-The hyperspace lanes (or whatever) they were called from the last game should come back. Yes, there are sectors now but if you have a large sector it STILL takes FOREVER to get across it. In larger empires, it's almost useless to have shipyards in sectors far from the frontlines produce ships because it'll take them so long to get there.
-Balance. Seems like there's zero reason to use beam weapons since missiles and railguns are empirically superior. Also it seems building approval buildings are way better than building anything else. Also there's serious faction imbalance (Mimot and Yor)
-Performance. I'm running Elden Ring on max settings without my PC sounding like I'm at the intake of a jet turbine engine but this game chugs something serious.
-The galactic bazaar needs to be available sooner. The mercenaries system needs to come back, too.
Bigger Picture Issues:
-AI. The AI seems to just...give up halfway through the game. Their research seems to crawl to a halt and they just build the same ships forever. This was an issue I noticed with GalCiv 3 as well.
-More diverse gameplay/win conditions. I know I said research victory needs to come back and the game tries with the prestige victory but ultimately I find I STILL just quit once I'm number one in all categories rather than play through to the end.
-Pacing. I find that I run out of stuff to do by midgame. It becomes rote and kinda boring. This was an issue with 3 as well so I'm wondering if it's something the franchise needs to refresh somehow.
Things I Liked:
To end on a positive not, I'll discuss some steps in the right direction...
-Ideology. This was a welcome change although the trees definitely need some balancing/reworking.
-Sectors. This was a good decision. I also like what you're planning to do with military starbases (they must be engaged before invading a world).
-Colonies/Core worlds system. Thank god for this.