I know some have said the game was too broken to be fixed, but I can bet that if you put it on Impossible now you'll get a run for your money.
That may be so.
I finally took the time to grab the patch and try it out. The tech seemed lightning-paced. I got to Tech Level 10/11 before T60, while the AI's were all up past level 15. That's insane. I could not build anything before it was obsolete. However, I played enough to see the AI's in action. The biggest difference is that they now do (as reported) settle all the worlds in their systems. They now settle even Red2 right off the bat, which may be sustainable for them. I'm not certain. Seems the game is programmed to continue building system colony ships now until there are no more unclaimed worlds -- and I'm not even sure they stop then!
The result is that the AI's, with their various bonuses, are now getting Deity-like jump starts. That looks more promising than I expected.
Tonight I went to check out Colin's post-patch mod. Hmm. He actually did several things to DUMB DOWN the difficulty, including toning down the AI research bonus and reducing their new emphasis on system colony ships. So... I decided to make my own mod.
I have taken Colin's Marine Fix and his always-present change to the first farming and mining DEA techs, then added my own tech slowdown, slightly less harsh than his original one, minus the imbalances he added between the schools. I have redone my Sitrep fix, minus the spying items. I have toned down the industry bonus of the gas gods and given humans a minor space port bonus.
This mod is a potential candidate for Imperium Two. My hope is that Colin's Marine Fix will allow the AI's to train and deploy ground troops from the get-go and put some balance into the ancient-era rush attacks. If the AI's really do train and deploy troops, that would take away the "sitting duck" aspect of the AI. I hope.
Ozy, if you don't mind, please give this mod a spin. You can play on any difficulty level. Hard is fine. I am going to try it on Impossible. Anyone else is welcome to try it.