Yes, I have to agree with you. I was thinking before I bought the game that it would be like a new version of Lords of Magic. Nope, it's just civ 5 with a complete fantasy overhaul. Not a completely bad thing really, but not what I wanted.
If you want a single player 4x game, play Galactic Civilizations II. Can't get much better than that. The AI is about as smart as I've ever seen it. They built the whole game to be player vs AI, and it shows.
It's just not the most accessible game you could play, though. Eventually you'll get the hang of it, but it's pretty complex. Not "arcade-style" like this game.
Or instead of grabbing MOO 1 and 2 at GOG, you could get Master of Magic, the game to which this is yet another substandard unofficial sequel. It amazes me that since MoM came out in '95 there has yet to be a fantasy strategy game that is better.