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Babylon is up as one of the best as well. Now that great scientists can pop an instant technology at anytime, all you have to do is get your GP farm running and you will pretty much get a free tech pop every 15-30 turns (Epic length).
Their unique unit is also absurdly overpowered. An archer with 8 ranged and 6 melee attack is terribly broken early on. A pair of Babylonian bowmen will outright kill a spearman at range and sometimes even one shot it.
re: France, typical musketmen are weaker but cheaper than longswordsmen when they come out. French musketeers are stronger, and the unit is so cheap that once you hit the research you can spam them with gold and own the Renaissance. At least that's what I did. It owns longswordsmen and other musketmen.
The culture bonus is ok, it lasts bout 200 turns which is roughly 2-4 policies and a lot of border growth. There's worse out there. I personally don't care much for late game advantages since it matters a lot more what you've done up to that point rather than how good your uniques are compared to theirs. Early game advantages are everything (not that France is overly strong there either)