I am so glad you started this forum, because this is something I have thought I was alone on recently..
I have found the same problems in my recent games. Just last night I was playing a perfectly exemplary FFA with me against 3 locked AI unfairs. It was super challenging and fun for the first hour, hour and a half maybe. After that though, particularly once I got my advent starbases up, they just seemed totally incompetent. Where before they were committing fleets taking advantage of pirate attacks that were happening against me, later in the game they seemed only capable of sending in a large fleet to be obliterated. I say large, but really rather insignificant compared to what the COULD have built up to/committed. They seemed most content to send 3/4 fleets into my systems, leaving the rest scattered around their other systems or contending with other opponents. While this does make some sense, for why attempt to take a planet if it will cost you the one on the other side of your empire, it just wasn't logical when you realized the hopelessness of their attacks against FULLY defended advent bases.
Also, I have found that stars are almost NEVER contested. I realize that they don't represent an OBVIOUS advantage in terms of resources or taxable population, but planting a few starbases together at a strategic jump point and souping up one with squads, one with culture, and one with defencive capacity really makes a difference for fleet control. Not only can they not go through the star without loss of hull/antimatter, but they lose out on possibly significant trade income, and a possibly deciding cultural pressure. They always leave these bases alone, regardless of whether or not I have sent a fleet to defend them in their early stages. A human player would never let such an arrogant assertion stand.
On the whole, that AI seems somehow less challenging in Entrenchment than in Vanilla. I can't help but think they still don't 'know' how to deal with an entrenched opponent. Even when watching their conflicts against one another (as an Entrenched, culturally dominant Advent player is likely to do), I can't help but by struck by their insufficiencies. In the last three games against AI computers, none has emerged with an edge over another after a few hours -- they always seem to balance out, or take an hour or two just taking a planet or two from another... for some reason they seem totally unfamiliar with the 'knock-out' blow and the necessity of taking advantage of it before others realize the advantage you have gained at others expense. I love to fortify and defend against awesome onsloughts of offensive assault, so I have been an eager participant in this beta so far. However, I have lately become simply bored with the AI in it, and can't really get excited about the later game... which for all intents and purposes is what I should be building TOWARDS. The game should get more difficult as I go along, and the AI should become more sophisticated. Some should develop edges over others, and in a FFA setting, some should emerge VICTORIOUS over others.. however, I find myself sitting in these games 3 or 4 hours in looking at the first world war being characterized.. badly. Despite the obvious existence of tanks and bombers and all kinds of rediculous offensive weapons (even in Vanilla, sufficient to defeat Entrenchment structures) that should inspire some ATTEMPTS at Blitzkrieg tactics, I am faced with silly British and German WWI-era tactics that seems incapable of moving a meter more without throwing away the lives of thousands in small, uninspired attack after attack.
Let's hope for some real creative thinking and wish Stardock the best (as I am sure this is very difficult and complex to develop), but lets not be too kind with our praise in THIS stage of developement -- a great deal of work to create a 'formidable opponent' remains yet.
Best of luck Stardock, and thanks for the effort.
To the victor go the spoils!