From what I have played thus far, I have to say I'm liking the changes thus far. The pirates do seem more easier to cope with earlier on, then gradually increase as the game progresses. To my thinking Severe seems compatible with a big raid pre-patch and they can certainly do some damage if you have your GW. lacking in defences. I have been spending alot more on bounty than I previously used to, especially as the game progresses.
Issuing pirate missions is a must now as more often than not I find myself out bidden. I like the way this is set up now, and researching this fairly early on is a good option I think. Being able to send out 2 fleets one after the other, 1 for a issued mission to them and 1 for the bounty spawned raid, can really make the pirates a very deadly later on in the game when the research is done and you have a good bit of cash built up.
I havn't seen much mention by the community on pirates yet, so I thought I'd post some feedback and get the ball rolling. I wonder if others like me don't really have anything to complain about, and that's why there has been no mention. I do wonder if others do have a similar view though.