Despite the fact that I have no trouble winning practically all of my games on ridiculous, I absolutely agree with the original poster that there is a huge problem with the player being obliterated in the early game by monsters that he did not disturb and that he cannot handle.
I can handle them, sure, but I have been playing this game a lot, and I stay away from builds that do not have a guaranteed way of handling BBs (big beasts) early game. But a new player cannot be expected to deal with a Shrill Lord or Slag on turn 50, let alone a Fell Dragon.
The way the game works right now, it is quite likely that a new player is pretty much sure to disturb something that he cannot handle, or be visited by something disturbed by the AI. And if he doesn't? Well, then he is not expanding, and the AIs will outgrow him, and dogpile on him, even the ones that should be his friends.
This state of affairs is disaster for this game's initial reception, and I hope Stardock addresses it by release.
And I really wish that experienced beta testers should stop their fucking litany of "Oh, the game is just challenging, you're doing it wrong." No, fucking no! New players cannot be expected to do it right the first time, and being stomped by BBs teaches you nothing and really upsets you.
I hope that Stardock is working on this. I hope they will tone down AI aggressiveness on lower difficulty settings, and will make sure that BBs disturbed by the AI do not take it out on the player.
If the original poster is to be believed, this still happens with alarming frequency. Please, Frogboy, please fix it!
By the way, my wife is a gamer as well. She is sane, though, and she quit Fallen Enchantress after two tries. In one she was obliterated by the elemental lord of the Ice wildlands whom she may have disturbed herself. The second time she got wiped by 'some giant slug', which bee lined for her capital from off screen... and she has not touched the game since.