I'm a relatively new player who has been utterly consumed by the game; I'm creating an account just to reply to this, even. I'm somewhere in the mid-to-upper 30s on a couple of ships and I am definitely noticing this. It's getting pretty predictable: I appear in a new sector and meet a couple of races, and decide to forge them into a mighty federation that will bring stability and order etc etc. Do a bunch of missions for them and manipulate them into being friends, find a third fairly compatible race and get them all aligned together... then fast-forward an hour or so. All three races have peaked in size and have begun to decline. All of the worlds in their shared home systems are constantly under attack by wandering monsters and slowly eroding into nothing, dotted with dozens of debuffs I can't begin to clear. Instant destruction by an emerging monster/ancient race has outpaced colonization, and the hostile fourth race (or worse, an ancient I didn't catch when it was just one planet) is now more powerful than the three I've been grooming for succession. I'm clawing my way through an ever-expanding mass of red/purple/orange bosses and starbases that choke the jump lane routs with troops (which level up into experts on a steady diet of diplomatic vessels and colony ships.) In the fairly immediate future lies the hollow "boom"s of my client races' final extinctions, the only question is whether I'll have enough legend points to move on before it happens or whether I'll have to farm a bit afterwards.
It's definitely frustrating: it's basically the tale of the inevitable extinction of star-faring civilizations in a hostile universe, and of the player's powerlessness to deflect the inevitable march of fate. Earlier on in my Operative career, it felt like the story of great empires rising and clashing while behind the scenes I pick the winners and losers and fate of the sector. THAT was seriously fun. Looting modules while random monsters gradually fill up the map and un-do by planetary extinction any shaping I try to do, decidedly less so. I don't know how to succeed in the game anymore and it's a bummer because otherwise SO FUN. I've read a decent quantity of posts here, enough to know I don't have anywhere near enough experience/understanding to suggest a remedy (even if there are ever future updates to the game) - so I guess I'm just complaining unproductively, which I try to avoid. Still, I wanted to at least say something because of the SO FUN. I don't often find a game that grabs me so, and so above all else thank you for it!