it's still basically the same game, though some of the stupidest bugs are fixed by fan patches (for example, in the base game with only official patches it's usually impossible for the AI to land ground troops because he always disbands transports them the turn after he creates them).
Ultimately, it's a decent (maybe even great) game buried in terrible, terrible design decisions, a frustratingly bad UI, and intentional obfuscation (literally, one of developers stated the economy etc was made needlessly complex and confusing on purpose just to get people to let the AI do the micromanagement for them).
It's up to you if it's worth digging through the bad to find the good. Personally I think you're better off just getting MoO2 (or MoO1, some like it better and they both come in the same pack on gog) or a newer game like SotS or galciv 2, all of which are also good games with less frustrating things holding you back.
The fan patches just don't change the real problem, that you have to fight the AI tooth and nail to get just what you want done (or just let it manage everything in which case the gameplay consists of mashing end turn 1,000 times before you're required to do anything).
Don't forget the terrible story. I was elated when I saw how much background they made for the game, but then when I read it... *shudder* The nice thing about MoO1 and especially 2 was that the lore was open enough that you could ignore the less inspired elements of the game. (A silicon-based species called Silicoids--they really couldn't think of anything else?) However, when that stupid New Orion Council or whatever is forced into every game, I can't keep pretending away the design team's lack of storytelling skill.