At Noble. I was ahead of everyone with 5 cities on a small maps(I'm not sure if it's called small, but it's the size just before standart). I was having the same number of city than the A.I. or a little less.
I was able to do more settler, but you cant make too much settler, like in Civ3.You need to focus on culture, building, defense.... otherwise, you'll be kicked by the A.I.
The colonization of a continent is a slower than in Civ3. Slower and better. If you expand too quickly i pretty sure the A.I. is able to kick your ass in war.
And you have lion, wolf roaming in forest. Ready to kill your warrior\settler\worker. You have scout who is able to defend well against animals.