ES 1 had an interesting thought with its combat mechanics. A full-on RTS battle gets tedious when you have to fight it as often as you do in a typical 4X game (see Sword of the Stars), but neither is it satisfying to just get a pop-up saying whether you won or lost a battle without seeing all those goodies you researched in action. ES1 made it a 1 minute movie of the two fleets shooting each other at three different ranges, The player could select a card that gave certain bonuses before every phase, and certain cards countered enemy cards. It was a bit too simplistic and mechanical, but it struck a decent balance between keeping the player involved and not wasting too much time.
I was hoping for a perfected system in the sequel, with just a bit more depth and involvement. So I was disappointed that they appear to have tweaked the system to have less depth and involvement, instead of more. Now you only make one choice at the very start, and then watch (in the beta footage I saw) a significantly longer movie of the ships fighting it out. A real shame. I might get this on sale, but I could've bought it immediately, maybe even preordered, if the combat system hadn't been a step down.