It didn't look very interesting to me before it was released and I basically ignored it. The gigatonne shitaclysm that launched at Sean Murray's head post release did reach me, but even then I barely noticed it.
I bought it on sale on a whim a year or so after the release (post Atlas Rises patch) and while there's plenty that is still half baked and befitting of Hello Game's indie studio status, what I did like - a lot - was the fact that you can influence the world. You can name systems, planets, flora and fauna that you were the first to discover and more importantly for me, you can build. Learning all the mechanics, finding optimal systems and methods and having a place that's unequivocally yours
in the game appealed to me quite a lot. My system. My planet. My base. My design.
E:D has a vastly superior physical simulation (if you exclude the planetary stuff), but it's dry as dust and almost completely sterile. Maybe one day FDev will add the ability for players to own and build.
FWIW, the mostly negative reviews are historical and the by product of shipping something sans a lot of the features that people were expecting, and without telling anyone they were missing beforehand. Recent reviews are mostly positive.
The people left playing it (not many) are either new or avid explorers and collectors. I'm neither and could still return to my starting planet with one jump in my freighter.
So it's not universal for sure, but then neither is E:D. I found enjoyable things to do for a good 10 times the amount of time I've spent in any other single player game. 15 quid well spent, in my case.
The waking titan ARG has started again so there's a new patch on the horizon, but I'm enjoying E:D atm so bollocks to that. I'll check it out when the update lands.