To be fair, I'm sure they'll try and add to that with DLC. However, yeah... At the end of the day, the above analysis really doesn't surprise me. It doesn't matter how beautiful the graphics might happen to be, a game with "exploring" as its only real goal, selling point, and mechanic is never going to be much more than a passing novelty for most people.
Elite Dangerous was kind of the same way, tbh. It, at least, had more of a focus on trade, wealth building, and buying bigger and better ships for combat though. Does NMS even have that? It mostly just looks like landing on planets over and over again to gawk at the randomly generated wild-life.
I think "Star Citizen" will probably be the most well-rounded and playable game in this genre when (and if) it finally comes out, ironically enough. It might very well have the smallest universe of the three (only a few hundred stars or less vs the several billion of E
, or the quintillions of NMS), but the devs are putting a lot more effort into making it feel unique, dynamic, and lived in.
In short, they're actually hand-crafting the game world instead of procedurally generating it. They're also including a real storyline. That looks promising.