Frankly either SotS would be a good idea to look at as both offer some good mechanics. 2 gets a bad wrap due to a dev and publisher issue leaving it somewhat unfinished and not fully developed but it has some cool mechanics, I like the fleet mission mechanic in 2 and the combat is absolutely stunning.
Both SotS are about building your empire for your war machine, sure you could win in other ways...but you used your armies to enforce power. Both use pretty simple planet development and management which is just enough to keep some involvement to make decisions how your bottom line, production and research are affected. I also like the somewhat randomized research too.
I prefer the more modernized controls that games like SoaSE, SS and AoTS have, WASD panning, tactical zooming, zoom to mouse cursor, etc. So while both SotS titles handles combat quite well for a 4X game and is pretty badass combat-wise compared to other 4X space games...I think SS could gain some massive attention for taking some inspiration from SotS 1 and 2's TBS strategy layers for eXplore, eXpansion and eXploit, and then use most of the current combat structure for the combat sequences in eXterminate.
While I agree SS feels different with scale, it is boring and slow. Going between zones is ho-hum and needs to be sped up or cut out IMHO. Though some of that is with the in-zone quick jump issue I still see where some ships in a group do and don't jump across zone to get to the hyperspace launch zone for the next zone. It was neat at first...and being at a different location around a planet is neat...I frankly feel that without something truly ground breaking and exciting to add some fun here...it is boring and left feeling empty. I know more is or was planned to expand on this with missions and bases...so that would probably help depending on what the current vision is for the game.
I don't think that RTS is larger than TBS TBH, but I do tend to prefer RTS...so for me to suggest TBS as inspired by SotS is a big deal to me IMHO. If you haven't tried it, get the first one...totally worth $10 on Steam. Even with its age...it is pretty damn cool and has some nice complexity without going too far in some areas...keeping the focus fun enough to keep playing. They have a great combination in-use and I would love to see someone take advantage of some inspiration from that rather than MoO2.
Frankly as-far-as how easy RTS or TBS is depends on the game...there are plenty of both that are easy or damn-near vertical to get into. Stars in Shadow is a super fun TBS, easy to get into and not overly complex and is relatively new. Masters of Orion 2 is decades old but has some depth and complexity for a TBS. Sup Com 2 is easy to get into, along with Command and Conquer 1...yet Sup Com FA and Ashes of the Singularity Escalation are RTS's that are little more difficult. Sticking to 4X, Stellaris and more-so Distant Worlds: Universe are RTS 4X space titles that are more complex to get into. There's plenty at many various levels in either genre though I'd imagine TBS would be easier especially with a no-time limit between turns leaving you as much time as you need to make the tactical decisions, research, expansion, migration, development, etc. Again, I generally prefer RTS...but I've gone through Stellaris, Distant Worlds: Universe, Dawn of Andromeda, Sins of a Solar Empire series, Star Ruler 1 and 2, Homeworld series, Stardrive 1, etc. And while they all do a decent job with pause-able RTS for 4X, some are better than others, all have some pacing issues and ultimately SotS with its TBS lets me get my empire developed and kicking out ships for my war machine in less time and with more fun. So if that could in any way improve the entertainment for SS, then I hope the devs consider it. It might not work for SS on its current development path.
I also understand backers and preferences...I also hope if anyone's willing to dump $15 here on this title would be willing to try the $10 gem of Sword of the Stars 1 Complete Edition. Spend a few hours learning and playing it, getting a feel for the combat. It is worth the time.
You're right I want more streamlining, I don't want SS to get too simple...it has a unique opportunity here and I really look forward to seeing it get there and will stay hopeful that it will. Whether it goes the way of cap ship like Nexus TJI or Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, or mixing in some RTS and unit creation like was part of the planned overhaul, or adding some 4X in as was mentioned as well. I really think with the combat models here...adding some 4X elements would be huge...but frankly the 4X RTS is tough to do right..and really I feel Star Ruler 2 has the best pace and maybe the second best combat to the SotS series in 4X games. SS could dominate a genre with its combat and features.
Thanks for the reply! I hope this wasn't too lengthy!