So first of, why all the negativity?
Well the game is certainly not without it's faults. It has had a rocky start and some people do have problems with even getting it to run properly without crashing. But it is getting better.
The latest version is by far the best version. The new balancing and tweaks for units make it so much better in many ways. Compared to a few months ago, when I bought it (oct 2014) it is much better. The fixes for stability and performance was really needed and can't be appreciated enough.
The future looks bright as the game continues to be developed and gain features and fixes. For those that want to play around there is an excellent tool for mods, PAMM (Planetary Annihilation Mod Manager). With that you can install, uninstall, update mods with just a few clicks. Mods range from UI tweaks and hotkeys to overhauls that change the whole gamebalance. Some even adding in new units.
Well worth looking into even if you only want to add teamcolours to commanderexplosions.
So what is the game.
Well it is a game where you balance economy with expansion while trying to stop you oponents to gain economy and expand. The goal is to defend and keep your commander alive while finding and killing your oponents commanders. Depending on what skillevel you land on you will find the game as a nice slow basebuilding excersise (not appreciated style in multiplayer ;) ), or a spamfest where the goal is just to outproduce you oponent and overwhelm them or, lastly, as toptier you will have a real good spamfest but also with an intense need for always making the most of everything. Meaning you will need to micro armycomposition. Making sure your anti-air isn't in the front getting slaughtered. Doing that in a couple of places is one thing now do it in up to ten places on a sphere. Then introduce more spheres, more oponents. It gets hectic, frustrating and really rewarding when you manage to have some control.
The game really scales very well to. You can play 10 people on a small planet and have an intence fight from start or you can play 2v2v2v2 starting on a planet for each team. It is up to what you and the ones you play with wants.
There is a 1v1 ladder that presses skill hard on those that need it. This is where you can see the balance of the game shine (or not :P). It is easy to get into and replays are available to study what the good players does that works.
Actually the replaysystem in it self can merit some mentioning. they call it ChronoCam. It makes the whole game into something that can best be compared to a videoplayer. Jump around, change speed and so on is all there. The really amazing thing is that while you play a game you can jump into ChronoCam anytime and rewind to see what you missed. Not something you will use often but still a fun thing.
While 1v1 ladders rarely (never?) end up advancing the tech to tier 2 there is a largescale endtech war to be had. It involves planet vs planet where the goal is to get a beachhead with a teleporter to massinvade from you homeplanet. Or you could scout the location of the enemy commander and target the location with a nuke volley to punch through the anti-nuke defences. Just before christmas they also added the Unitcannon. Big artillery piece that lobs units to any place in the system with pinpoint accuracy. With it you can land a harassmentforce righ inside you enemy's base.
It really is a game that will reward those that embrace it. But it also isn't a game for everybody.
In response to kwiksilver344's comment
2 days ago they launched pte-82000 with way to much balancing tweaks and bugfixes to post here. One month between patches is comparatively high when it comes to games when they contain so much changes.
Yes the saves bit are bugged. Quoted from the pte changelog....
Please note, selecting “Quit to Main Menu” will not save the game.
There are sadly plenty of aspects of the game that could be described as underdeveloped. But for them to prioritizing the multiplayer aspect is only natural. That is where the game shines. The singelplayer bit (galaxy War) is very lackluster. Saving a Galactic War game has not changed. Select Save Game (Beta), wait about 5-10 seconds, then exit out of the game. You can exit by selecting Quit to desktop.
I can also recomment cheking out PAMM (Planetary Annihilation Mod Manager). There are plenty of things to play around with including big overhauls that change the whole game around.
PTE is a testbuild branch you can opt into via the the steam client. It is where new balance tweaks gets tested before hitting the live branch.