No, that's not true. I don't completely agree with Wolfe's description either other than multiple battle situations can be irritating! If a battle is initiated, you have a limited amount of time to go to the battle and take control. If you have several battles happening at once, you are likely not able to control very many of them. If you just want to auto-resolve them all, it's not an issue at all.
Battle itself is a slightly more complex rock-paper-scissors approach where there are three types of attacks (kinetic, lasers, missile) and corresponding three types of defense. You can design your ship to be a jack of all trades or concentrate in one area but then in the latter case you run the risk of your opponent loading up on defense of that type making your ship very ineffective. Besides all the variation within those combinations of weapons/defense, you have additional attributes (like extra armor/repair), additional hulls (some focus on offense,some on defense) and 'hero' leaders who help add to the variety of options.
Controlling a battle is a bit simplistic too. You have strategies (some people equate them to just 'cards') that you can play in three rounds. Some strategies can overpower your opponents strategy (like 'sabotage' cards can overpower 'offense' or something like that) giving you an extra advantage and even this is a form of rock-paper-scissors. But for the most part, you watch your fleets just battle it out over three phases. I guess I would liken it closest to how Dominions 3 works where you setup the strategy and just let them go at it (though with generally only 1-15 units instead of the hundreds in Dom3).
A lot of people do get hung up on the simplistic approach to combat but there is a deep game of colonization and resource management as well. In this regards, it's far deeper than say SoTS2. You might think of this aspect as more Civ like where you have to manage food, science, production and 'dust' (ES version of gold). There are resources in the universe that are required to build certain units (think 'strategic' resources like Civ) and resources that give you certain advantages (think 'luxury' resources like Civ).
All in all I think it's a really fun game at a good price. That's not to say the Matrix games mentioned in this thread aren't in their own right but if you are a fan of the genre, or want to find a game to introduce you to the genre, I think this one really is a good buy.
Edited for formatting.