This game works almost entirely because it throws away the standard RTS convention of trying to make the AI players act like human players. The AI in this game is an AI. It acts like an AI. It's deliberately designed to play differently then a human. As a result, a lot of the stupid cheating that other games do in order to make the AI a challenge while giving it the human's rules don't exist here.
The AI is not playing with the same rules you are, but it is playing a well defined set of rules.
Exploiting the AI isn't cheesy in this game, it's virtually required on higher difficulty (and not as easy as it sounds, the AI gets pretty mean). The goal is to beat the AI while taking as few planets as possible, because the more you take the more aggressive the AI gets in response. Graphics are nothing to write home about. Soundtrack is good.
Ship selection is good, and insanely huge if you have the expansions. Any serious RTS fan should give this one a try.