I like the exploration and expansion side of space sims but most that I've tried seem to have shitty, clunky combat. Ur Quan Masters, Master of Orion 2, Flotilla, and Space Rangers 2 were all great until I found myself in boring space battles (that I usually lost). I really like Noctis IV since it's all about exploration, but it's a bit of a limited and old game now, which is also tough to run.
Any suggestions? Should I go even deeper into the past and try something like Elite?