Many people eventually realize they enjoy 4X games as a story-building engine.
Paradox games like Crusader Kings or even Stellaris are better at that. Those games are usually unbalanced, bugged, repetitive - but they don’t pretend to be just and balanced sports-like games. And Endless Space 2 does, even with all those asynchronous gimmicks. It says that the world is a zero-sum game and there’s a win screen in the end. Everything you do is to be at the top, otherwise you’re playing suboptimally. If you try to make lives of your citizens as best as it could be than you’re doing it wrong, you have to keep them just happy enough to be productive and don’t waste resources to keep them happier. If you don’t expand by war when you can then you’re doing it wrong even if you’re a hippie tree.
In CK2 and EU4 and Stellaris you can just roleplay.
The other problem is that 4X games are incredibly complex and never work properly. Even the best ones have false choices. You’ll never get elegant and complete gameplay from them, it’s mostly about learning the rules and realizing you’re the only one who knows how to play the game. Again, aimless grand strategy games don’t have this problem as AI is usually an open book and is there to roleplay, not to “win”. If you want to conquer the world in Europa Universalis then you’ll have hard time managing all those systems, you’ll perceive AI as one of the obstacles instead of a disappointing contender for world domination. And if you want to create Jewish Byzantium empire colony in America then you’ll have to manipulate systems to get an interesting result - and you won’t care about that play being suboptimal because you are not playing to win.