I think it's worthy of praise, though I've never played it as it's not my idea of a good time. The main thing about Elite was that it was a trailblazer for procedural generation, and by using it they managed to fit their entire "universe" (8 galaxies, 256 planets) in the minuscule portion of the available 32KB RAM. The gameplay was interesting with a fair amount of depth in the trading and missions, though I'm dubious how novel that aspect was. Some claim that it laid the groundwork for open world games.
I am slightly too young to have played it myself at the time, but I was aware my folks played it on our Acorn Electron (a BBC-comaptible whose version of Elite was slightly neutered). At the time it made a huge splash, the UK scene was on fire at the time and this was one of the best games to come out of that period. I don't know if it'd hold up today, when there are more modern sequels or alternatives to be played. *shrugs*