Anybody who praises the forests of AC and then goes on in the next paragraph to complain about how all of BE's tiles end up the same needs to rethink a few things.
That being said, this review is no doubt honest, but I honestly land on the opposite side of the fence on most of the aesthetic choices. Alpha Centauri was and is great. But I do not feel that Beyond Earth needs to mimic every aspect of Alpha Centauri in order to be a great game.
As a small example, we don't have Supply Crawlers to break the game in half and then jump on the pieces, now.
I agree with the it-ships-when-it's-ready philosophy, but clearly CivBE was released with the it-ships-on-the-announced-date philosophy. I have no doubt that they spent the last several weeks before launch just doing "bug fixes only." And that there was no phase of the development cycle yet that was devoted to balance issues (or to AI).
If there's a silver lining, it is that this November the CivBE team is working on balance (and more bug fixes), for some changes to be released in a free patch. Or so I hope.
And, yes, it is sad to see any strategy game released without a very sharp focus on balance. It's like making an RPG without spending anything on the story or dialogue. It's the heart of strategy.
I feel like whoever designed BNW, did not work on this project. There was a very good reason why trade routes were limited and not related to the number of cities. Why do they insist on turning this game back into a ICS fest?
As for the game overfall feel and theme, it was obvious that a bunch of kids would not match the talent of Brian Reynolds. They simply don't have his talent. As for money, I am quite sure that CivBE budged was greater than SMAC budget. Hiring more voice actors wasn't a hard thing.
Er . . . what? I love SMAC. It's on my computer at this very moment, unofficial patch and all. Didn't you catch me making SMAC jokes with Aeson?
And you've honestly never heard of Forest And Forget as a terraforming strategy for SMAC?
Now, as to your point:
In BE, we have (assuming flat terrain with no resources, since Alpha Centauri limited different terrain types to a few special sections of the map and didn't have special resources as such):
But wait! There's more! You can customize the terrain with the following:
2) Weather Controller
3) Orbital Fabricator
4) Solar Collector
What's more, each improvement can come in a Miasmic and non-Miasmic version, depending on who or what you want walking through it.
I'm honestly not understanding how nine basic options, with four additional yield improvements, plus the miasma or not choice equals "very few terraforming options."
Unless you're talking about the difference between "AC's terraforming didn't really matter because of supply crawlers" vs "BE's terraforming doesn't really matter because of trade routes," in which case I'm not seeing too great a difference in design philosophy, except that trade routes are likely to be nerfed.
P.S. I didn't mention the more military-oriented satellites because they straddle the line between military unit and terrain alteration.