The intent is that the player adjusts his strategy based on the randomness of the maps. Without that, where do you draw the line? Do you Ctrl+N until you get nearby iron or crystal? What about a nearby fire shard for your fire based custom sovereign? If you have good locations you have to have comparatively bad locations. If you want them all to be "good" then you probably want a starcraft type balanced locations. That's important in multi-player, but one of the advantages that we have, since we are single player only, is we don't have to balance like that. The world can be less predictable.
You may get a powerful monster nearby that makes growth difficult, and therefor increases the difficulty of the game, you may get a really good item from a goodie hut that makes the game easier. We do attempt to balance these extremes so they don't overshadow the impact of the players strategic decisions. But the good and bad of the random world is intended. Some of the best games come from scrapping and surviving in less than ideal situations (in my opinion).
Personally I don't like the Ctrl+N option, but if players enjoy using it then it is there game and they can play as they wish. I am a bit confused by folks that play on higher difficulty levels and Ctrl+N until they get an ideal starting location. For me thats like turning the difficulty up and then turning it back down. Like reloading saves from before lost battles, or until you get an item from a goodie hut that you want. It's fine if that's what you want to do, but it always seemed odd to me.
Of course the other option is to play Pariden, they get an improvement that increases the Essence of any city by 1.
There is a difference between taking what you get at the start of a game and getting totally hosed and there is no reason, if you feel completly hosed, to have to exit back to the start menu and restart the game. There is never any reason , ever, ever, ever in software design to restrict agency on a user by limiting functionality, unless that functionality is impossible within the software. Plus the paradigm your talking about works best in competitive multiplayer where you cannot change your start or take back your moves. The catalyst to restrict these actions on yourself in singleplayer is that you will have to play that way in multiplayer, and since we don't have multiplayer the desire to play "hardcore" by self imposing limits on yourself is definetly reduced. Although in general I agree when you play without restarting or taking back moves a game is far more enjoyable.
That being said there is also the need for things to make sense and have at least a sense of fairness. When you see a square with river access and an adjacent forest and its a 4/3/0 and right next to it without adjacent river or forest is 4/2/3 you almost want to cry. Not just because of the humanity of it all but also because you know deep down in that special place you never talk about the 4/2/3 is better but you have to ruin the aesthetic. Or you bite the bullet and take the 4/3/0 because its your first city and you bargain yourself into going for a mat heavy city with a forest and the little extra growth of the river but for the rest of the game it is going to eat you up inside it doesn't have those three essence.
Hence the "problem" with essence and the reason, I believe, for this post. Essence needs to reinfore the aesthic. Essence should favor rivers, forests, and resources and lose the random pattern placement it seems to currently have. In the absence of these terrain features with fertile land it should increase as you move towards the center of the tile spread (i.e. favor creating 1 city in a fertile splat and not two on the edges, the essence should be in the middle).