Shadows make an immense difference in how a surface looks. Your first pic has long shadows, the sun is low on the horizon, your second pic has no shadows, the sun is overhead, this will basically wash out most textures;
I hear ya, to me the staion look so out of place new not weathered or covered in dust as they should be, I have often said this about stations and wreck sites on planets they just look like they have been plonked on the surface, I think at least a change of colour to them would help or some blending options, dont think its hard.
Some of it is lighting. The shots have very different lighting so they will look different. Also some of geometry was reduced, as they used geometry to create texture. Now we have texture painted on with less geometry. This was for performacnce reasons. I would have over 200fps in space and go below 60 on a planets with the old way. Now for me it is above 60fps on a planet. Much better.
Depends what GPU you have. Mine is pretty good, an AMD Fury, but others where lucky to get 10-15 fps on the lowest settings. Something needed to be done, and they did in what was probably the best way possible. The textures are still much better close up though. Also having those spare FPS gives them the chance to put more stuff on the planets like the barnacle forest. And if your PC can handle that okay, it will be a good indication for if your PC can handle planets with other stuff on them.Max Factor is right, but I would prefer better visual than more fps.