You seem a little harsh on them.
Recovery of the booster would have been nice for investigation, but it was never intended to be flown again and was never the stated goal. The goal for that mission was a controlled descent and touch down on the ocean, which they accomplished. A 'soft-recover' wasn't the term that they were using.
This goal needed to be reached so that Range Safety at the launch pad can determine that SpaceX can reliably put a rocket down within a mile or so of a target. The next launch - in the next week or so - will attempt to land in the ocean much closer to the launch facility.
The technical difficulties of a soft landing are considerable given the hardware that they've got. With the weight of the empty booster, they can't throttle the engines back far enough to hover. So they fall towards the surface and at the right moment fire the engines to reach a computed zero velocity at touchdown. Doing this with gusty 30-40 knot winds on the surface is tough. 'Landing' on a continuously-undulating surface where there is no consistent level is tougher.
And yes, parts of this have been done before. Sure, there's open-source avionics stacks that can do this thing no problemo. But a controlled return of the first stage of a liquid fuel rocket has never been done before, and this kind of work has most certainly never been done for the relatively tiny amount of money that SpaceX has been spending. *That* is the thing that's getting tongues wagging.