How should a great real time strategy RTS game look like? How should it feel? Some players prefer the focus to be on the base building aspects. To them the intensity and the thrill of preparation is everything.
Others want the beginning to be as short as possible. It’s the fight they are eagerly waiting for.
And of course, no one likes gathering resources…
Due to the versatility of the genre it’s impossible to unanimously decide upon the best RTS title. Yet, no one would argue that Command and Conquer series is high up there. Well, we think we found a worthy competitor.
Ashes of the Singularity – controversial start
When the game was about to be launched, it was awaited with great anticipation. But it was met with a lot of controversy upon release. Some reviewers compared the Ashes of Singularity with the genre’s best, while others were sure it’s mediocre at best.
Ashes of the Singularity did a lot of things right: solid engine, nice looks, massive battles, great economy mechanics. If you’re an online player, you couldn’t have wanted for more. But the game’s obvious Achilles’ heel was the single player campaign.
However, the recovery didn’t take long. As soon as a couple of balancing patches hit, and new maps added, the interest as well as the appreciation of the game skyrocketed.
We’ll say this (something that many fans agree with). After a couple of tweaks Ashes of Singularity was launched as a breath of fresh air. It’s very heavily dependent on skill rather than anything else. Thus, players and critics found it to so much different in an industry overflown with a pay-to-win focus.
Ashes of the Singularity gameplay
Ashes of Singularity aimed to become the best in the market. How? By focusing on the battles without completely forgetting the base building that some players love. And yes, not make resource gathering too tedious.
And they did a pretty good job with it.
As a player, you can join one of two factions – humans or robots. Both have a rather balanced range of units. Both, in quantity and quality in terms of land units. Although, the choice between naval and air units is somewhat limited. That’s also something that later Escalation expansion addressed.
But there is something to be said about the multiplayer community. The thoughts about the Ashes community are, at the very least, split. That is obviously to be expected with any multilplayer RTS. Any mainstream game, to be honest. Think PUBG, Fortnite, League of Legends, Overwatch, etc. Basically, the larger you grow, the more you are running the risk of being overrun by, let’s call them, posers.
Which again, the Escalation expansion was supposed to address. But being a stand-alone, it divided the community between the base game and the Escalation. So, the only sensible solution for the Stardock was to bring those two together.
While it’s not ideal, you also have a choice. If you don’t like the server, you can always do some research and switch to a friendlier one.
Ashes of the Singularity graphics and sound
This is where the game excels and draws in even the least attentive players. Partly because the developers pushed the engine to its limits for the ability to cram up to 10,000 battle units into the battlefield. Some frame drops are expected during the battle scenes but the game looks, sounds, and feels fantastic.
Well, if you are really picky, you may want more zoom options (for both close combat and the tactical overview of the battle) or better polished units. But, as the theme of the review goes, Escalation came to the rescue again.
Stardock CEO in a recent interview with PC Magazine admitted that they were hesitant on bringing in a strategic zoom to the game. But, unlike the base game, Escalation helped them make a final decision:
“We use strategic zoom in Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations but there is a downside—you alienate players who dislike abstract representations of the battlefield. With Escalation, we ultimately decided that we can’t be all things to all people. There is no way you can find a global war via a mini-map. You need to be able to zoom out and see the world abstractly too.”
Ashes of the Singularity – Escalation expansion
So far in this review, the overarching theme was that the game had flaws, but Escalation expansion came to a heroic rescue. Fair enough.
Now let’s turn it over.
In 2016, the expansion plugged some major leaks of the base game but, even by itself, it wasn’t that bad. The idea was fresh, the massiveness of the battles reminded us of the Total War series, the game had no problems running 60 FPS, except for the big battles.
It’s as if this was how it was supposed to go. Without the base game, there would be no Escalation.
Was it a helpful hand? Sure. But the hero to us is still the original Ashes of the Singularity.
Overall, it’s a very good game. A spectacular one. They got right the start of the game, the middle and the end. There is an array of units you have never seen before. It looks impeccable. And, to give credit where it’s due, Ashes of the Singularity is a perfectly challenging game, both on single player and multiplayer.
Perhaps it’s too soon to call it to be inducted into the RTS Hall of Fame. However, it’s certainly a worthy companion to stand beside even the biggest titles of the RTS history.