Ashes of the Singularity: New RTS from Stardock and Oxide Games


The other thing to note there is (recent) price. Planetary Annihilation was less than $5 recently, and I think AoE was rather steeply discounted as well.


Looking at the numbers, I am surprised there weren’t more Escalation players added, since the upgrade was only $15 during the winter sale.


Well if only 20% of your original customer base decided to buy the new version ( maximum as likely many new people started with escalation) then that must mean they weren’t that happy with the original version. I’m in that camp. If I’m not having fun with the first version why on earth would I buy a sequel?

The reason I’m not having fun is quite simple - the fog of war and radar really don’t work for meet at all as a Single player.


I think the upgrade is permanently $15 for people that owned the original.


The upgrade is 50% off so it’s normally $20.



—Steam Review



Yes, I should have emphasized this more, but I did note that the drop off from Ashes to Escalation was much steeper than from 8-Bit Armies to 8-Bit Hordes: the latter has about half of the players of the former, and 8-Bit Invaders has a little less than half the players of Hordes.

Players have also not responded well to the “standalone” DLC stuff with Sorcerer King: Rivals and Escalation, and it’s frankly odd that in both instances the DLC wasn’t folded back into the original game (though supposedly this was due to technical reasons, but I assume Escalation was also an attempt to try to win new people over and have them fork over $40 for what seems essentially to be a reheated version of the vanilla game).


I played the dreadnought introduction campaign scenario and it was pretty good too. I will say that the campaign does a nice job at introducing new items. The map also forced developing and advancing 2 armies which wasn’t really needed in the other scenarios. Playing on normal speed and things have been staying manageable, but I do get a little more stressed than I like.

The decisions are definitely at a higher level - how many defenses should I build to protect this region, how many factories and armories should I build to keep production up (but not too much to deplete resources), decide on a mix of units. I did find its nice to keep the artillery ships in their own army so they can be positioned independently.

One thing that is frustrating is how building units from the army is handled. Build orders will get distributed to different factories, which is good, but it can cause the units to try and march right past the enemy to get to the requesting army instead of taking a safe route. I ordered units expecting them to take the path to the right that I cleared, but they tried to march right my an enemy encampment getting destroyed one by one.

I’m a broken record, and there isn’t really anything to be done about it, but man I like historical units better so I can identify things at a glance. Space ships are way to hard to differentiate.

My crash problems seem to occur right at the end of cut scenes most of the time. Playing right after a fresh boot seems to help. I have no idea what is causing this - nothing in the event viewer. I do have a modern machine - core i7 6600k, 16 gig ram, 970 GTX.


I was listening to the recent 3MA podcast on strategy games of 2016, and the guys there were pretty dismissive about Ashes. One of the complaints was that the units are very hard to figure out, especially when grouped together, making it impossible to tell which units were doing what. I agree that that’s a serious issue with the game.


I agree this is a real detriment to gameplay. My typical way of issuing orders when I have a mass of units in in a typical RTS is to select the entire group - and most RTS will then puts a row of icons on screen showing all the different unit types along with qty, you can then either select one or deselect a type. It’s become so second nature that when I have no corresponding way to to this in Ashes, it feels like a big step back from functionality I would expect in a RTS.


I do agree that the game does a poor job of communicating the “general idea” of… just about everything. At the top, what is the Substrate, what is the PHC? What I mean is, as a new player to the game, how do I know what they are, what style they have, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what might appeal to me? I don’t. I actually asked that question upthread and @Adam_B was able to answer. Paraphrasing, but he said UHC is heavy armored, lots of artillery, etc. Substrate were more on the tricky/sneaky side of things. That is great high-level information to have, but the game does absolutely nothing to communicate that to the player.

The same issue trickles down from there, where you don’t really know how the various units fit together other than a very terse “Anti-frigate cruiser” description. But there’s no feel for what frigates are for or what cruisers are for. What roles do they fill, exactly? When do I know, as a player, when I need a cruiser vs pumping out more frigates? Is there a ratio I should be keeping? Why?

That being said, I disagree with what you say about Ashes being a step backwards in usability, @Tman. I think Ashes actually takes a good step forward in usability and unit management, but what it doesn’t do is conform to RTS conventions. While it may be second nature to select a control group and select out a stack of a particular type of unit, the entire premise of the game’s Army system is to take out that level of micromanagement. This is a game that wants to play on the strategic scale, not tactical. You control Armies, not units. Your Army is the unit, and the individual pieces it is comprised of is like equipping/customizing a character in a RPG. Do you want a nasty long-range unit? Add more artillery, etc.

I think they make a mistake in that regard that confuses people, though. When you first start the game and you’re just running around with frigates, it controls like a traditional RTS. Then you get to the “real” part of the game where you’re moving armies around, and they change the way the game plays with zero communication or guidance to the player. That leads to what you describe, with the “I can’t select this type of unit out of here, this is awkward!”.

IMO, controlling Armies as opposed to fiddling with individual units is what I want in a RTS. I also think it’s the only way you can really do a RTS on a large scale. I think they need to start the game that way from the get-go. Think of Total War where you don’t move swordsmen around individually, they need to be part of an army before moving out. It’s clear and consistent right from the start of the game. It should be very clear right away what kind of RTS this is vs what kind of RTS this isn’t, especially when they’re moving away from RTS norms.

Ashes finally started to click with me, but it took a lot of effort on my part before I got to that point. I really had to muddle through a lot of stuff on my own, and there’s still so much about the game that feels just vague and mushy. Again, can anyone tell me what the role of a frigate vs a cruiser is? When do you make a decision to build a Drone Hive instead of more martyrs and the laser frigates? Why? And why can’t Frigates form armies? I’d like an army made up of very fast-moving raiders or something, but that’s not really possible right now. Aircraft, maybe? They don’t seem to play too nice with armies either.


Also, I’m not sure that units arrange intelligently within an army during a battle. My medics seem to like to get up by the front and get destroyed fairly quickly. Now, it makes sense that its the front line that needs tending to but they don’t seem that useful when part of the army. Are medics intended to be handled outside of an army?


I don’t think they do. I never quite understood the fuss about “meta units”. When I band-select a large group of different units in Rise of Nations – a game from 2003 (!) – the units automatically take up a logical formation (ranged units in the back, melee units up front; artillery out of the way). There are hotkeys to make the army behave even more intelligently. If I recall correctly, ALT + right-clicking an enemy structure would put the whole group in siege mode, where the artillery would keep their distance while attacking the building. I don’t see this kind of finesse in Ashes’s “meta units” and question the concept of them entirely.


In addition to what @robc04 states, I have to disagree. Example is the scouts. My breaking point with ashes is that I have my “blob” of mixed units - created and routed to a collection point and the scout is either inneffectual or destroyed and my units get whittled down and just sit there not responding at all. For me to pick the scout out and position it so that it is actually giving intelligence is impossible. I can’t select the scout because I can’t recognize it and no way to pick it out of the blob.

Scouts wouldn’t be an issue if I had some sort of Patrol routing - having units moving around in a pattern intended to expose and ability to target nearby hostile units. No patrol, with inability to pick out a scout and it just turns into frustration.


I tried to get through the first campaign, but now it’s crashing at a particular point every single time. I don’t know if some cut scene is about to start up or what. I have to say, I haven’t had this much trouble with a particular game in a long time. I’ve got updated drivers, I tried DX 12 and 11. I tried turning down the graphics setting. I did at least most of the “if you’re having problems” steps from the faq linked above. With so many games I just don’t have the patience to try and get this running properly. I may try 1 skirmish game and then shelve it.

I enjoyed several of the campaign scenarios. On the scenario I’m at now, I can’t remember the name of it - the AI seems to be able to replenish his army must faster than I can even though I’ve got about 75% of the map. They seem to be able to pump out dreadnoughts way faster than me.

But, for the reasons we talked about above, if I’m going to play an RTS I think it will be one that I can identify the units at a glance.


Did you ever play Sins of a Solar Empire? If so, did you have the same issue there?


I only dabbled just a little with Sins and I don’t recall. Do you think they have more distinct looking ships that make them easier to identify? I think the next time the Age of Empire series has a big sale that I may pick those up. Truth be told, in general I have never really preferred space / scifi RTSs. In a turn based game it isn’t quite so bad because you don’t have the time pressure.


I’m not sure! There’s some similarities between the games in that you typically control things through a fleet, which is centered around a capital ship. The units in that game felt more clear to me, though, so I was curious if you had any experience with the game. I’d like to know if the various units don’t feel distinct in Ashes is because there’s no context (unlike a Spearman, you know it’s probably going to be good against Cavalry) or if it’s something else.

For me, I don’t think I have any issues with spaceships/robots instead of historical units. I do have a feedback problem with the game, though. It’s hard to get feedback on my actions, good or bad. Because of that, I don’t really know if I should be building more Drone Hives or if it was more Frigates I need. Did my four drone cruisers have a positive impact on the battle, or were they almost entirely neutralized due to a bunch of AA the enemy had? It’s extremely difficult to tell. Hell, as I’ve mentioned previously, it’s hard to get a feel for the units in general.

Here’s the Drone Hive description: Area control cruiser. That’s it. What does that even mean? How do I know if I need more “area control”? What are the counters I should look out for? And while I do actually quite like that they want you to control the game via Armies instead of units and play on the strategic layer, in this case they muddy up the feedback even more.

I didn’t feel this way in Supreme Commander either. LABs were obviously highly mobile harasser units. T2 missile artillery was clearly good against single larger targets. I was able to quickly get a feel for what things did and know what I needed more of.


I think the lack of context has a lot to do with it, but I think the visual style makes it harder then it needs to be. I can’t easily just look at me units and see that I don’t have a lot of brutes, or the other small unit made at the factory. I need to select my army and look at the panel, except for most units I can’t identify them by the icons in the panel. I need to hover over them and look at the tooltip. I’m not even sure if the units are always listed in the same order in that panel. I think they must be.

I can look at the 2 aircraft and see because they are different sizes. I have the same problem with the units build at the armory. I need to look at the army and the tooltips. Actually what I do a lot is build 1 of them and look to see which icon’s number changes. Then I decide if that unit type has enough or whether I should build more.

I agree that some of the unit types don’t have great descriptions, like the area control you mention. Reading the battlefield can be an issue too when two large groups are duking it out. Some things are easier to read - like needing more sniper ships for dreadnoughts, or if you face a lot of frigates then you need the cruiser that is good against them.

This isn’t really a complaint, more of an observation - but damn those orbital powers are like super powers. I went to assault an enemy area and blamo - the entire army disintegrated. Made me think I need to build orbital jammers on my tail whenever I approached the enemy.

I know the AI isn’t a cheating AI, but damn in the campaign they can out build what I can build even when I control 75% of the map. Maybe their area is chock full of resources. Actually, I didn’t notice the refinery in my build panel, but maybe I just overlooked it. Building some of those would bump up my resources so I could build multiple dreadnoughts at the same time. I’ve got a lot of regions so I can build a lot of them.


Would anyone with Escalation be able to download my autosave file and see if it crashes for them within 1 minute? Just pop it into your save game location (\Documents\My Games\Ashes of the Singularity - Escalation\Saves. Then just load it from the main menu.

Curious if it is the game or just me.