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Ashes of the Singularity – Early Access First Impressions

By on November 10th, 2015 2:33 pm

Ashes of the Singularity | A real-time sci-fi strategy game by Oxide Games and Stardock Entertainment

Ashes of the Singularity is a new real-time strategy game developed by Oxide Games and Stardock Entertainment, and published by Stardock. The game was released to Steam Early Access on October 22, 2015. The game is a far-future sci-fi RTS that focuses more on macro-scale play of base building and massive armies production. Stardock mentions the game is heavily influenced by Supreme Commander.

The game also contains small elements that are inspired from Company of Heroes, which is also cited as a source of inspiration. These elements are the concept of taking points on the map to generate resources and key positions that rake up victory points. Also, keeping your network connected is vital or the enemy will be allowed to break your supply lines and cripple your economy by striking at a critical junction.

However, even if the game uses a capture point system of connected networks, the scale and style of play is still closer to the model of heavy base building and mass unit production. This makes the game more similar to Supreme Commander and the more recent Planetary Annihilation than Company of Heroes. The focus is about waging wars on a large map and not mere skirmishes between small squads of units.

The game also uses the new Oxide Engine, a 64-bit DX12 game engine which specialises in multi-core threading (Quad+), but the game is still compatible with DX11 and its respective OSes. The game’s specs are pretty high when compared to other games in the genre (requiring a Quad Core and a 2GB GFX card), with the recommended specs being significantly higher.

There’s no release date confirmed and the game is still in heavy development.

Ashes of the Singularity

State of the Game

Ashes of the Singularity is in an early Pre-Beta Build (Alpha), and many core game features are missing. The game also has stability issues but I experienced no crashes in my playthrough. It should be heavily stated that when I say the game is not feature complete I mean that. Only the skirmish mode is available (both AI and Multiplayer are available), only one faction is in, and not all the map types are in. It also feels more can be done with the existing maps. Also, the global abilities are not in yet, which play the role of strategic and tactical manipulation as units don’t have individual abilities for the player to manage.

Also, my computer barely meets the system specs; I was playing it on DX11. Surprisingly, it still ran smoothly though my framerate was low but I have experienced worst in the past with games that I was way over-spec with. The silver lining I noticed is that the game kept a stable performance despite the number of units that were on the screen. Though the performance did go down, it wasn’t the feast or famine differences I tend to see with other RTS titles.

List of Features (most not implemented yet):

  • Multiplayer and AI Skirmish Modes
  • A Galactic Conquest Mode (not available and no details are given so far)
  • Two Factions (only one is implemented at the moment)
  • Several different types of map environments (only a few are present)
  • No unit micro, units are grouped into intelligent armies where units will behave according with the armies composition (repair units will stay away from fire and repair, short range and high health units will move to the front to protect, while artillery units will move to the back)
  • The player and the AI will have access to global abilities to shift the odds of battle and be able to research upgrades to improve their armies (global abilities are not implemented yet)
  • The game will have a map editor (not implemented yet)

Ashes of the Singularity

First Impressions

As always, it’s difficult to form definite opinions on a game that hits the digital shelves in such an early state. It seems the game will not have a single player campaign, but will have a Galactic War mode. There haven’t been any details on how this mode will work though. The lack of the second faction and the fact that global abilities are not implemented yet makes it difficult to judge the game as a whole.

I’ve also found the visuals for the maps that are presented to be very bare bone, with very little visual extras present. Though it is nice when these extras have an effect in the game, here the game lacks them even for aesthetic purposes. The only difference between desert maps and verdant ones is one is brown and looks like sand, while the other looks like mossy rocks and flattened grass. Hopefully, this is only due to early development and there will be more “decorations” on the maps.

Unit animations are what you’d expect from a game that has more of a large scale focus, but there is some visual flair on weapon effects. Later game units like cruisers and battleships (think tier 2 and tier 3 respectively) can have some interesting visuals and when you have a swarm of them the fireworks finally start. It is hard to know just how much panache the game has with only one faction and none of the global abilities implemented.

Even the game’s pace is in a state of flux, as the aim is to have the game proceed at a slower rhythm with units being produced at a steady pace and moving relatively slow across the map. There’s a chance the game will be “sped up” if the feedback reveals that the action is too slow, but this tells the game will probably have a slower pace overall when compared to your typical high APM (action per minute) RTS titles.

Ashes of the Singularity

This said, I do think the game has the infrastructure to achieve what it’s set to do: a mass scale, macro focused RTS where players fight for control of the map to achieve victory with each section of the map holding some strategic value. This element from Company of Heroes is welcomed. Also, since victory can be achieved by controlling all the victory points, it makes turtling in your base not a valid strategy; though a player can still heavily defend a victory point and thus still “turtle” on the map as a tactic as long as they can have more VPs than the enemy.

One aspect that is deserving of credit is that the AI is competent, even at the lowest difficulty (beginner) it knows how to play and will win if you don’t know what you are doing, but it plays slowly so you will have enough time to learn the ropes. The second lowest difficulty (easy) actually starts to play to win and though an experienced RTS player who is familiar with the game will surely beat it, in my first attempt the Easy AI beat me. In my defence I had no idea how to play the game. In the AI’s defence, I usually can beat them on easy even if I’m clueless. The normal difficulty was surprisingly skilled though I haven’t played much with the game.

Learning the game isn’t too difficult but it does require you to read the sparse documentation (which is more of an intro guide) and probably does require overall experience with games like these. Hopefully, the finished game will have a tutorial for newer players.

Ashes of the Singularity

Overall, I am looking forward to see how the game shapes up as they add the features that would actually give the game some meat on its bone. For now I will just wait and see how the game develops.

However, as mentioned several times, the game is still far from completion. As usual, Early Access carries a huge risk and players should exercise caution. The program is for the truly dedicated who wish to support a developer or the entrepreneurial individual who wants a chance to give direct feedback for a project still in development.

Ashes of the Singularity is available on Steam Early Access for $49.99 USD. SpaceSector will continue to follow this title and will offer more updates if they are pertinent as the game nears completion, and naturally our review afterwards when the game is officially released.

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  1. dayrinni says:

    This looks like a lot of fun but I’m a bit leery in dropping the asking price for it, at this time. Like others, I need to see more.

  2. alienjd says:

    I’m a huge fan of Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander and Dawn of War/Company of Heroes* so if my PC can run it I’m going to pick this up once/if it gets out of early access.

    *didn’t like DOW 2 or COH 2

  3. BlueTemplar says:

    How does it compare with :
    – Zero-K (and other Total Annihilation based games on Spring engine) ?
    – Planetary Annihilation (including the Titans expansion) ?
    – Supreme Commander 1 : Forged Alliance Forever ?

    Also, while it was pretty much touted as being a “benchmark” game for Nitrous’ Oxide engine based on Mantle, they mostly seemed to talk about *displaying* effects (and where it was a bottleneck for DX11).
    However, since it’s a video *game* and not just a video, I’m more interested in how it deals with gameplay-affecting parts of the simulation, a big part of which is a simulation of projectiles (and those projectiles bouncing off units and transferring them impulse), which, when they are used, seem to hit the ceiling of what can be done with current computers very fast.
    (while Ashes of Singularity doesn’t even seem units interacting with terrain)

    • dayrinni says:

      I am playing PA right now a bit on the side. It’s a pretty interesting game. Still figuring it out completely. But right now, IMHO, it seems a little clunky to me in managing units. I suspect this is due to the fact I haven’t played a RTS in probably 3 years, haha.

      The army concept sounds fun and useful in AotS, so that is one aspect I am looking for!

  4. SQW says:

    Any day now, a game company will breathlessly issue a press release touting its incredible, adaptive game AI that will make game fun instead of just pretty. *sarcasm*

    The game industry seems to hell bent on retreading the movie industry’s on-off love affair with pretty graphics. Remember how in the 90s where every studio scorned the decades old physical props and dived headfirst into fancy CGI?

    • BlueTemplar says:

      That was a risky sarcasm on your part, considering the love Stardock has with AI :
      (notice Edward’s comment about the AI feeling stronger than usual)

    • DrManhatten says:

      Considering the massive onroling success of ML outside the games community I wouldn’t laugh so loud it is all just a matter of time the game dev community cannot live under a rock forever. But they are usually historical 5-10 years behind the curve.

    • SQW says:

      The next decade wouldn’t be much different since the AAA studios wants more player ‘engagement’ with each other rather than with the AI and indies don’t have the clout to do complicated 4X or sandboxes. The direction of gaming of the future isn’t AI but player2player interconnection which will make AI even more obsolete.

      A decade of gaming dominated by Star Craft RTS, FPSs, MMOs and MOBAs absolutely killed any innovation into AI development. We were on the cusp of something great in the late 90s when Homeworld and Dark Reign came out then everything went to hell AI wise.

      Nowadays I purposely avoid games that would require a competent AI opponent (looking at you CIV/Endless series!). At least XCOM-ish games are getting made now.

      • t1it says:

        Try Pandora with expansion with latest beta patches if you want challenge (no AI cheats).

        Warning: You’ll lose.

  5. Ermdog says:

    First thing I saw was the screenshot. Saw the left unit/base UI (like in SOSE) and got really excited. Another game with Stardock is a good game imo.

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Post category: Early Access, Game First Impressions, Game Previews