Ashes of the Singularity, a new sci-fi RTS, was released last week. Long famous for being a benchmark for DX12, I’ve been playing the actual game for a few days now, and have thoughts. Pitched as a return to a type of slow, expansive experience we haven’t seen much of since the Supreme Commander days (which was itself a throwback to Total Annihilation), Ashes is an RTS aimed at PC gamers who would prefer to sit back and take in the bigger picture than go mad clicking at build orders.
It’s retro through and through. Don’t expect much innovation in the genre to be found here; the whole thing is playing to an existing audience, from the UI to the overall aesthetic, which like the game’s design itself feels like it just woke up after 15 years in a coma.
I mean, if you love this kind of game and wish there were more of them, this definitely gets the job. There’s a campaign, and skirmishes, and multiplayer, and the whole thing is nice and solid.
It also looks pretty cool! The terrain and units themselves won’t wow you, but the game sold itself on epic battles and it absolutely nails them, the camera able to pan out to show almost the entire map at once, as hundreds of units swarm across a battlefield, their laser blasts leaving tiny glowing embers across the landscape.
But the singleplayer stuff that I’ve been playing also feels under-cooked for a full, $US50 ($66) release. There are only two factions to choose from (a third is apparently on the way), and almost every unit in the game looks the same, making identification difficult. Presentation is sparse, the writing is poor and the campaign is almost entirely lacking in any sense of story or gravitas.
From Street Fighter V to StarCraft II, there are plenty of examples of developers reaching successfully into the past while doing enough to make an older style of game fresh. Just so you know going into it, Ashes seems to have only really worried about the former.