Ashes of the Singularity
Thousands of units rush into battle, scrambling to take over a valuable cache of resource nodes. Drawing upon the sensibilities of titles like Sins of a Solar Empire, Total Annihilation, and even what feels like some Supreme Commander 2, Ashes of the Singularity takes advantage of the PC environment to bring battles that involve mind-blowing numbers of units, all unleashing mass destruction on the planetary stage. Does this sound awesome? Yes, it does. Unfortunately, outside of the novelty of the large-scale carnage, the experience feels flat and uninspired. Ashes of the Singularity plays things far too safe and simple in a genre that desperately needs a shot of something new.
The single-player campaign does an adequate job of moving through the basics, essentially following the real-time strategy playbook of “introduce something new in each mission,” but it offers no compelling story or structure to get the player involved beyond building units and taking over resource nodes. I recommend moving directly into multiplayer immediately if you have any prior real-time strategy experience, but if you’re new to the genre and using this game as the entry point, the campaign teaches you the basics.
Here’s the sticking point for Ashes of Singularity: The basics are the beginning and the end for the title. With almost no real micromanagement available to showcase your skills, gameplay comes down to taking over resource points with brute strength and adding to your blob of units to move to the next goal. Because of the focus on massive scale, commanding hundreds of units sometimes feels like just rolling a big rock over a smaller one without any strategy beyond “get more resources, get bigger than your opponents.”
Cranking out tons of generic units is fast and easy, and eventually just overpowering your foes with your forces doesn’t feel satisfying. Some minor exceptions to this rule occur with the dreadnought-class units that can level up and bring cool abilities to the field, but in general, you’re just looking at hordes fighting smaller hordes if you’re winning. To its credit, Ashes of the Singularity does much to encourage constant conflict and battle by making turtling a difficult (and often impossible) prospect, as you need to continue pushing out into the map to acquire the valuable resources required to keep the machine pumping out units. Building fistfuls of counter-units and just creating mobs from the units does little to keep the interest coming, despite having a solid setup that forces constant and consistent action over resources.
While something can be said for simplicity and accessibility, especially in the real-time strategy genre, Ashes has to deal with uninspired units and maps on top of the rather limited selection of unit-to-unit strategy. With only two playable factions, and no meaningful differences between them, the title must rely on the singular strength of large-scale combat.
Ashes of the Singularity is a solid title, but ultimately too unambitious in areas that matter. It demonstrates it can do amazing things with tons and tons of units on screen, but fails to provide compelling reasons to play beyond that.
Ashes of the Singularity plays things far too safe and simple in a genre that desperately needs a shot of something new.