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Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation Review

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Gameplay:

Like the graphics, the gameplay is also better than it was months ago, and some of the criticisms I made back then have been addressed, but some do remain. The inability to change keybinds is still here, which is really only an issue for me because I want to quickly hit the Space Bar to pause, instead of reaching over to the Pause Break key. I also had three main criticisms with the army system, but one issue has been fixed and one has been lessened, but before I cover them, I should go through what armies are.

Like any RTS I can think of, you can create groups of units to more easily command multiple, specific units at a time. Armies are a bit different, but very powerful and you will want to use them. When units are in an army, they will move together, while grouped units will go at their own best speeds. Also you can order new units be constructed and added to an army from the UI once you have selected an army. This is an amazingly useful feature, but had some issues in April and some are still present.

The one issue that is still completely present is that only cruisers and the larger dreadnaughts can have armies formed around them. The smaller frigates cannot be made into an army, so you cannot order more frigates or any unit be made and sent to them. I very much feel this is an arbitrary decision, but I can see one possible reason why. One unit is considered the army leader, and it can make sense that a frigate should never lead an army. Why the leader position cannot be transferred without re-forming the army, I do not understand. Actually the leader will change when you add a dreadnaught to an army without one, because it becomes the new leader as all the units will behave to support it. You also cannot have multiple dreadnaughts in the same army. To be fair, the only reason you would want a frigate-only army is because you have not or cannot build cruisers yet. Air-only armies are desirable at any time though, so that is still a criticism.

The issue that has been fixed has to do with the movement of an army when it is first made. For this, consider having a group of frigates somewhere on the map and then building a cruiser. Wanting to form an army, you select the frigates and the cruiser, and hit the button. Originally this would cause the frigates to leave wherever they were to meet the cruiser, even if the cruiser was being sent to where the frigates were. This has, thankfully, been fixed and until the units take up their position in the flock, they will go where you sent the army, and not just to the army. Chances are this change was made to the base game some time ago, and only now am I seeing it. Regardless, the issue is fixed and I am happy.

 

 

The third issue that has been lessened is the somewhat unintelligent logic to constructing new units for an army. Ideally, new units would be built at factories nearest to the army, but this is not necessarily the case. You could have a factory clear on the other side of the map, and it will still build the units there, requiring they cross the map, without other units supporting them, very possibly not making it to the army intact. This has been addressed but not solved thanks to a new unit for the PHC and ability for the Substrate. Both allow new units to be teleported to the army by the factory that makes them. The PHC unit is named the Charon (the ferryman on the River Styx) while the Substrate uses a global ability. The Substrate ability is named Nano-Transport and grants this same ability to the selected unit. While this might sound better, as you can give this ability to the powerful dreadnaughts instead of a weak, defenseless unit like the Charon, the cost increases each time you use it. So, if you intend to have multiple armies (you probably will) it will become more and more expensive to deploy. This is still a very welcome improvement. It is quite satisfying to see a large number of units just pop-in at an army, ready for combat.

 

 

Both factions have had several other units and abilities added to them, but I do not feel like going into great detail on each one, instead focusing on two air units. Both of these are built only by your Nexus, depending on your side, and have the purpose of affecting the various relays you find across the map. Capturing a relay adds its section of the map to your control and allows you to build resource collecting structures at the nearby source points. The air unit the PHC gets is capable of capturing these relays, and because they are air units, they can get to these relays very quickly. They are not particularly strong, so they might not survive if the defenses have anti-air capabilities, but they still work. Put them in an army with a fast cruiser and other air units, and you will have a quick, air-based capture army.

The Substrate get the equally valuable Harvester unit, which do not capture relays but will siphon off some of the resources from the relay's map section, or boost the output if you already control it. In one of the campaign missions, you have no means of getting land units to the enemy, so you send these to bolster your resources before mounting an air assault. This boosting of resources is not unique to the Substrate, as the PHC can build refinery structures that perform the same function.

Something else Escalation adds to the gameplay is the ability to upgrade several defensive structures, which I particularly enjoy because this includes artillery pieces. Both sides already had a form of artillery defenses, but their range was comparable to that of some units. Now the PHC has a true piece of artillery that can reach other map sections. There is just something about raining damage on enemies from a distance that I enjoy.

Everything positive I said in the original review is still true here, so with the changes and additions of Escalation, this is an even more fun and enjoyable game. The streaming economy makes managing resources interesting because it allows you to over-extend on your resources, if you feel that is best, instead of putting a hard-stop to something.

 

 

I have not played through all of the campaigns yet, wanting to do some of the original missions, new missions, and then get into the single-player skirmishes, but I intend to do so soon. These missions tend to place some interesting restriction on the player, like the one I described above, and this necessary adaption is well designed, from what I have experienced thus far. If you are struggling, the original game received a difficulty slider some time ago, and Escalation inherited it as well.

This is a fun game that has developed very well since the original version released in April and I am looking forward to the continued development of both versions.




  1. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation Review - Introduction
  2. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation Review - Graphics
  3. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation Review - Gameplay
  4. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  5. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation Review - Conclusion
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