Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation is developed by Stardock Entertainment and Oxide Games while being published by Stardock Entertainment. If I were to simply take the words of the many customers who already wrote their impressions through reviews about it, I’d say that Escalation is exactly what players wanted from Ashes of the Singularity in the first place.
Developer: Stardock Entertainment, Oxide Games
Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
Release date: 10 November, 2016
Type: Single-player, Online Multi-player
Strategy games have a special place in my gamer’s heart. My very first PC game was Starcraft, followed shortly by its expansion, Brood War. Those were the days, but for a strategic novice like myself at that time, it was a bit more difficult until I learned all the ropes. Even now, I can’t claim that I can play an RTS with macros and all the gizmo-like shortcuts some strategy players have adopted instead of relying on the mouse peripheral as “mere mortals do”. Watching a pro play Starcraft 2, is like watching a pianist rehearse. Crazy indeed. So without further ado, I shall discuss of Escalation, the standalone expansion of the DirectX 12 harbinger and sleeper hit, Ashes of the Singularity.
I know what you’re thinking. The original Ashes is critically panned on Steam, to say the least. I figure that storywise, Escalation is a step in the right direction with not one but three mini-campaigns that can be played in singleplayer mode. SP is important to me because it clearly defines the amount of effort a developer has placed into the game’s Artificial Intelligence. Almost any self-respecting developer can launch a strategy game that includes only multiplayer skirmishes and simply pits a human player against another. Creating a game in which the AI offers a challenge though, represents innovation which this title carries aplenty. Harvesting and base management have been streamlined, ensuring a comfortable focus on battles and the tactics they imply. The ability to zoom out to the point at which you can see the entire map and be able to command fleets with ease, is most certainly a feature I wish many more real-time strategies would integrate. I will not spoil to you any particular details regarding the factions within Escalation or their goals, but both sides exhibit well-balanced unit rosters split into several types by their defensive or offensive functions. Aircraft offer a pure supporting role, Frigates are the cheapest and most expandable, Cruisers are the middle option in terms of both performance and survivability while Dreadnoughts represent the pinnacle of technology and are capable of laying waste to a large number of units rather quickly. All in all, Escalation is more about tactics and patience and less about being the first to field the biggest fleet in terms of sheer numbers and “zerg rush” your opponent. But feel free to test this for yourself.
Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation’s graphics are a sight to behold. Running the game maxed out, should be considered almost a stress test for most GPUs and CPUs on the market today. I was no stranger to the fact that one of PC gaming’s strength over its console brethren, is the large selection of strategy titles which aren’t exclusive just for the reason of complex control schemes favoring a keyboard. Nearly all major strategy titles in recent years, push system specs to their limits if you wish to muster vast digital armies in fullest detail. Ashes of the Singularity and its standalone expansion also adhere to this principle. Running Escalation at 4K resolution and constant 60 FPS no matter what’s being shown on the screen, is impossible. Not with a single graphics card at least. Is it necessary though? Probably not, which is why I am lenient in this regard and shall not dismiss this as being anodx 12
ther case of unoptimized game engine. Demanding or not, nobody can deny the beauty of two massive fictional fleets clashing with one another in a spectacle of light, colors and explosions. In-game no glitches were found, bugs even less so but there is still one small issue lingering about: not being able to select the Ultra setting on some of the graphical options, which top off at High. Manually modifying the “settings.ini” defaults those settings back to “Off”, so you’re stuck with the options you can set from within the game itself. Nothing that can’t be fixed in an update though. The voice acting and soundtrack are most fitting to this type of Sci-fi RTS so no complaints from me. I actually appreciate the fact that units don’t incessantly repeat a word/phrase or shout their names, when selecting them or issuing an order. Robots and drones do have this advantage of remaining mechanically silent. It was about time, strategy games fix that issue since I doubt many gamers wish to hear “yessir” 100 times during a single match.
+ Gorgeous graphics
+ Interesting SP campaigns that complement the MP skirmishes
+ Large scale strategy with complex gameplay mechanics
+ Steam Achievements & Trading Cards
– Minor issues
– Game engine is too taxing with system specs
Result / Final thoughts
Since I have yet to play the first one in the series, I cannot reserve judgement over it but I thoroughly enjoyed Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and it shall remain installed upon my system for quite some time. Even after I shall be done with the singleplayer missions, I will spar online through the skirmishes with whoever might be interested. It is an RTS which dearly reminded me of Supreme Commander, though I’m inclined to say that instead of being just a modern emulation of it, Escalation improved the formula in almost every way conceivable. The apprentice has finally defeated the master.