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Ashes of the Singularity

Ashes of the Singularity - Early Access Impressions

Following the release of the beta version, we've been hands-on with the large-scale sci-fi RTS.

Ashes of the Singularity

Released towards the end of last year in Early Access on Steam, Ashes of the Singularity has only recently entered into beta on Steam. Developed by Oxide Games (and published by Stardock), AotS is a Sci-Fi real-time strategy game that has players collecting resources and capturing generators in order to overcome their opponents. It's a balancing act in which you have to gather resources, generate units and buildings, and keep a strong military force all while making sure you're capturing and protecting generators around the map faster and more effectively than your rivals. The latest project from Oxide caught our eye primarily due to its huge scale, with the studio offering us the chance to command hundreds of military units across an alien planet.

The first thing that caught us off guard is how daunting it can be when going in for the first time. When starting a game there's a lot of things going on and without a tutorial it can be tough to get your head around everything. However there are plenty of walkthroughs and guides online, and after a few games it's relatively straight forward. Although you should keep in mind that "getting to grips with" and "winning" are two very different things, because Ashes of the Singularity is a strategy game in which you'll need to co-ordinate and execute an efficient plan if you're to overcome your rivals.

This is very much a balancing act; there's no easy way to keep tabs on what every one of your units is doing, so occasionally you'll have to scroll around the map to see what's going on and what needs doing. You'll need to make sure that you're prepared on all fronts; you can't go entirely offensive as enemy units will sneak through and destroy your buildings if they don't have proper protection, and yet you can't go entirely defensive as you'll never make any progress or gather any resources.

The same goes for construction; build too much and you'll run out of resources fast and never get anything done, construct too little and you'll fall behind other players. It'll take a couple of matches before you find the right balance. However, on the bigger six-player maps it is a far more difficult task to make sure everything's running smoothly, as your units will be spread far and wide and you'll have five other players to look out for, meaning you need to be on defensive on all fronts, and making sure you're progressing in every direction.

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Ensuring that you're collecting metal and radioactive materials is essential to keeping up the construction of your units, and deposits for these resources can be found around the map. You need to make sure you're the first one to claim resources, and there's only a limited amount to scavenge. Quanta, an in game resource, is used to level up your units and buildings which is another important aspect of the game, as you'll find that to progress you'll need to continuously level up to stay ahead of the game. You'll need Quanta to continuously upgrade storage for resources and equip combat upgrades so you don't end up stuck with an insufficient amount of buildings and units that are far too weak to fight.

Combat is simple yet still requires an element of tactical thinking. Units will attack any foreign unit or building on sight, so it's best to make sure you're ready before tackling an enemy. There are a variety of different military units, each with particular traits. On top of this there are different factions to choose from. At the moment there are only two; The Post-Human Coalition and the newly added Substrate. Factions come with different units and buildings, each with unique perks, and hopefully there will be more to come as the game continues to get updated.

Even though the game can be difficult to fathom at first, the control scheme and handling your units becomes second nature as you progress, and you'll find yourself only using the mouse and a small selection of keys to keep everything running. The large scale of the game does become a problem, however, as it can become difficult to keep track of different units around the map, largely due to the fact that as a match progresses units and buildings become increasingly scattered, and it can be tedious to go around looking for them. Depending on the size of the map and the difficulty of your enemies, games can last for a fair amount of time. The game starts off with capturing points with resource deposits close to you, but when you eventually bump into other players you'll skirmish around capture enemy points if you want to gather more. The main goal is to maintain control of generators, some maps have up to five, and others may only have one. The longer you have control over one, the closer you come to "Critical Mass", if you hold one long enough then you win.

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Visually AotS is brilliant. The maps are large and vibrant, the units and buildings have a unique style to them and are all very detailed (which makes unit identification straightforward), and any battles that take place are epic to behold. Given its sci-fi theme, weapons consist of plasma, lasers and rockets, meaning that any skirmish will usually provide a stunning light show, especially if you take an army to assault an enemy's base.

For a title that isn't fully released yet, Ashes of the Singularity certainly has shown enough to make us look forward to what Oxide has planned for the future. There's a lot of potential here, and when additional features are implemented, such as the Ascending War mode (the description reads: "Conquer the Galaxy as war rages from planet to planet"). Overall, Ashes of the Singularity is almost definitely a game to keep an eye on this year. Its step into beta means that while there's a lot more that has been added, there's still a lot more to come. It'll be interesting to see where in the galaxy the game will take us, which factions and units will be introduced, and the different ways we'll be able to strategise, scavenge, and blast our way to victory.

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REVIEW. Written by James Daniels

"Oxide and Stardock's latest RTS venture is a great title that's definitely worth a look from strategy fans."

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