In a world where strategy games are the veritable red-headed stepchildren of the games industry, it’s refreshing and welcome to see a company like Stardock put so much energy into long-term support of their lineups. All of their recent games: from Sorcerer King to Galactic Civilizations III, to Offworld Trading Company and Ashes of the Singularity, have received ample post-launch patching, updates, and DLC, continuing to improve and refine and build upon those games’ premises.
In that vein, what Stardock released yesterday was a significant update to its massive scale RTS, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation. While I admit that I haven’t spent a considerable amount of hours in Ashes, I have been quite impressed in general with Stardock’s creation of a large-scale RTS formula that doesn’t ape the old Total Annihilation model. Stardock’s large-scale RTS is its own animal, and has been proudly continuing to differentiate its game since the initial launch of Ashes of the Singularity.
This latest update, called Version 2.3, includes a new super-heavy unit for both factions. These new units, called Juggernauts, signal the introduction of a new, higher tier of units. These Juggernauts outweigh the previous heavyweight champions, the Dreadnought-class units for both the Post-Human Coalition and the Substrate.
“We’re really excited to introduce the Juggernauts,” said Stardock CEO Brad Wardell. “Fans of the game have been asking about them since we teased them several months ago, and we know these won’t disappoint them. These warships are pricey to build – you won’t see them in quick matches – but the cost is worth it. It takes some serious firepower to stop one of these guys once they hit the field.”
In keeping with the widely-varied approach to combat the 2 factions have maintained, each Juggernaut is a very different beast (I can imagine it took some serious work to get these two units balanced relative to one another). The PHC’s Leonidas has the game’s heaviest cannons (see below) while the Substrate’s Nest of the Queen is basically a self-contained army, summoning a fleet of drones and helping to regenerate the shields of nearby allies.
In addition to these new bruisers, Stardock is showing its commitment to single-player RTS fans, adding a new, fully-voiced campaign. “Genesis” continues the Ashes story and features six new missions. The new Juggernauts are featured in the campaign and the challenges of the high-level difficulties have been increased to please more advanced players.
In addition, Stardock has updated and rebalanced the existing campaign maps. As a player and ersatz designer, I really appreciate the dedication Stardock is showing to players – it’s not often that a company will revisit their campaign post-launch to iron out issues and provide a better user experience.
“We recognize that our older campaigns are pretty unbalanced,” said Wardell. “That’s why we decided to go through and adjust them for this update. Players will find that they now have access to certain ships and orbitals that weren’t there before. The maps have been adjusted to make more sense, and those who thought the higher level difficulties were “too easy” before will find that the AI is a lot more challenging now.”
As both a player and an ersatz creator, I admire and respect Stardock’s commitment to both their creative vision, and to the purchasers of their games. As a purchaser of both Ashes of the Singularity and Offworld Trading Company, I am glad for the continuing support both games have received.
v2.3 is a free update and is now available for owners of the game. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation retails on Steam or through Stardock for $39.99.
Here’s a link to my overview of the original Ashes of the Singularity.
Ethics note: This post was published in response to a request from Stardock. Brandon ‘wayward strategist’ Casteel purchased both Ashes of the Singularity (founder’s edition) and Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation with his own money and has no financial relationship with Stardock or any of its affiliated companies.