Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.

A number of people online have asked me what I thought about the text of the GameSpot review. Maybe the reviewer didn’t have an axe to grind but rather just had legitimate criticisms of the game.

As previously mentioned, we had contacted Gamespot privately upon learning who the reviewer for Ashes was with our concerns that this reviewer might have an axe to grind (he used to give our titles high scores and then blocked me on social media and subsequently gave GalCiv III: Mercenaries a 4 in an error filled review).  We didn't ask Gamespot to change their reviewer. Only to make sure he wasn't allowing his personal politics influence his review.

Needless to say, when his 4/10 Ashes review was published, it would appear our concerns were well founded.  And for those not familiar with the review system of Gamespot, 4/10 isn't "below average". It means "poor" as in only a handful of titles each year get that score.

So are his criticisms legitimate? The answer, is no.  This isn’t a matter of “he just doesn’t like it” but more a matter that he clearly has little familiarity with the game and, frankly, doesn’t understand the genre.

As unprofessional or distasteful as some may find me responding to a review (and in 22 years with dozens of released games I've never felt compelled to do this) I'm going to do so here.  Why? If only to put a spotlight on this and to make sure that if your publication is going to review one of our products, please ensure your editorial guidelines are followed and that your reviewers aren't using your venue to punish developers they have a problem with on social media.

Let’s cut to the case of his review:

You have three main resources to manage--metal, radiactives[sic], and turinium.

There are four resources: Metal, radioactives, Turinium and Quanta. Quanta being the most important one.

The first two are for constructing ships, but if you collect enough turinium you win the game. Because turinium is necessary for victory, Ashes of the Singularity encourages hapless and aggressive rushing.

By that argument, Company of Heroes is about hapless, aggressive rushing. Which is, of course, nonsense. In practice, the player that does hapless, aggressive rushing would be crushed by the player who spends quanta, the resource you apparently weren’t aware of, to insert forces behind your lines.

Your starting area will only have a couple resource nodes, and you can't stockpile resources as you can in most other strategy games.

Yes you can. Not only do you store resources but you can research tech to increase your storage. 

So, playing cautiously isn't an option. You have to expand--and fast.

Which, again, is factually wrong.

This exacerbates some of Ashes of the Singularity's other problems. As I churned out endless streams of robotic warriors, I noticed that they all looked similar, especially when I pulled the camera all the way out and the battlefield melted together in the mélange of war machines. Pressing to gain more and more ground kept me from developing any familiarity with my units, which is unfortunate given you only have about a dozen unique types to work with. Each frigate looks indistinguishable from the last, making it hard to keep track of which units you have and which ones you still need.

This criticism could be applied to every game that lets you zoom out. Yes, if you zoom out far enough everything looks like little tiny ants.  Ashes has more than “a dozen” units.  As for units looking similar, this speaks more to unfamiliarity with the game.   The 3 main frigates: Archer, Brute, Medic look nothing alike.

You have the ability to organize your legions into "armies," which are supposed to be super-charged control groups. And this works, but only to a point. Forming armies reduced the need to constantly micromanage units, allowing me to focus on the larger plan: pinching off enemy supplies, flanking with the brutality of my dreadnoughts, and dropping strategic weapons of mass destruction. But Ashes of the Singularity still left me with scant few options to conduct my campaign.

Probably because you didn’t know or understand quanta. Which also means you never constructed any of the orbitals in the game.  This would be akin to someone in StarCraft never harvesting vespene gas and therefore claiming the entire game is about spamming out Marines.

Remember this for the rest of this review. Imagine how StarCraft would play if the player never used Vespene gas and the ramifications of that.

It's hard not to draw comparisons to earlier massive-scope strategy games, namely Supreme Commander. The parallels between the two run deep and cover everything from their approach to resource collection to their emphasis on massive battles. But, despite being a decade old, Supreme Commander still wears the crown. Rather than rest on the spectacle of massive battles alone, it crucially wove finer pieces into its formula to make those bouts interesting.

Fair enough. You like Supremee Commander more which you link to as being an 8.7.  That’s fine. It wears the crown then. What does not seizing the crown count as? 8.5 for Ashes? 8? You have set a criteria here.

Ashes of the Singularity doesn't have these flourishes; what you see is what you get.

Except clearly, you didn’t see the primary player resource: Quanta. The resource so important that it’s literally displayed inside your player box next to your avatar and necessary to use any of the player abilities that would be required to win the game above easy.

Maps are consistently dry and lack character. With the exception of modest changes in elevation, there aren't many features that lend themselves to strategic use.

Absolutely incorrect. There are hills, mountains, plateaus, ravines, etc. And if that is insufficient then you have to hold that doubly true against Supreme Commander. One need only look at screenshots from the Steam page to confirm this.

There are no towering mountains to hide your forces during an ambush,

There are, literally, towering mountains to hide your forces. Because the game has true line of sight (as in, a mountain blocks the view of what’s behind it), it is a common player tactic to hide their forces behind towering mountains in order to ambush the enemy.  The AI actually is programmed to do just that.

no rare or unique resources to exploit,

Are we still talking about a real-time strategy game?

nor any obstacles to slow down foes.

Except you mean the ones you build which slow down your foes by half when a battle is engaged?  But let’s assume you mean something like swamps or mud. What RTS are we being compared to here? Neither StarCraft nor SupCom have any such thing either.

Every unit and building works the same regardless of placement on the map,

Compared to what game? What are we being compared to? What RTS ever would do this? You just gave Homeworld: DOK a 9 and Acts of Aggression a 7. What standard are we being held to?

and as you build out a network of resource nodes, you'll see the same desolate brown textures again and again.

I guess if you only played one game on a desert map I suppose. What about on a Terran map or alien world map or an ice world? You could level this same complaint at any game.

Instead of providing an intricate network of systems to work with, Ashes of the Singularity cuts itself down, leaving only the most basic elements of the genre intact. You have a handful of units

Roughly same number as StarCraft does.

, three resources,

Four resources – two more than StarCraft or SupCom.  And lest you think I am criticizing either of those classics, I am not of the opinion that more resources is better. I’m just pointing out how ridiculous this argument is.

and a basic goal.

Yes. Win.  Either through Annihilation or Victory points which is like every other game in the genre.

At no point can you leverage anything beyond those basic pieces in a meaningful way.

Clearly if you couldn’t be bothered to use the primary player resource, Quanta.

Without more resources,

More resources? What RTS has more resources? StarCraft has 2. Command & Conquer has 1. Supreme Commander has 2.  We have 4 (of which you only discovered 3).

nuanced mechanics,

You mean like spending quanta to insert an engineer behind enemy lines to build a factory or spending quanta to temporarily boost a region’s resource production so that you can fast build a Dreadnought or  spend quanta to increase your radar range or spend quanta to place a Carving turret to take out a key enemy unit or spend quanta to get visibility on an enemy force that is hiding behind a mountain so that your artillery can hit them.  You mean like those things?

or a charming aesthetic to help carry the experience, Ashes of the Singularity struggles to hold your attention.

I am not sure what charming means in this context.

And ends giving us a 4 out of 10.  SupCom got an 8.7.  Planetary Annihilation 1.0 got a 7.  On the same site he gave Acts of Aggression a 7, Homeworld: DOK a 9.  The point being he has established a range and in this review listed criteria.  I'm not going to argue whether Ashes is great or not.  For me, personally, I think it is objectively awesome. But I am, naturally, biased for my game.  

My team and I spent 3 years on this game.  There were many long weekends, extended periods away from our families (I spent 2 months out in Maryland away from my wife and young children).  And we are proud of the game we have made. I bring this up because all too often, amateur reviewers don’t take their responsibility seriously.  As an independent game developer, I don’t expect perfect reviews but I do expect a fair review.

I know that our games won’t get the editorial scrutiny of an EA or Activision game. The kinds of errors in this absurd review would never have been allowed to see the light of day. But is it really too much to ask that you spend a little time to get to know about our game before you permanently diminish the perception of it?

Your colleagues at IGN, PC Gamer, PC GamesN, and Gaming Trend all liked it.  That in itself doesn’t make them right and you wrong. But at least their pros and cons were based on things that were actually part of (or not part of) the game. 


Comments (Page 1)
on Apr 26, 2016

I had so many laughs when I read this.

It is pretty clear they had no interest in the game, and no understanding of the genre.

 

or a charming aesthetic to help carry the experience

And Planetary Annihilation's aesthetics was 'charming'? Ew.

 

Ashes of the Singularity struggles to hold your attention.

After 400 hours of gameplay, AotS still has my attention.

I do not dare to say that AotS is perfect. No game is. It is very fun and has extremely great potential for the future.

 

Thank you Brad and team for this great game, please don't let these people get you down.

on Apr 26, 2016

Frustration in rant form. But what does this do? The man in me asks "how do we fix this?" Or is this a case of, as my wife says, "I don't want you to try to fix things, I just want you to listen!"?

on Apr 26, 2016

A solid rebuttal to a ridiculous review, but we all knew a review of this quality was in the works when you notified Gamespot of the conflict of interest with their reviewer weeks before they ever made the review and Gamespot did nothing about it.

The reviewer doesn't like you personally, therefore your game is bad. Gamespot apparently cares so little about their credibility that they are okay with this, but why would they care if gamers think they lack credibility? Gamers are dead, after all.

One quick thing: "vespene" gas. Not "vespian."

on Apr 26, 2016

Brad's Twitter kind of blew up about this late into the night here, and my brain wasn't quite capable of doing more than put down a like and a bookmark for later consumption. But man... reading the review and Frog's dissection (har har) makes my skin crawl. Not only does the reviewer clearly have a bone to pick with Brad and Stardock, but he's clearly not up to the task of reviewing any kind of RTS given what he's just wrote in said review. 

 

Then again, I had happily forgotten that Gamespot was a thing for years, so I guess they might not be quite as relevant as they (the reviewer) seem to think anymore, not that it excuses using your job as a reviewer as a platform for your personal crusade.

 

Edit: Now admittedly I haven't played Ashes personally, because I'm not really into RTS - and when I am, it's for the over the top Red Alert like campaigns. But I have played enough RTS to know when a review is just pure bullshit*

on Apr 26, 2016

My video card died after playing this game.   

My poor r9 270x.

 

That is the only reason I stopped playing it. No more video card.

 

Most of all I like the company. Very nice and open. 

 

Thanks again.

I love it when a game can use my hardware to the limit. Seriously.

on Apr 26, 2016

I've never played Ashes.  But from the vids I have seen, and the forum discussions I have read, its clear the GameSpot reviewer was reviewing something other than Ashes of the Singularity. 

on Apr 26, 2016

Agree with most of the rebuttal, this is very surprising coming from Gamespot. However, this:

 

"I guess if you only played one game on a desert map I suppose. What about on a Terran map or alien world map or an ice world? You could level this same complaint (about the terrain textures) at any game. "

At SupCom, yes (worse than AotS); but not at any other RTS I can think of; Grey Goo, Starcraft 2, any of the C&Cs, or even much older titles that had much more pleasing maps to look at (AOK, Warcraft 3 come to mind). The maps do look bland in this game. And I agree with the reviewer on the lack of a "charming aesthetic", but I've made my case in another thread.

on Apr 26, 2016

I was more offended by the literary incompetence than the supposed content.  There are so many possible responses to it, but a lengthy item by item response seems to give it far more credit than it deserves

 

on Apr 26, 2016

apparently if you speak out in in that review youl just get banned lol

on Apr 27, 2016

Not everyone who has spoken out has been banned. Yet.

However, being banned from GameSpot is like being banned from admittance into an insane asylum.

They are just doing you a favour.

on Apr 27, 2016

DrAsik

Agree with most of the rebuttal, this is very surprising coming from Gamespot. However, this:

 

"I guess if you only played one game on a desert map I suppose. What about on a Terran map or alien world map or an ice world? You could level this same complaint (about the terrain textures) at any game. "

At SupCom, yes (worse than AotS); but not at any other RTS I can think of; Grey Goo, Starcraft 2, any of the C&Cs, or even much older titles that had much more pleasing maps to look at (AOK, Warcraft 3 come to mind). The maps do look bland in this game. And I agree with the reviewer on the lack of a "charming aesthetic", but I've made my case in another thread.

The maps actually remind me a little of the original elemental art style. From before you gave a nice tune up and actually made it look quite nice. It was very bland and washed out.

on Apr 27, 2016

Played Ashes for 5 months now, i am quite surprised how the game grew since its early access phase.

After the official release i was quite disapointed in ashes, cause well i thought that ashes couldnt deliver much strategical diversity and its campaing mode is just too straight forward. 

BUT, before making my final call on ashes i sat down and asked myself, why dont i get along with ashes? The answer was quite obvious - SC2. The way that most of RTS nowadays are being made is casual content with no challenge at all (even my dog can win a campaign), wrapped in a shiny paper (graphichs, art etc). We (players) got used to it. Then i remembered the times when i actually played a real strategy game (instead of casualy designed RTS/RPGs). Dune, CnC, age of empires etc, they all had deep learning curve from "i dont have a slightest idea why my cavalery got beaten by tanks" to "so my grenade launcher guy can oneshot their tank and is quite cheaper". And then i realised, hey wait, but ashes has this thing called quanta and orbitals. It isnt just used to research some passive upgrades, i can actually invest it in some other stuff. 

A second breath had opened. A month has passed, and i still play ashes.

So my personal view is that ashes lack some ingame info on "how things work", and not all of players nowadays are willing to do some research on ingame mechanics, cause well we got casualised by games like SC2. New players as myself do not see any benefits of using quanta for anything rather than upgrades. For example i have played for over 3-4 months since i bought ashes and still didnt used quanta at it full potential (tbh i didnt even build orbital buildings). But after i realised that, this game became a fun fest for me.

Also i would like to thank Brad and Stardock for making that AI hit like a truck in strategical diversity, i love it. I couldnt actually remember last time i got flanked and splitpushed by an AI player for years. 

The sad part for my experience with ashes is quite weak computer atm, but i will upgrade it JUST for ashes. 

So dont let that review get you down. Like other people already said any decent thinking human will see that its full of BS. 

on Apr 27, 2016

Reading that, I'm pretty sure the reviewer didn't even play a single game.

on May 04, 2016

Gamespot failing <u>again</u>?   Who would have known?? 

 

You can comfort yourself and your team with the fact that big gaming media isn't important anymore and that the others gave higher scores.

 

 

I haven't played it myself but from the video you guys made it looks like Supreme Commander in that you send out lots of units and....not much else.

Big creds for mentioning Company of Heroes in a positive light 

on May 09, 2016

Regardless of how dumb Gamespot is, their score is still contributing to the Metacritic average.  There are plenty of people who just look at scores, or read a couple reviews and look at scores.  It's hard to say just how much that works out to in this case (non-transparent weighting), but its probably around 2% (lower Metacritic rating).  That is pretty lame.