Games Written by Wayward

Brad Wardell provides us with exclusive information about Ashes: Escalation

Back when it launched, I made a bit of a to-do about large-scale RTS Ashes of the Singularity. While I greatly enjoy Supreme Commander and Planetary Annihilation, I’ve honestly gotten a bit tired of the overwhelming preponderance of large-scale RTS tweaking Chris Taylor’s Total Annihilation formula.

While Ashes was refreshing, mechanically, I did have some quibbles with it. Among my major issues was what felt like a light roster of units, especially in regards to air power. It looks like that, in particular, is changing with the launch of Ashes’ upcoming standalone expansion, Escalation.

Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock and Ashes’ lead designer, had a couple of pieces of exclusive information for us. Here he is, in his own words, explaining some of what’s to come. Thanks for the heads-up, Brad! I’m really excited to give Escalation a try.

So back when Wayward did their review of Ashes of the Singularity one of the things both readers and you noticed was that the campaign was light.

When we originally made Ashes of the Singularity, the campaign was, literally, an after thought. We wanted people to focus on the sand-box part of the game because that was where the replayability was.

 What we didn’t count on is how many players really do want a strong, story-driven campaign.  So in Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, we include two new campaigns (a short Memories campaign as a prequel and then Escalation, the main campaign).  We also include the original Imminent Crisis campaign from the original with a number of changes to make the entire story flow.  It’s all voice acted and tells a pretty (we think) compelling story.


In Escalation, you get three total campaigns.

The first campaign: Memories, you play as the first strong AI, Haalee.  The setting for Ashes is the post-technological singularity future. And humans have recently figured out how to manipulate matter at great distances and this is creating a real problem as now people are coming into conflict over the desire to expand as fast as they can into the Orion arm of the milky way galaxy.

Haalee has been asked to help deal with these rogue Post Humans.

The second campaign is a modification of what came with Ashes which is called Imminent Crisis where you play as a Post-Human.

And the third is Escalation itself where you play as an avatar of the Substrate.

If you’re new to the game, you’ll end up with probably 30 or 40 hours of campaign content. It’s pretty massive and hopefully gives players a much fuller understanding of the background conflict in a compelling way.

Now, the game itself has gotten a pretty massive update based on feedback.  The reviews of the base game for Ashes of the Singularity were all over the place.  The people who liked it really enjoyed massive battle field sandboxes.  The people who didn’t like it felt the game was too shallow partly due to the lack of a polished campaign and partly because they felt there weren’t enough units to have sufficient differentiation.


In Escalation, we address this by greatly adding to the number of units in the game as well as having upgradable defensive structures so that players have a lot more options to play the game.

A lot of what needed to be added became obvious when we doubled the largest map size and player count.  When you’re playing on massive maps (i.e. maps bigger than has ever been in an RTS before) with 16 players, you start to clamor for buildings and units to execute a particular strategy.

Which brings me to the third screenshot I made for Wayward:


In your review of the base game, you commented that you liked not having to deal with icons.  You still don’t have to deal with them. But you can now seamlessly zoom out and get a very effective view of the world and you can create control groups and armies and manipulate them directly from this view as well. So we avoid the issue of having a sea of icons by letting people decide what is and isn’t important on the map with everything else being displayed discretely.

Escalation should be out this Fall. We are still putting the final touches on the artwork and campaign and balancing.  The website is


  1. I was one of those people who did feel a campaign, or a better tutorial, would have helped Ashes and while I am still dubious I’m actually really excited for more campaign missions and story. While obviously for developers designing campaigns are a bit more expensive since you have to hire voice actors, add assets and develop the story but I think a strong campaign draws a lot more players. Recently Tim Morten and Chris Sigaty of Blizzard said about 80% of the people who buy Starcraft 2 do so for the campaign, it’s their biggest selling point for them so this seems like a smart move by Stardock.

    Looking forward to this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. im consistently mind blown by how Brad Wardell makes games for 15 years and doesnt know that a properly designed singleplayer campaign is crucial in an RTS and has been since the very first ones, Dune 2 and Warcraft. Not a Starcraft style one, with many actors and cutscenes. But a campaign where the maps are tailored made, missions are designed, they have scripted events, they have surprises, things to discover, a pace, a flow.

    I was literally flored when i saw some of his comments on random forums that most RTS games in history never bothered with a single campaign, that it was an afterthought, like he did with Ashes. How you can play RTS games for 20 years and think somethink like this is beyond my comprehension. Because this is mathematically, factually and physically incorrect.

    And the fixation with icons and strategic zoom, christ almighty. To keep forcing a personal view when everyone tells you this has become a fundamental part in an RTS especially one of this type. Better late than never, i guess ?


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