I have been spending some time with Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation during christmas. I am very impressed with the game, and I see it as a return to form for the RTS-genre. In Ashes, there is no micromanagement. Of course, you can still opt to place non-armor units behind their tougher counterparts, but most of the time you will probably end up just having them in a big bunch. Heavier units, like Dreadnoughts, do traverse the map a lot slower than lighter units (which may, or may not, make sense). This means that your units will not arrive at the same time, which can be devastating when assaulting an opponent. But like older RTS games, this is negated by having several meeting points prior to the final goal.
The game map is made of up of several ressource nodes, being power, metal or nuclear stuff. These nodes are connected by lines. If the line is broken, you do not get ressources from beyond that break. This is a great mechanic; do you take the nodes, then move your troops to claim the next, or do you back them up with forces to repel an enemy attempt at taking your node? The tug of war is a great experience and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Many of the maps are very large, meaning that your reinforcement will take some time to arrive – at which point the battle for a node can have shifted several times.
I tend to overthink stuff too much, and I will do that with Ashes of the Singularity as well. First off, science fiction is my favorite genre. However, these modern RTS games always have floating tanks, laser weapons and units tend to look very ‘video game’-like. This goes for Ashes as well. I prefer the C&C (1995) style; modern units with a touch of science fiction. I cannot abstain from thinking about how much energy it would require to hover a tank. This is just personal preference, though, but for me it does retract somewhat from the game.
A bigger problem is bland maps. They are pretty boring, and comes off like big flat symmetrical levels, with the some elevation differences. I really miss the C&C/Red Alert cliffs that blocks ground forces and creates kill zones. When playing Ashes, I never take the environment into account.
The conclusion is that Ashes of the Singularity is an amazing game.