Thinking back to when Ashes of the Singularity was announced, there was all this focus on the fact it was using the Nitros game engine and all this focus on what it allowed you to do. Thousands of units, DX 12, 64 bit, etc, etc. So what about the game? Well, I draw a big blank. I might not have been following the news well since I jumped aboard back in access, but I feel like I still know more about the game engine than about the game itself.
The world was supposed to be a setting where humans have become posthumans. It is a world where the posthumans now terraform worlds into giant computers because humanity had evolved into digital lifeforms. The enemy is one of the early AIs that some time later decided to take a hostile stance against posthumans. All so that it might live and leave the galaxy to its progeny. In many ways, these villains feel like a B Movie antagonist. A no point did it really give much reason why it thought that posthumans would create so much chaos. If anything, its underhanded sneak attack and hacking of Posthumans to force them to turn against fellow Posthumans feels like it is going to create more more chaos the Posthumans have done thus far.
Actually, we don't really know much period. The campaign starts and ends with the war with the AIs and their hacked posthumans started. You learn who your foe is in time, but you don't really see much else in the galaxy. It doesn't help that the voice acting in the cutscenes were so quite. Increased volume, volume controls, and some subtitles would have helped a lot. Maybe this doesn't really matter as other games in their field didn't need good story to have a game made around, 1000 year wars and all...
The units don't have a very Posthuman feel to it. They look like land ships made by an advanced civilization. They are even literally called frigates, cruisers, and dreadnoughts. There is also aircraft and defense turrets common to many other games. There is research too. I can't say all too much about global abilities as I win most of my games without them. In fact, there might be a problem as the resource used to power these abilities are also the same resource used to buy upgrades. Do you call down an orbital strike or upgrade your guns? An orbital strike is a one time event and you can make a mistake and waste it, but the weapons upgrade lasts for the rest of the game.
I think the only thing that is special about this game is that it is a territory game. You can't build power plants and mass generators like you could in Supreme Commander. If you fail to get resources, you're done for because there isn't anything else you can do. You have to venture forth and take territory. You need to do that because all the mass and rad extractors belong to the different nodes spread throughout the map. Territory is also wealth. Nodes can be cut off because most of them need to link to each other in order to reach your seed.
All of this feels pretty mundane and yet hides the game engine quite well. It is easy to forget that this game engine is supposed to be a radical step forward in game technology. On the other hand, games like Starcraft and Supreme Commander felt like game changers in their respective fields. They still feel impressive when compared to this game. Supreme Commander allowed you to send a lot of units on the field, use artillery, shields, land/air/naval units, T4 units, and tactical nuclear weapons. The last two makes the game feel pretty big and epic as they can be big game changers. As for Starcraft, it managed to set the bar for RTS games. It managed to shift from 2 symmetrical different factions to 3 asymmetrical yet balanced forces. It also had an epic feel to it. It had powerful units with the right feel to them, and had useful "spells", with different origins such as psionic powers, advanced tech, or even exotic biological abilities. The variety and power of these "spells" was good, with Terran Vultures able to place land mine, Zerg Queens able to kill any biological land turn, and the Protoss Arbiter is able to freeze time for a group of units. Units like Siege Tanks, Ultralisks, Archons all felt powerful end game units
Ashes however, have land ships and "spells" like orbital bombardment and EMP Pulse. They feel much too mundane, like some of them being possible now if humanity really tried. Somehow, a species that should magnitudes more powerful than anything in most other games somehow does less. It is almost difficult to imagine that the game is supposed to be a radical improvement in games when the game doesn't feel as epic.
It might very well be the expectations of gamers that is going to be the big hurdle that you have get over. As many have brought up many times, that many limitations such as a unit limits exist because of technological limitations. Many gamers don't understand that these limits exist and wonder why they are there. When a game does not have those limitations, they will probably not notice. It was never something they would look for, something they never understood, and is only worthy of notice if it becomes a problem. In a way, being the first to develop something that has never be done before is creating more work for yourself. You have to create the engine, and make a game worth playing. You might have done better if you skipped making what made before and focused only on making a good game.
I fear that the biggest hurdle is the ignorance of gamers. They don't really understand the limitations of previous generations of software and hardware put into games. They might not understand why the next generation is better. Such as what 64 bit, multicore, and DX 12 really does for them. It is much easier to take note of when things don't work or they hit a limitation than it is to notice that no limitation is there. Because of that, it would mean that it is important to impress people with the game and not the game engine. If you tried to impress people with the game engine and not the game, you have to make a good engine, do an education campaign on game engines, and convince them to care more about the engine than the game itself.
TL;DR I feel that too much focus has been on the technology of the game engine and maybe too much work on trying to make a game that uses that technology. It fails to get the feel that other RTS had when they were quite popular. I don't think that the devs got a good Posthuman feel to the game either.