I've read that with Escalation, Stardock is trying to appeal to the more hardcore RTS market and follow in the footsteps of Supreme Commander FA. Here are some initial remarks of me after playing the Imminent Crisis campaign. I'm keeping it mainly to UX concerns since I suspect I've not seen all the gameplay yet (since this campaign was present in the base game and it is a campaign).
For context, I played a bit under 2000 games of FA(F) in the last 3 years and am on the lower end of the pro range.
* The hotkeys are lacking. For placing buildings I need to tab though sections of the UI. If I want to build in the order "mex mex radar radioactive aa", I need to hit so many tabs. And the amount of tabs depends on from which type of building to which other type I go. Much worse, the initial position depends on where you left it per engineer (or globally, idk) so you need to remember this piece of state as well. I don't remember this and am thus forced to look at the UI every time I want to build something. That just does not work. In ways it is worse than the default SupCom hotkey mechanism (it is easier to learn though), though it in no way compares to hotbuild.
* No hotkey for factory repeat as far as I can tell. Wasting so much time clicking this thing... no hotkey for pause either
* No way to remove an order from a command queue as far as I can tell
* If I tell engi 1 to build A and engi 2 to build B and then select both and queue up C, fail happens
* No way to see range (weapons, healing, anti orbital, ...) of structures/units. You can press alt or something and see it for one unit. And I found that sometimes when I tab out off the game and back in I see the ranges of a bunch of stuff, though I've not found how to reproduce this. Is this a glitch or am I failing to find how to do this? Anyway, SupCom got this right, so all you have to do is copy
* The resource indication is weird. Why does it not show income and expense? Again, you can just copy what SupCom does and have something better.
* Why can''t I see how many resources a building or engineer is consuming?
* If I select multiple factories and they are on repeat, and order two different units, one factory will build the first type once and another will build the second type once. No repeat. If I want repeat, I need to individually queue up each factory.
* Is there no way to have units spawned from a factory auto-join some army? I get that armies can place reinforcement requests, but there appears to be no repeat option here.
* I'm quite dubious about how the resource storage limit works. You need to spend the quanta stuff and it gets progressively more expensive. Perhaps you get progressively more storage as well, either way, even if it is linear, it is annoying given strong income growth and seems to almost guarantee stall in the late game. (Then again this does not seem to be as bad as energy stall in FA.) Not as much of an issue as the other points, but I wonder if something like having the amplifier things (and perhaps other stuff as well) include some storage would not be better.
* No hotkeys for dread upgrades? And no way to jump to which one can upgrade when you get the notification?
* F1 is a weird key for idle engineers. Why not the dot? I was under the impression that is the standard key since at least the days of Age of Empires 1. Having an idle engineers pane that tells you how many you have idle would also be very useful. (SupCom has it...)
I'm writing this from a box on which I don't have the game, hence some of the points are a bit vague, as I can't double check right now. Presumably I'm also forgetting a bunch of things.
Ashes has some cool features and it certainly looks fancier than FA. Even if the gameplay was on the same level, this amount of UX issues makes it so there is no chance I will switch from FA to Ashes as long as they remain. It is my hope they won't, and that Ashes will become the second awesome RTS on the market.