AI War

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AI War

Postby BobTheJanitor » Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:06 am

So after spending approximately one meeeeeeeellion dollars on the latest steam sale, I have found all my time devoted to playing AI War. AI War, which was one of the forgotten daily indie deals relegated to a back page of the steam catalogue. It's not the smoothest learning curve to get in to, but if you happen to like RTS or space or controlling fleets of thousands of ships at once and playing as the extreme underdog against a godlike AI I would recommend it. The back story really caught me. Basically, humans have a huge galactic war (like we do) and decide to start building advanced AIs to control their fleets. The AI arms race backfires, the two opposing AIs go skynet on us, and sit down over tea to discuss why they're working for these squishy humans instead of going pro and working for themselves. A few weeks later and the last remnant of the human race is orbiting in the last force field bubble around a forgotten planet in a backwater system. The only reason they're alive is that the AI feels that they're beneath contempt and no longer worth the effort of squashing. Now how much does that back-story make you want to go kick the AIs shiny metal butt?

Now like I said, it does have a bit of a learning curve. And it's pretty much the opposite of a casual game. There are literally hundreds of ship types. A game will take hours and hours and hours to complete. The tutorials alone, which include a very small simulated game (of only 10 planets) took me probably 4 or so hours to work through. My first game, with AI difficulty set to 4 (which is basically Artificial DUH) and 40 planets (half the recommended number) took me 11 hours to complete. Needless to say, it does include a save feature. Part of this was that I was still learning while I was playing, of course. I'm sure someone with more experience could have knocked out a small map like that in several hours fewer, but I was being over-cautious and perhaps covering more bases than I needed to.

The game supports multiplayer (which is part of why I'm pimping it here, it would be great to be able to hook some folks on this particular drug so that we can shoot up, er, play a campaign together) of up to 8 people at once. But there's no human vs human mode, which is another oddity in the RTS world. The fact is that the AI is so good that you don't need to play against other people to make it work. The AI also controls the rest of the galaxy, so that doesn't hurt its odds. When you start out on a new map, you control one single planet. Depending on play style, by the end of the game (if you don't get stomped by the AI) you'll probably have taken about 30-40% of the planets. Less is usually better though. Although you'll need to take planets for resources and to recapture knowledge of how to build certain ship types (lost during the war), every time you expand, you increase the AI's awareness of you. If you push it too far, it will stop seeing you as a menial bug skittering around its feet, and start seeing you as a real threat. And that's a real problem, because if you threaten it, it will come for you with extreme prejudice. And it always has the upper hand. It's smarter, it's got bigger fleets, and it's got better ships. So you don't want to upset it.

Another thing that's amazed me about this game is how involved the developer is. It's updated very frequently. Bugs are fixed almost before they're noticeable. Let me give an anecdotal example. There was a patch the other day that changed something about ship speeds. I noticed that this would inadvertently cause some issues with certain other ship types, so I mentioned it on their forums. The developer responded, and it was fixed and re-patched less than two hours later, along with a few other little bugs that people had noticed with the new patch. Try imagining something like that happening with any big fancy development studio. Hell, that doesn't even happen with other indie game devs. Also, one of their expansions is an entirely for-charity expansion. So nothing from those sales goes in their pockets, it all goes straight to child's play. (well, sans the cut for the distributor) So that's extra bonus awesome points for them.

I could go on and on about this, about the ways they cut out menial micro-management, about the various ways that it's different from plain old RTS and instead mixes in elements of exploration (at the start you have intel about one planet, and it's the one you're orbiting around: scouting is king) and turn based strategy (with a sort of active-pause feature) and even tower defense (but in a good way, because most tower defense games are sort of dull to me) but I think I've made this long enough. Suffice it to say, it's pretty fantastic, it's on Steam for easy access, it's actively supported and updated (two expansions now, a third coming before the end of the month, and a few months back they shifted the whole thing to a new engine and revamped the entire game, at no cost to the consumer of course), and there's a demo trial version you could be playing right now. My pimping is now done.
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Re: AI War

Postby BigDXLT » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:45 pm

That back story actually makes me want to bow down and tremble!
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Re: AI War

Postby Florp Incarnate » Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:10 pm

I tried the demo based on your review, and ended up dropping the $20 US for the full game. It's a Sins of a Solar Empire clone with some twists. Cool beans. Hit me on friends if you want to play, Bob.
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Re: AI War

Postby Niteowl » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:41 pm

That is one hell of a review.
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Re: AI War

Postby BobTheJanitor » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:09 pm

Niteowl wrote:That is one hell of a review.


Yeah me and Florp started a game tonight. That's right, I'm gaming with someone else. You jealous? Feel like buying a copy of AI war? (One of us. One of us. )

Besides, don't you already have a copy of half the games in the steam catalogue?

Edit: Yes, you do. I checked you on steamcalculator. You have me beat out by almost 100 games. I feel the urge to utilize this emoticon: :finga:
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Re: AI War

Postby Niteowl » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:27 am

I went to check if I had that game, actually, and I do not. Mayhaps will pick it up on a sale. As I pick up all my games.
God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of his own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.
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Re: AI War

Postby BobTheJanitor » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:32 pm

Yeah I get everything on sale too, except for must-have things which are mostly limited to day 1 releases of Valve games. Unfortunately we're in the long dearth of sales until summer now. You could always go try the free trial... :twisted:
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Re: AI War

Postby BobTheJanitor » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:42 am

Niteowl wrote:I went to check if I had that game, actually, and I do not. Mayhaps will pick it up on a sale. As I pick up all my games.


It is now on sale. It is so cheap that you will feel like a thief getting this great game for this low price. Plus the first expansion is purchasable with nothing but golden tickets (the gimmick for this steam sale, if you're not following it. And if not, why not?) Ready, set, buy!
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Re: AI War

Postby M373ora Fr34k » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:21 am

i bought this game a while back. I played through the tutorial but stopped for a while. Then when i tried to play again I realized I forgot how to play haha. This game has such a steep learning curve! But i'd be interested in playing if anybody else still does.
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Re: AI War

Postby Darwin » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:09 pm

This game was terribly interesting, detailed, indepth, complex, stressful, involved, and consumed hours and hours of my time for about 2 weeks while I was figuring it out.
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