AI War: Fleet Command Review
Innovation & Refinement of the RTS genre
AI War: Fleet Command was a game that surprised me in many ways. A game developed by a one man studio,(he later got help from 2 other people for art and music)Arcen Games. A game that was never really featured much in the mainstream press. A game that despite all this, is to my mind, the best strategy game experience of 2009(and will continue with many DLC’s and an expansion in 2010).
AI War takes its inspiration from Supreme Commander. Huge fleets, big armies, macro control. It has some similar features to Sins of A Solar Empire, with it’s own take of the empire tree user interface(A list of buildings and ships in a system/sector that is instantly accessible) and a galactic map(which to be fair is something most space based game will have to do anyway).
While those two games(Supreme Commander & Sins of A Solar Empire) were about a galactic war against three unique sides, AI War makes no qualms about revealing that you are indeed playing against an AI. AI War can be played single player or cooperatively, but always against two AI’s. While this might seem like a throwback(no death match), it is in fact refreshingly original as the AI you face are actually way more powerful than you.
This is the core of AI War, you are always going against an AI that is technological, numerically, monetarily superior than you. What’s even more interesting is the concept of AI progression and aggression. As you colonise faster, you are seen as a bigger threat by the AI and they behave a lot more aggressively. At every 30 minutes intervals(the timing of this can be set before the start of a campaign)and certain actions you take, the AI progression number increases. That basically means the AI gets better technology and more advanced.
This leads to a constant push pull effect, turtle and the AI just gets too powerful, attack too fast and the AI gets aggressive. Finding the right balance of taking systems when it is needed(for resources) can get pretty hard especially if you play with the more higher difficulty AI.
Piss the AI off a lot and the AI gets a free attacking fleet that will attack one of your planets when the timer runs out. This is akin to a tower defense game where you have to face a wave of enemies. At this point, AI War borrows some tower defense elements. To secure your planet, you need to build defenses around wormholes that enemy ships jump into.
Research points are limited per planet(2000 per planet). Which means you can only research 1 or 2 new technology wholed up in a single planet. To keep up with the AI, you’ll be forced to colonise new planets or use a sneaky tactic of research point raiding(send in research ships to enemy planets to steal research points). You could build a mobile constructor to build buildings in planets not in your control. This should allow you to set up a base of operations in planets that are not completely secure yet.
There are plenty of intricate strategies such as these in the game. Use of transport ships, repair vehicles, mobile shield generator, mobile constructors, you could think of many new strategies or tactics to counter a particular challenge. AI War brings out the creative side of any strategy gamer.
I just love the fact that I had to think of new strategies to overcome some of the AI planets. Not many RTS game can do this since half the time, you just need to find a single magic formula that wins every single time. Not so in AI War. It just so exquisitely designed, clearly the work of a lengthy beta test and a dedicated developer behind it.
Make no mistakes, AI War is an incredibly polished game with a great RTS mechanic, well balanced, and an original entry in the today’s age of sequels, constant retreads, and lack of innovation. AI War: Fleet Command is a fresh new take on the RTS genre and a reminder of possibly where innovation truly lies with these days; the indie developers. Bravo Arcen Games, if you love RTS and strategy games, you have to play AI War: Fleet Command.