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AI War: Fleet Command is a real time strategy computer game created by independent developer Arcen Games. The game was first released on the Arcen Games website and Impulse on June 2, 2009, before getting a Steam release on October 16, 2009 that coincided with the release of version 2.0. AI War blends the 4X, tower defense, and traditional RTS genre to create something new and unique. Players go up against two AI opponents that are superior to the player. The objective is to destroy the home planets of both AI opponents. AI War was lauded by reviewers for being a fresh take on the RTS genre and bringing something new to the table. It was also noted that the AI represented a significant challenge and reacted to the actions of the player. An expansion titled Zenith Remnant was released on January 12, 2010 that adds new factions, AI types, ships and new gameplay mechanics.
AI War pits human players against advanced AI opponents that control vastly superior fleets at the start of the game. The main goal is to destroy the two opposing AI's home command stations without losing yours (in multi-player the humans will not lose until all human home command stations have been lost). As with chess, AI War is generally thought of in the three stages of opening, middle-game, and end-game, all of which involve different player and AI interactions and activities.
Maps vary in size from 10-120 systems and map size has a significant impact on the play style of the game as well as time required. The game starts out with the human player(s) each controlling one system (though they may choose to start with more) and the AI controlling the rest of the map. Unlike conventional RTS games where the AI will basically emulate a human opponent, the AI operates off something called AI Progress. This mechanic works as an indicator of how aware the AI is of the leftover human remnants in the galaxy (as well as to balance the fact that if the AI simply attacked the player with everything it had at the start of the game it would win every time). As players complete objectives and capture systems, this value goes up, increasing the volume of reinforcements and attack forces the AI gets to use. There are a few mechanics such as Data Centres and the newly introduced AI Super-terminals that lower the AI Progress. One of the primary factors when considering whether to take a planet is the AI progress; taking planets raises it and taking too many will cause the player to be overrun.
AI War supports dynamic cooperation where up to eight players can play together and drop in and out of the game at any time. One effect of this is a group game between friends does not require everybody to be around for each game session, nor does the lobby have to be remade to continue playing if another shows up. As of 3.0, players who join mid-game are given a special colony ship that allows them to start playing without leaning on the other players to gift them systems/units as much.
AI War also uses strong disincentives to micromanage units in order to help players manage such a large empire without getting bogged down in details, being more important to choose planets wisely and balance your forces than to control said forces exact behaviour.
The Zenith Remnant
The Zenith Remnant is AI War's first expansion, and focuses both on adding capturable units and a new minor faction called the Zenith to the game. Arcen maintains an exhaustive list of features, but highlight features are as follows:
- Golems, which have many similar properties to Supreme Commander's "Experimentals".
- Several new base ship types, further expanding on the available choices for the player as well as making the AI a more devious opponent.
- New AI types that took advantage of many of the capturables introduced, as well as some that use Zenith ships.
- Over 40 minutes of new music tracks composed by Arcen Games' composer, Pablo Vega.
- a new class of "Experimental" ships that offer abilities one would not ordinarily find in AI war ships.
Children of Neinzul
Children of Neinzul (or CoN) is a micro-expansion for AI War, from which all proceeds from are donated to Child's Play, a charity organization for sick children. As of early 2011, over fifteen thousand dollars had been raised and donated. The Children of Neinzul expansion adds new features to the game, including:
- 36 New Ships
- 6 New AI Special Weapons
- 6 New AI Types
- 4 New Music Tracks
- 2 New Map Modes
Light of the Spire
Light of the Spire (or LotS) is the second 'full' expansion of AI War, and added new content as well as new campaign types and additional music. The expansion was released January 28, 2011.
The game is said to add:
- 100+ new ships, including new "spirecraft" ships (larger than starships, smaller than golems).
- 2 new campaign types: Defender and Construction.
- A new Fallen Spire "minor" faction.
- New in-game music tracks.
AI War received generally favourable reviews and achieved an overall score of 80 on Metacritic. Some reviewers have criticized AI War for being too complex with too steep a learning curve, which contributed to it not being nominated for a 2009 Independent Games Festival award.