The universe is in the dispassionate grip of an unremitting AI war machine. As wave after wave of ships descend upon humankind, only the strategic wiles of Peter Parrish and Spanner Spencer can prevent total destruction.

Oh dear.

What follows are the opening details of our first AI War co-op session. At this stage we had both played through the tutorial levels and little more, so this is pretty much a total newbie experience …

Even from such a distance, the planet Umisade is a spectacular sight. It is here that the battle lines will finally be drawn. Amongst the asteroid debris and the distant space nebula, this is where humanity will begin to fight back. The AI have struck out across our twenty planet system, leaving all but two under their control. Only we two; Space President Pazuzu and the redoubtable Commander Spanner, can save the universe now. God help us all.

Our first task is to select a home world with a suitably enticing perk. Recalling their impressive showing in Jurassic Park I elect to go with the Raptor, while Spanner opts for the meaty sounding Autocannons. I muse for a while about the possibilities of combining our forces. The AI may be deadly, but has it ever seen a fleet of space dinosaurs wielding duel autocannons? I think not.

As we begin a series of routine constructions on our respective worlds, Spanner is moved to make a lyrical dedication to his planet. “It looks like Jupiter except with Ribena in the atmosphere,” he says. I wipe away a tear. Planetary pride always gets me … right there. Noticing that our worlds are in relatively close proximity, Spanner sends an envoy scout to Umisade as a gesture of goodwill between our respective peoples.

Casting our greedy eyes over the galaxy map, we spot a prime target sat between us. The planet Mikrew is ripe for the taking. At least, it would be, if either of us had any ships. The military-industrial complex gets rolling and we start to churn out a selection of basic units. Meanwhile, I collar a brave scout. He has a simple choice: complete a basic reconnaissance of Mikrew for the greater glory of mankind or face execution as a traitor to Umisade. Engines flare as he disappears into the wormhole. The inter-planetary communication crackles into life as Commander Spanner informs me that an expeditionary force under his control is also destined for our target.

The scout report makes for grim reading. Mikrew’s pleasant green hue cannot disguise the fact that it is awash with red. Not communists – something far, far more threatening. The AI. Spanner spots something near my scout, a ship of strange worm-like design, identified by our scanners as an ‘astro-train.’ Distracted by its curious movements, it takes me a moment to notice the alert back at my home planet. Something has slipped through the wormhole into Umisade’s galactic air-space. “Are you being attacked?” asks Commander Spanner, “I hadn’t thought about being attacked.” It is at this point I begin to wonder whether we truly are the best tactical minds humankind has to offer.

My attacker turns out to be another lone astro-train. Things heat up as Spanner announces that he has a similar intruder in his sector. Rather too late, we both recall our military training about placing turrets around wormholes to prevent exactly this kind of incursion. Deciding that attack is the best form of defence, Commander Spanner completely ignores the astro-train near his base and continues the assault on Mikrew. I turn to my Raptors, eager to test out their effectiveness in combat.

Against astro-trains, that effectiveness proves to be minimal. My bold fleet barely make a dint in the one billion health points possessed by the vessel. Intelligence reports describe it as ‘nearly indestructible.’ Luckily, the enemy also appears to have minimal firepower. Not willing to be bogged down in a stale-mate, I call my ships home.

Back on Spanner’s planet, the red has been quietly multiplying. He scrambles to put some turret defences together to fend them off and laser fire engulfs the Ribena-coloured sector. As further astro-trains make fly-bys of Umisade, Commander Spanner reports some much-needed good news. The orbital command station in Mikrew has fallen. We may both be under attack, but we’re also close to reclaiming a planet from the AI’s grasp. Further investigations of the astro-train reveal it to only ‘slightly damage nearby ships’ and that the key to their destruction lies at the astro-train station. There’s a chance we may be about to turn things around.

With just eight ships left on Mikrew, the pride of the Spannerite and Pazuzian fleets descend. My fellow commander laments the fact that he chose yellow as his planetary colours, rather than the regal purple which denotes my ships. I understand his distress, my ships do look splendid. Though their ineffective attempts to destroy a Mikrew guard post are somewhat less impressive.

At this point Commander Spanner remembers that we both have the necessary science knowledge to unlock some new technology. Returning to Umisade, I notice that my science lab is ‘exhausted.’ Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea in the world to appoint guards with whips to oversee the scientific progress. In fact, the exhausted science lab merely means all the possible knowledge on Umisade has been gathered, resulting in a fair number of points stored up ready to spend. I splash out on some bafflingly named counter-negative-energy turrets, which claim to be useful against the pesky astro-trains. Raptor-fan that I am, I also unlock the Raptor Mark II technology.

We hear explosions but, rather ominously, are unsure precisely who and where they relate to. A quick look at Mikrew reveals a possible source – the guard post there appears to have wiped out my early expeditionary force with extreme prejudice. The only positive being that my fleet have left it at half health. With the sector looking fairly empty, I suggest we should send a colony ship to take it over. Commander Spanner is one step ahead. “I think I already did that,” he says ” … oh wait, it’s being attacked, I wasn’t paying attention.” Once again we have found ourselves distracted by other inessential matters. All is well however, as Spanner fends off the attack and sets up a new orbital command station.

Mikrew is liberated, but the rest of the system awaits. We turn our attentions to the nearby planet of Paachugar, home to the irritating astro-train station, and concoct a new plan of attack. The cycle begins again. Freedom in AI Wars never comes easy.
Join us tomorrow for Part 2: a snapshot from a later game where the two of us are slightly (but only slightly) more experienced.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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