The line must be drawn here. This far, and no further!

    Well, okay. Just a little bit further, if you really insist. Alright, look. Let’s forget the lines. Just stay on your side of the galaxy and we’ll stay on ours. Fine then. You stay on your side of my home planet, and I’ll stay on mine. I can move my ships if they’re bothering you? Or you could just wipe me out within ten minutes of our second co-op game on AI War.

    The eponymous AI in this game isn’t quite clever enough to hold a conversation with, but if it was, I imagine that’s how it would have gone when Paz and I cranked up the enemy’s intelligence to 10, just to see what would happen. Destruction is a lot of fun when it’s happening to someone else, but a thrashing is far less appealed when it’s you that’s staring up at the heel of a very large boot.

    In our first AI War diary, we kind of defeated ourselves. Mining resources dry within the first hour, then struggling to build even the small engineer drones used to make the ships you actually need. The deliberately obtuse enemy came and went, with barely the wit to stop its head banging against the floor when it was trying to tie its shoes, so this time we really wanted to see what an intelligent galactic army was capable of.

    To be fair, we didn’t expect to be putting up much of a fight against the uber-smart AI in the first round, and indeed it was wise enough to jump on our homeworlds within seconds and cripple us both economically and literally. Turned down to a more reasonable 7.6 changed AI War from a high speed massacre and into more of a cut throat challenge, however, and though it was probably still set a little too high for fledgling strategists such as ourselves, the scope of intelligence on the AI’s sliding scale of 1 to 10 was very noticeable.

    But we’ve had some practice ourselves, too. There’s no first task this time around. Instead, a flurry of construction begins now the importance of ensuring that first orbital command station has been driven home like a railroad spike through our skulls, and defensive turrets are brought into being. These stationary defences are great to protect your remote mining facilities, which all this construction hinges on, but primarily we’ve learned that mining a wormhole with them is a great way to at least slow an early invasion fleet.

    Combinations of sniper turrets and the excellent tractor beam turrets are built around the wormhole mouths, but also as a defensive perimeter around the shielded orbital command station. A couple of games in, and the tower defence aspects of play can be seen evolving, quite organically, around your home system. A good distance from your command station – but still very close on a galactic scale – a semi-circle of tractor beam turrets are built, with their spheres of reach touching.{PAGE TITLE=AI War Co-op Diary 2 Page 2}

    These awesome gadgets don’t stop the enemy ships from shooting, but they hold them in position, allowing a small fleet of cruisers and fighters to patrol this dead zone and whittle away at a much larger force long before it gets within range of the beating heart of my empire. It’s an expensive tactic, but the two enemy forces are snooping around in my sector of space within minutes of the game beginning, and that defensible mote in space soon proves its worth.

    After this initial fortification, the rest of the sector can slowly be secured. Assigning guns to the wormholes and around metal and crystal harvesters, while trying, somewhat desperately, to shore up the resources to keep this delicate area of a 20 planet galaxy safe. Even with the aggression turned down a notch, the AI is unforgiving and unrelenting, and just treading water is enough to occupy all my (limited) strategic aptitude.

    The bottom corner shows the score of each player, including the enemy AI’s, and I see that of the four of us, mine is the lowest. Paz is way out in front, and I realise he’s taken less obsessive defensive measures and put together a fleet ready for the inevitable attacks. And those attacks come thicker and faster the more aggressively you act, which means my gallant colleague commander is encouraging lots more cannon fodder into his territory and racking up some tasty points.

    With virtual heels dug into the ground, I put together some forces. The planet I’ve chosen as my homeworld favours tanks; slow moving, yet solid and damaging. With a decent mixture of these bad boys surrounded by as many other types of fighters that I can afford, they’re sent to the nearest wormhole, where a sprinkling of enemies have been seen to appear. Sent through (without the foresight of any accompanying drone to apprise me of an exact breakdown of enemy forces on the other side of the wormhole) I find my score start to climb impressively.

    Sending that fleet to a suitably fleeting death was almost worth it, just to save face in this galactic community of four. At least one of the AI enemies is now in fourth place. I’m not bothered about winning – truly I’m not – but I’d be loathe to come last. But even this point gathering distraction has left my homeworld unattended long enough for mining facilities to be wiped out, and a resource and energy crisis to strike my empire. Once again, fortifying the immediate area of space around me is of the utmost urgency.

    What’s even more apparent this time (not that it wasn’t obvious before) is that a full and populated game of AI War wouldn’t be measured in hours, but in days. This is a game of simple controls, quickly accessible gameplay, sparse visuals and massive scope. Peter and I chat, casually but sincerely, about the epic scale of a full battle, and realise that we’re not going to finish any game that’s worth playing – at least, not in time to get a review written.

    But that’s no bad thing. This is a game that takes little toll on your system; that most any rig will play comfortably and any internet connection cope with, but offers an experience of acute intensity that will satisfy strategists from the meek and uninitiated (that’d be us) to the warmongering King Nerds, with no life and an unquenchable desire to conquer.

    AI War gives you the universe, so long as you’ve got the time and fortitude to take it.

    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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