It took over… again
Genre: Grand strategy,
Developer: Arcen Games, LLC
Publisher: Arcen Games, LLC
Release Date: 22 Oct, 2019
AI War 2 is a hybrid between an RTS game and a Grand Strategy one. In this mix, the objective is to destroy a powerful AI that colonized the whole galaxy and has massive firepower. Since the enemy is way more powerful than us, a full-fledged war is not an option: slowly expanding our little empire while the AI is busy fighting other enemies, instead, is.
Finding the plug
The only reason the human race isn’t extinct is just because it poses almost no threat to the AI empire which, in turn, chose to move its armies away fighting more powerful (and sometimes intergalactic) enemies. The ultimate objective is to find the AI overlord and, possibly, destroy it, which is easier said than done: just to find it we need to explore tens of different solar systems, all under AI control.
The way the game works is by tiptoeing around the AI, without making too much noise, at least until the time is right. This involves careful planning, as there are many different objectives that, once destroyed, give the player advantages, but also increase the AI awareness. For example, in order to colonize planets the player has to destroy the AI orbital station: doing this alerts the AI of your presence, represented as an in-game value that, once it gets too high, increases its aggressivity. There are also ways to reduce awareness, like destroying data centers, making it possible to manage the pace of the game throughout the campaign.
Turns out, destroying a galaxy-wide AI empire isn’t that easy and various fleets and orbital structures are needed. The game in this sense offers a HUGE amount of different structures, ships and turrets. It’s easy for new players to get lost in the number of different ship designs they can put in a fleet, or the amount of different turrets that they can build around a base. The game doesn’t really help in this sense, showing lots of different data in the UI, for each ship. You’ll come around ships that do X times more damage to ships that have less than X armor, so you’ll ask yourself: is this ability good?; is it poor?; how many enemy ships to have that kind of armor/power/thrusters? Again, it’s complicated and something you’ll only learn by playing.
In addition to that, there are four different resources to manage, namely: metal, energy, science and hack points. The first two are used for buildings and fleets and are pretty straightforward. Science is gathered from planets, but every planet has only a limited amount of it: this is why, going forward with the game, science can also be required by destroying enemy structures or by hacking them. Hacking points can be spent on… well, hacks, special actions aimed at weakening the enemy or getting intel from it.
All these elements merge to create a gameplay fluid but articulated gameplay, where the player has a lot of different objectives, with the task of choosing which ones he wants to carry out in order to advance in the game, but also not get the AI too aggressive.
Campaigns in AI War 2 are pretty long themself, ranging in the tens of hours for a medium one, so customization plays an important role when it comes to replayability. In the final version of the game, not only there are basic features for the galaxy generation, like number of planets or galaxy type, but there’s also the possibility to introduce special factions into the campaign: these can make the game easier or harder, introduce powerful random factors or new strange effects. Playing a game where the AI has to fight a metal-eating bacteria colonies, for example, is completely different to play a 1v1 against the AI alone.
There is little to say here: while improved from the first installment, graphics are certainly not the focal point of the game. While playing, you’ll be watching at little more than moving icons. When zooming in, you’ll be able to see very basic models for the ships, probably a little too basic for my taste. During battles, zooming in to watch the single ships fight is almost a disappointment, not only visual effects are extremely basic, but often the fighters don’t even face the direction where the enemies are. Bummer.
AI War 2 is a fine strategy game: the devs successfully improved the formula of the first installment, while keeping the gameplay true to the original. For the price point and the huge replayability value, this game makes for a very easy recommendation.