"You are outgunned. You are massively outnumbered. You must win." These are your orders.
Humanity has already fought its war against the machines -- and lost. AI death squads stand watch over every planet and every wormhole, the few remaining human settlements are held captive in orbiting bubbles, and the AIs have turned their attention outward, away from the galaxy, to alien threats or opportunities unknown.
This inattention is our only hope: a small resistance, too insignificant even to be noticed by the AI central command, has survived. These are the forces you will command. The AI subcommanders will fight you to the death when they see you -- but your glimmer of opportunity comes from quietly subduing those subcommanders without alerting central processing to the danger until it's too late.
You do have a few things going in your favor. Your ships are much faster. You have safe AI routines to automate defenses and mining outposts. You have production techniques that can churn out fully-outfitted unmanned fighters in seconds. There will never be more than a few thousand of your ships versus tens of thousands of theirs, but through careful strategy you must somehow reach and destroy the heavily-guarded AI cores.
Go forth into the galaxy, steal AI technology, recapture those planets you must in order to achieve your ends, and save what remains of humanity. But draw too much attention to yourself, and the full might of the AI overlords will come crashing down.
So What Exactly Is This Game?
AI War is a one-of-a-kind strategy game that plays like an RTS but feels like a 4X. With tower defense and grand strategy bits, too. You'll be wanting the demo to really know what we mean, there's nothing else on the market remotely like this (as many reviewers have glowingly pointed out).
More specifically, this is a game that you can either play solo, or in 2-8 player co-op. You always play against a pair of AIs, and you can configure an enormous amount of things about the experience. The AI is very excellent, and also an entirely unique concept. The longer you play, the more the AI will impress you, which is kind of backwards from most strategy games, right? We named this "AI War" for a reason.
The only way to play is in procedurally-generated "campaigns." There are quite literally billions of possibilities, and every campaign has a really different feel to it. They also last a good while: most between 7 to 13 hours, about the length of time it takes to play through an FPS campaign once. This means your decisions -- victories and blunders alike -- have really long-term, interesting consequences. Some players talk about feeling bittersweet when they conclude a long campaign. You can save and load at any time, even in multiplayer, so you could have one campaign going for weeks or months if you like.
In the past we've emphasized how many ships are in the game, and it's true that there are often 30,000 and sometimes even 100,000+ ships in the galaxy at once. But scale really isn't the focus of the game in the sense you might think from that: it's about having a huge, living galaxy to make your way through, rather than about throwing as many ships as possible at your enemies. There are a number of checks in the mechanics to keep players from "blobbing" excessively, actually.
This is foremost a game about cleverly picking your battles, evaluating scout intel for weaknesses and opportunities, and executing really long-term plans despite the monkey wrenches the AI is sure to throw into the works. It's about thinking on your feet and evaluating each situation, rather than memorizing stats.
Why Would I Want This Game?
- Because you've had a hankering for a deep strategy game for a long time, but you hate the obtuse, slow mechanics of some of the older genre standbys.
- Because you love RTS games or 4X games, but you hate it when they're click-fests, involve a lot of sitting around and waiting, or just require you to memorize a bunch of spreadsheets to win.
- Because you've been hearing about this cult classic of a game since May of 2009, and it's recently been hugely updated and re-launched, and you finally want to give it a try.
- Because you like kicking robots in the teeth.
Information For Strategy "Grognards"
You want to try this game -- seriously. There's a big expansive demo that you can try for hours and hours for free, and you'll know if you love it or not. We've got a real odd mix of fans, so if you're on the fence you should still try it: we've got RTS addicts, 4X lovers, and folks in between. This game is extremely configurable, so you can set it up to have a slower, more thoughtful, 4X feel, or you can make everything happen blazing fast so that your reflexes are tested. By default it's in the middle, where things move along at a good clip but fast-clicking isn't rewarded.
Information For Strategy Newbies
It's true that AI War is one of the deeper strategy games out there. But that doesn't mean it can't be your entry point into this awesome genre. There's a big ol' demo that you can spend as much time as you need in, and it includes some pretty awesome tutorials. We also have a really huge wiki full of information useful to both new and advanced players. It, like our forums for the game, is an indispensable resource. There's no reason you can't get into this game if you think you might have any interest in this sort of thing.
Want More To Read?
Want to read about all the features in extreme detail? You can of course try the demo of the game to make sure that you know what you're getting, but the (more or less) full feature list is also now available on the AI War wiki. It's a ridiculously long list, but that just goes to show how much is packed into this game.
Other popular resources for figuring out if this game is for you are Fast Facts: AI War in 2 pages or less, which is sort of a cliff notes explanation of the game, or the more exhaustive Like Chess, A Game Of AI War Has Three Abstract "Phases" explanation of the game, which should give you a good idea of whether you might enjoy this game as your next long-term hardcore strategy staple if you're a grognard.
The AI War Community Is An Active One
You might enjoy participating in our forums in general -- it's a really friendly community, and the players who participate there and make suggestions through our feature/bug tracker are able to really impact the game; just check out all the entries in our release notes that have attributions to various players!
Note: Looking for A.I. Wars (The Insect Mind or Armor Commander)? That's a completely different game series by another company, so please see Tactical Neuronics about them.