AI War: Fleet Command
Man versus machine has always been a hot topic to debate. Whether I’m watching Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or “Watson” on Jeopardy, I find myself wondering where we’ll be in a few hundred years long after I’m gone. In the case of “AI War: Fleet Command”, humanity hasn’t done so well. You’ll be tasked with rebuilding the human race right from under the noses of the same machines who nearly wiped you out. Before we take a look at this particular RTS and what makes it unique, I’d like to thank Erik Johnson from Arcen Games for providing me with a free review copy.
The main menu allows you to create or change profiles, play a single or multiplayer game, load a previous save, participate in tutorials, view achievements & high scores, and adjust game settings. The settings menu contains all of the basic essentials and then some, touching on-screen resolution, fullscreen toggle, sound levels, and a number of interface / game options. Playing a match gives way to even more options, allowing you to adjust AI personality, difficulty, map size, and more. I was pleased overall with the number of options I had available to me from start to finish.
While being an RTS at its core, “AI War: Fleet Command” is actually a bit different compared to a lot of the other RTS games I’ve played in my lifetime. “Warcraft”, “Starcraft”, “Supreme Commander”, “Rise of Nations”, “Age of Empires”, and etc. all revolve around resource gathering and building up units. Smart players capture resource points here and perform surgical strikes there, but usually the more you have, the better position you’ll be in. Not so with “AI War: Fleet Command.” In this game, you start out outgunned but relatively hidden. The more you progress and the stronger you get, the more your AI opponents will be alerted, which fills up the AI Progress Bar. This is bad…the farther along the AI Progress Bar gets, the stronger they become. Rather than grab every planetary system around you, you’ll be forced to pick and choose as to which planets are worth grabbing.
So, if a Zerg-rush is out of the question, what can you expect to be doing? You start out with a set number of knowledge points, which can be used to unlock new ships and structures. You can gain more knowledge by capturing planets but again, the more you do that, the more the AI may take notice. The benefits to such a system allows you to create a civilization unique to your play style. You could choose to focus on defensive structures initially, ensuring that you’ll be protected from random attacks. This, of course, will limit what your offensive fleet is capable of doing. Unlike most RTS games, you do not have an empire-wide population cap. Rather, population caps are on a per-ship-type, per-ship-level basis and can’t be increased. This means that those weaker ships you have sitting around will still be useful, even if they have been outclassed by newer ships of the same type. This mechanic prevents players from just mass producing the strongest ship and having at it.
Star systems are separated by wormholes and sometimes, you’ll occupy a system that have multiple. A little bit of the tower defense genre comes into play here, as it’s usually a good idea to build turrets and other defensive structures near these gateways so as to prevent the AI from wiping you out. By that same token, I’ve managed to use them a bit more offensively, creating choke points and cutting off AI systems wherever possible. The number of star systems you’ll see in a given match varies, based on what you picked during game setup. Smaller maps are generally harder to play since you’ll be limited by what you can conquer to gain knowledge, and you’ll run into the AI a lot sooner and more frequently. I recommend the forty-sixty planet range to new players, eighty if you want the default experience. In either case, you can expect to be at it for a while. Some games clock in well over ten hours, so you may want to clip some coupons for Maxwell House coffee, if at all possible.
With all of the above in mind, ship combat is fairly straight forward. As I indicated earlier, your population caps are by ship-type, though you can get more by researching a newer class of ship (Mark II, Mark III, etc.) since population caps are also broken out by ship-class. The game will force you to build different ships of different classes, and what you do with them is ultimately where the strategy comes into play. It’s generally a good idea to mix and match anyway, since some ships and structures are more vulnerable to certain attacks than others. Ships are built at space docks, which can be automated to pump out ships as you see fit. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you have an ample supply of crystal and metal to do that. There’s a lot more to this game then I’m able to get into here, but I included a link to the game’s Wiki page below for your reference.
In the grand scheme of things, “AI War: Fleet Command” implements a lot of unique ideas. It has a lot of features that RTS veterans will recognize, but also includes gameplay mechanics that will make them reconsider their old habits. It’s an incredibly fun and engaging game, one that I wish I had more time to play. It has a lot of strategic depth and is meant to be played over the long haul, so don’t go into this expecting to pump out one or two games in an hour like in “Starcraft II.” My only real complaint is that the graphics are a bit simplistic and two-dimensional. While the game was released in 2009, “Sins of a Solar Empire” was released a year before and was much prettier and featured full three-dimensional camera angles. However, those who have the patience to dive into the details without worrying about the bells and whistles will find an enriching, fulfilling experience. There’s a playable demo available via the links below, should you wish to try before you buy.
Final Verdict: 8/10
You can learn more about and purchase “AI War: Fleet Command” by visiting the following websites:
You can view video play sessions here: