Sunday, August 7, 2016

AI War: Fleet Command - 2/20 hours

I'm starting to worry about this game. I'm two and a half hours in and I'm still in the middle of the tutorial. But it's not really the complexity that bothers me. When I started the tutorial, it warned me that it was possible to lose . . . in the tutorial. Now I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This shouldn't really come as a surprise to me. The very premise of the game is that you're outclassed by an overwhelming enemy. It's just that it didn't really feel real to me until I saw that tutorial intro.

Ominous foreshadowing of doom aside, I've been enjoying AI War so far. It doesn't have the most interesting tech tree or the most compelling unit design, but it's enough to keep me engaged. My hope is that once I play a full game, with the expansion packs unlocked, I will be able to unlock deeper, more complex units and strategies. Whether or not I'll be able to use such things effectively remains to be seen.

Other than these vague first impressions, I can't really say anything about the game as a whole yet, though. One thing I've gathered from the tutorial and from reading the "which difficulty should I select" article on the wiki, is that in the real, non-tutorial game, a lot of the strategy revolves around trying to manipulate the AI - what in other games might be called exploits, where you try to find the blind spot in the program's decision-making process and fool it into making bad decisions.

The interesting thing about this is that in addition to a straightforward difficulty slider, you can choose a personality for your AI opponents, which determines its overall strategy (such as focusing on a strong defense and not making attacks on the lower end or always destroying their planets rather than allowing them to fall into enemy hands on the higher end) and gives it certain bonus units or technologies. This means, presumably, that the "find the inevitable weakness of the underlying algorithm" game can be played dozens of times and still be different every time. It's a neat approach to setting difficulty, though I doubt I'll play long enough to learn much about it.

My next move is to try and finish the tutorial and then jump into the recommended "Beginner" setup to see a slice of the whole game. At some point during these 20 hours, I'm going to have to lose a game, because from everything I've heard, that's what AI War is all about. I have my fingers crossed, however, that my first defeat will not be in the freaking tutorial. Proudly difficult game or not, that would be humiliating.

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