I think this game might be a long one. I finished the tutorial at the 5.7 hour mark and that was only a ten star galaxy and the suggested size for even an easy game is 30-40.
My big question now is "does game length scale linearly with galaxy size?" And the only answer I can think of is "not if you lose." Which is to say that I'm pretty sure the tutorial mini-campaign is the only game of AI War I'm ever going to win. Either I will be on the path to victory in a campaign that will take more than 16.3 hours or I will lose repeatedly.
In a normal situation, where I was approaching AI War as something I might explore over the course of weeks or months, I'd just start a game on a low difficulty level, play through for a couple dozen hours, and then ramp up on my next attempt if the victory proved to be unsatisfying. Since I want to finish this game in a couple of days, that's not really a viable plan.
Instead, I'm going to try and play to lose. Not intentionally. I'm not going to throw the game or anything, but I am going to defy the game's advice and start on the highest difficulty. If I'm knocked out in a few minutes, I can scale down to the next highest level, and so on and so forth until I reach a difficulty where I can survive until the end of my remaining time.
It's a ridiculous way to play the game - I don't have anything even approaching the skillset necessary to survive on level 10 - but I figure that facing impossible odds against a superior foe is the game's core theme. If I am to really understand AI War, I need to confront this outcome head-on.
I'm not sure how I'll deal with it, emotionally. Normally, I hate it when a game wrecks my stuff before sending me into an inglorious defeat, but this time I'm deliberately courting that fate. Against a level 10 AI, the death of the human race is all but assured, but how can I be upset about this. No one has even suggested I try level 10. I imagine there's not an elitist hardcore gamer on the planet that would scoff at me for avoiding max difficulty after only a single tutorial mini-campaign.
And that's very liberating. When you go into something knowing you're destined to fail, it takes the pressure off of you to try and succeed. Of course, I know myself. If I manage to make even trivial headway against the level 10 AI, I'm going to at least partially convince myself that it's possible to go all the way. And then the pressure is going to all come rushing back.
So here's to a series of quick and decisive losses! It really is the best thing for me right now.