At one point I was trying to gain an achievement for completing the tech tree, and I had to stall for time, because the enemy had only one city left and I still had a half dozen techs still left to learn. So I started systematically destroying their power plants, and weapons, and then, eventually, their intelligence and mining buildings. They eventually reached a point where they could not recover, and were completely helpless before my attacks.
I felt like a monster, then. As well I should. Over the course of the game, my megadeaths crept up into the hundreds, eventually becoming gigadeaths. I'd exhausted my own planet's mineral resources in pursuit of this vendetta, dooming my people to their own slow extinction, following the enemy's.
Why was I doing this? It was not for any sort of gain. There was no wealth or knowledge or territory being transferred from the loser to the winner. In fact, I doubt we could have even survived on each other's planets, despite our similar civilizations.
I turned to the in-game Codex for answers, but it was little help. It rarely talked about the past, but whenever it was mentioned, the War was capitalized. It was clearly a title with weight. It didn't need its own name because no one would ever confuse it with lesser wars. One of the entries even implied that it had been going on for at least forty years.
My guess is that no one knows. That the planets fight each other because that's what they've always done, and their leaders don't have the imagination for anything else. Maybe they thought it was safe, because their weapons could barely reach across the void of space . . . until someone invented the interplanetary rail gun and it all started to turn.
What sort of horror must have accompanied that first impact? The early railguns are crude, and in the early game are more likely to hit an empty desert than anything of strategic importance, but even that must have been terrifying. A "missed" shot that nonetheless screamed down from the sky to leave a hundred-mile scar across the earth.
Anyone who witnessed that kind of destruction would have to know that they've entered a new age. That to embrace that power is to attempt to harness the engine of your own extinction. Yet who has ever turned their back on that path, refused to wield the sword when it is offered to them, especially when they would be first?
Did they feel a grim satisfaction when the cities started to fall? There is a certain beauty in seeing a design come to fruition, even if it is being turned against you. If an invention was meant to kill, then you could take pride, even as it killed yourself.
Or maybe there was wailing and grief, a hypocritical fury at their foes for mirroring the diabolical architecture of their war machine.
I think, though, that it was mostly relief. Once these weapons were fired in anger, there could be no retreat. You could never forgive your enemies, and you could never ask them to forgive you. As soon as it was decided that the War would be fought with railguns and gamma ray lasers, its course was set. It could only end when one side or the other was utterly annihilated.
As far as my part goes, I think I have to be satisfied with that. Due to decisions made entirely without my input and consent, my planet has put itself on an unalterable course. I may think the War is madness, but a madness shared by the entire world is the very definition of sanity. It may be impossible for one man to change the destiny of a whole planet, but he has the choice to face that destiny as a patriot.
I can only hope that there is no such thing as hell. I wouldn't want to face the millions I've sent to it.