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Game Info:

AI War 2
Developed By: Arcen Games, LLC
Published By: Arcen Games, LLC
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Available On: Windows, macOS, Linux
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/4X Grand Strategy
Mode: Single Player (Multiplayer promised)
Version Reviewed: 1.010
MSRP: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Arcen Games for sending us this game to review!

AI War 2 is an independently-developed real-time strategy game with 4X elements (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) – with some interesting twists. Rather than the typically ‘pure’ goal of taking over the entire galaxy for yourself, your goal here is to conquer the enemy AI (Artificial Intelligence) that has taken hold of the galaxy to stake for yourself a little corner for you to exist in safety. At least that seems to be the theory; there isn’t much of a story in-game. Either way, once you take out their home world, you win. Some games are more about the fun of the journey rather than just the destination.

Being a real-time strategy game, there are resources to manage; in this case, the primary ones are metal and energy. Both are needed to build things, though metal is typically a larger upfront cost, while energy is more ongoing. Conversely, metal accumulates, while energy is more steady-state. Running out of metal means you can't build or repair anything, while running out of energy means you enter a 'brownout', where you can't build anything, or power your force fields, which leaves you more vulnerable to attack. You want to avoid both conditions as much as possible.

The other main thing to manage, and one thing that sets AI War 2 apart from other games I have played, is the AIP (AI Power) level. Being that the AI manages and controls the universe, your little group of ragtag resistors is hardly a concern for the massive AI. It's dealing with whatever it considers the biggest threat in the universe at the time. As you conquer planet after planet, your AIP rating will go up. Once it starts to pass certain thresholds, which the game does warn you about if you highlight your mouse over the AIP level indicator, the AI starts to take you more and more seriously, much to your detriment.

An upset AI can take many forms; it may start to counterattack when you hit their forces. Or, it may start to go on reclamation raids, trying to take planets back that it once had control of. Or, it may try to strike back by going to your home world to eliminate its largest threat. The enemy can be both planning and vindictive; I found all but the easiest difficulties to be a real challenge given my limited skill in these games. There are ten difficulty levels, and when I played on level 4, I could still easily lose (and did) when I made a few major mistakes either managing AIP level, or not having a fleet powerful enough to wipe out the enemy home world in on shot. That counterattack was truly epic!

AI War 2
Highlights:

Strong Points: Very interesting twists on the traditional 4X formula; fast-paced battles (though games are still crazy long, like all other 4X games); interesting mechanic for keeping the enemy AI at bay; great music
Weak Points: Can be quite difficult; one mistake can cost you the game; no multiplayer yet; graphics are not exceptional
Moral Warnings: While your primary enemies are AI robots, you can sometimes also come into conflict with other human factions that you can choose to kill

Given that taking worlds is your primary way to increase income, thankfully there are two other resources that you can gather and spend strategically to improve your chances of survival. The first is science. You also gain this primarily through holding planets, though there are other ways as well. This is what you can spend to increase your technology levels. Each tech can dramatically increase your offensive or defensive strength, making a big difference in your survival rate. Each item (ship, turret, station, etc.) has a mark level, that is raised through technology levels. The more increases on that ship, the higher the mark. A MkVII ship is drastically more powerful than a MkI of the same kind.

The other spendable resource is hacking. Like science, there are multiple ways to get hacking points, though again, it’s primarily through planet collecting. The great thing about hacking, though, is that you can use it to avoid raising AP, destroy a powerful turret, get extra science, scout remote planets, and more. It’s an incredibly powerful resource that can drastically swing things your way if you play it right.

Around many planets, there are some bonuses outside of just resources. Often, deciding to take over a planet is a balancing act between the benefits of the resources and other freebies, and the AIP increase. For example, many planets actually offer additional fleets or even powerful ancient alien artifacts that give you more firepower when invading or defending. I can assure you: if you don’t get more fleets, and level them up appropriately, you won’t beat the AI. I also found ancient alien spaceships to be nearly indispensable when I finally did beat the AI and save the galaxy.

Of course, getting those glorious fleets at your disposal does cost that nasty AIP increase every time. Thankfully, there are some ways to mitigate those increases. The simplest is to assemble a strike fleet and go and take out data centers in remote systems. Doing so is basically equivalent to getting a free planet worth of AIP; considering what resources you get from a planet, this makes quite the difference. There are other methods, that are much higher risk and reward, like taking out all of the coprocessors, or capturing the major data centers. The last one is great – until it gets destroyed, and you lose one and a half times what you saved by capturing it, thereby permanently raising your AIP level. Failing in that way is one of the possible ways to mess up that requires reloading a save to recover from.

Thankfully, you can save anywhere, and it’s easy to quit to the main menu to load an old save. Each world you create is randomly generated, using a numerical seed if you wish to replay a level or share it with your friends. There are tons and tons of ways to customize each level you choose to play, with things like planet count, galaxy layout, number and type of opponents, and more. There is an absolute ton of replayability, if you find yourself enjoying this game like I did.

AI War 2
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 9/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

AI War 2 is a sequel, and the original featured multiplayer. While this may seem like a strange decision, the creator wanted to be free to get the game and its functionality just right before getting bogged down in netcode. It is a promised feature, and it is coming – just not yet. I have no doubt that it will arrive as promised, considering how many updates this game has gotten just since I had installed it to prepare for this review.

While it is mostly a one-person project, I was impressed with the amount of care that went into its production. It has an extensive ‘How to play’ section, with pages and pages of useful and interesting information on not just the mechanics, but details on each enemy, ways the AI may attack you, suggestions on how to counter things, and so on. You can really tell that the creator cares about the player, and wants you to succeed.

It’s these loving touches, as well as the obvious care that went into the UI and tutorials, that helped me fall in love with AI War 2. That, and the really enjoyable play loop, of course. I thoroughly enjoyed my 20+ hours with AI War 2; it went by far quicker than I expected. It has strong ‘just let me conquer just one more thing’ appeal, and hours just flew by. The music is excellent, which really helps set the mood and keeps it engaging.

It’s not without flaws; the graphics could be better, and I couldn’t really find a size of icons that make the ship models easily visible while making determining multiple ship types easy at a glance, so I just lived with the icons. Morally, it’s pretty clean; other ships could theoretically have humans inside, but it’s pretty tame. The AI can taunt you at times, which was fun; I did not catch any foul language, but there were no subtitles, so I could have missed it.

If you are a fan of real-time strategy games, and especially 4x grand strategy ones, I think you’ll really enjoy AI War 2. It simplifies the stuff you don’t want to deal with, and gives you just enough toys to get the AI really upset with you. If that sounds interesting to you, consider giving AI War 2 a serious look.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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