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Niche Spotlight – AI War 2

This is Niche Spotlight. In this column, we regularly introduce new games to our fans, so please leave feedback and let us know if there’s a game you want us to cover!

Today’s Spotlight is AI War 2, the sequel to Arcen Games’ cult hit grand strategy game.

As with the original, the game is set in the aftermath of an intergalactic war that resulted in the near complete annihilation of humanity. All that remains are scattered remnants so insignificant that humanity’s AI conquerors don’t even feel the need to acknowledge their existence.

Your job is to strike back against the AI’s forces without drawing too much attention to yourself, because alerting the AI of your continued existence means fighting an overwhelmingly vast armada of technologically and intellectually superior foes. You can check out the launch trailer above.

AI War 2 is available on Windows PC, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG for $19.99.

Here’s a rundown of the game:


Face off against a more advanced version of the original AI, who once again has captured the entire galaxy leaving you only a tiny planet to yourself. Then strike out and find a way to cleverly outwit it nonetheless. All the new capturables, larger fleets, and hacking abilities are sure to help. (You’re going to need it.)

Or immerse yourself in a far more complicated galactic struggle involving the nanocaust, macrophages, dyson spheres, and more. Other factions each have their own goals, rules, units, and entirely unique economies. Make the scenario complicated enough and it can become “World War XV is in progress, you’re in a tiny farm in the middle of it, nobody likes you, but if you can just kill that one giant angry enemy leader this will all be over.”

If that sounds over the top — and frankly that bit is wearying to us to imagine even though some people seek it out — then take a break and maybe hack the all-consuming computer virus to be your ally, and convince the star-sized alien hives to watch your back as you take on a suddenly-less-arrogant AI.

(If you’re really feeling spiteful, take yourself out of the equation, turn on super fast forward, and watch them all fight like ants on a galactic scale.)

Modernized and supercharged.
It’s been ten years since the original AI War launched, and the gaming world has changed a lot — as has the available computing power on any device you’re using to read this. We’ve pulled out all the stops to build foes more formidable and intelligent than before, and to create simulations of hundreds of thousands of units running at 120fps in a lot of cases. You can speed up and slow down the simulation without any extra load on your CPU, and pause at will.

The interface respects your time by automating things that you would do the same 95% of the time anyway. For that other 5% there are indeed advanced features such as placing spy nanites, tweaking or disabling the rules of automation, or redesigning your fleet compositions as much as you want.

Streamlined, yet deeper.
Sometimes when a sequel says it’s “streamlined,” it can really mean “dumbed down.” And there are indeed fewer tiny choices to be made in some areas here: you don’t have to decide how to wash each dish; you have a dishwasher. And it’s a good thing you do, to be honest, because the rabbit hole of complex and confounding scenarios goes as deep as you want it to.

All those bits where you make the interesting strategic decisions? Those bits are tougher than ever, and you can’t fall back on old boring habits to muddle through. You need your attention free to anticipate, to plan, to dream… and then throw those all aside and figure it out by the seat of your pants when everything goes sideways.

There’s too much to memorize (but tooltips are always right there, anyway), and there’s always an unfamiliar element. Clicking fast won’t help you. To win the AI War, you’ll have to improvise, adapt, and use your wits.

As it should be.

How About Some Highlights?

  • Many optional factions, each with their own goals and strategies, create a living galaxy.
  • A new Fleets system gives you even more ships than before, and allows you to customize your empire more than ever.
  • A ton of map types, and with a lot of sub-options to make them even more varied.
  • Outguard to hire, factions to ally with, and oodles of targets to capture or hack –with the AI or aliens.
  • Warden, Hunter, and Praetorian Guard sub-fleets of the AI provide for new challenges (and sometimes opportunities) in how both you and the AI interact with each other.
  • Crazy moddability, with many levers available in easily-accessible XML.

What’s New Compared To The Original?

  • More approachable gameplay, but with a rabbit hole that goes as deep as ever.
  • More to do, in terms of moment to moment gameplay and choices. More to find, more to conquer or be conquered-by.
  • Polished gameplay mechanics, representing everything learned from first game’s six expansions (plus three years of development on this sequel).
  • Trimmed fat: repetitive boring tasks have been automated or streamlined, but more options than ever have been added for you to customize things when you want to. Our goal is never to waste your time, but always have an array of interesting challenges for you to pursue at once.
  • Redesigned UI that gives you a ton of information and power right when you need it.
  • 1.5 hours of new music added to the 4.5 hour included score from the original game.
  • Multithreading for modern performance, and a codebase that will not summon an elder god (recoded from the ground up for modern rigs).
  • Over 1900 lines of spoken dialogue from more than 25 actors.

If you’re a developer and want your game showcased on Niche Spotlight, please contact us!

Frank Streva

About

Niche Gamer’s resident indie expert. Digs through the Steam new releases so you don’t have to. Massive fan of miniature and board games as well.