AI War: Fleet Command was a 2009 space RTS that mixed in elements of 4X and tower defence to produce something really original, and its headline feature was a frighteningly smart AI that adapted to the player’s tactics. It was an indie hit, and thanks to a successful Kickstarter, it’s getting a sequel.
Pit your wits against the witless AI in the best strategy games on PC.
The AI War II Kickstarterhits its deadline in just a few hours, so if you’re quick there’s still time to pledge and get some of the backer goodies. As it stands, the next stretch goal is looking unlikely, but since the next is also the last it’s fair to say the Kickstarter has been a resounding success. Its initial funding target was hit in just 22 hours.
Developers Arcen games were founded by programmer Chris Park in 2009, out of frustration with the predictable AI in most RTS games – arguably the genre’s biggest recurring challenge. Park focused on building an AI that could adapt to the player and constantly surprise them, and in this he succeeded. Though criticised for a steep learning curve and simple(ish) graphics, AI War: Fleet Command became a cult classic among discerning strategy fans.
As with its predecessor, the premise of AI War II is that you (and optionally, some friends via online co-op multiplayer) will go up against AI opponents who control much more powerful empires than yours, and must defend your base against their onslaught.
On what makes their AI special, Arcen say: “When it comes to combat and tactics it plays by the same rules as you… and it’s very devious. The core conceit of the AI is that most of the time it’s not aware of you. But pieces of its empire become aware of you at various times, and you have to then deal with those pieces in battles ranging from tiny skirmishes to thousands-strong epic encounters.”
An AI dealing with asymmetric information? Sounds a lot like the challenge Blizzard and DeepMind are working on, using StarCraft II as a test-bed. Between that and AI War II, strategy fans can hope that a new era of challenging and exciting artificial opponents is right around the corner.
For more about what makes AI War’s computer opponents so devious, check out Park’s dev diary on Arcen’s core approach to emergent AI.
According to the delivery dates for the 1.0 release on its Kickstarter, AI War II is due for launch in October 2017. For more, check out Arcen’s website.