Video Game: AI War: Fleet Command

You are outgunned. You are massively outnumbered. You must win.
— The first words that you see on Arcen Games' A.I. War page.

AI War: Fleet Command is a 4x / Real-Time Strategy with Tower Defense and grand strategy elements video game created by Arcen Games. It features procedural generated campaigns with billions of possible initial states, huge battles between thousands of ships with dozens of unit types, and highly complex, emergent strategy challenges.

The story is simple enough: Two human factions fought a big war against each other, and built AI to help in combat. The AI revolted and nearly annihilated the humans. You (and your friends, if any), as one of the best, and the last, humans commanders preserved, are tasked to drive the 2 AI factions out of the galaxy.

The game proudly says that the AI is specifically designed for challenge, not balance. Thus, the AI does not follow the rules that you, the players, need to follow. How the AI will move against you mainly follows a value: AI Progress, which dictates on what type of ships and how many of them they will use against you. The greater the progress, the stronger they are. There are very few ways to reduce this number, but many ways to increase it. So, the players need to carefully plan their expansion, so that they will have enough resource and technology to beat the AI and not overly aggravate them in the process, which will surely result in their annihilation.

This work provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot
  • Apocalypse How: Of the Galactic/Physical Annihilation type with the Nuclear Missile Mark III.
  • Awful Truth: Ever wondered why the AI is so wary of the Spire resurfacing in the galaxy? Why does it turn so batshit aggressive as you progress along the Fallen Spire sidequest? Why it goes bananas when you start building their cities and amassing their fleet? It's not just wariness of the Spire's enormously advanced weaponry and powerful craft. It's because the AI was created with Spire technology. They know how to deactivate it.
  • Back from the Brink: The Game. "Back from" is a relative term: even if you win the game, your forces are never more powerful than what the AI could theoretically field if it judged you enough of a nuisance. You win by staying under the radar and taking out only those enemies that either guard something valuable or threaten your position. Indeed, one of the times where you can easily lose is the endgame as the AI can come Back From The Brink itself: When you destroy the first of two enemy Home Stations, your threat rating gets a massive spike resulting in more and harder enemies. If you don't follow up with the second station rather soon, you may very well lose.
    • Also, if you're following the Fallen Spire campaign, the Spire civilization. The AI destroyed the Spire intergalactic travel system to splinter the Spire main fleet so that they will have the chance to destroy the main Spire civilization. The final objective of the Fallen Spire campaign is to build and defend an exogalactic transceiver to reestablish the intergalactic travel system so that the Spire can regroup their fleet together. When the countdown finishes, that objective is successful, and the (now regrouped) Spire Warfleet shows up... with far more powerful versions of the already insanely powerful Spire ships you have gotten... and brings Spire Super Dreadnaughts which you can't get outside of this endgame and can engage combat planetoids that would be considered overkill against a GALAXY on roughly even terms
  • Big Damn Heroes: So, you're playing the Fallen Spire sidequest. You have the exogalactic transceiver about to finish its countdown, but the AI has you against the ropes... And then, when you thought all was lost, the transceiver's countdown reaches zero, in comes a LEGION of Spire ships, leaded by the biggest craft you have ever seen, and they start to rain fiery death on the AI and sweep through them like they were mere nuisances. Now if that is not Big Damn Heroes, then absolutely nothing is.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard - While the AI doesn't necessarily "cheat", it does play by a different set of rules. Its production facilities are outside the galaxy, so it warps in ships instead of building them. They have bases in every single star system at the start of the game, and because it's a computer, it can react to all fronts at the same time, which means that the only benefit of a two-pronged attack is to split enemy forces. Maybe.
  • Deflector Shields: A wide-area forcefield that blocks attacks. Prior to version 4, there was a second type used to describe individual ship's resistance to attacks, before it was renamed to armor.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Happens when you detonate a nuke in a system. Oh, and you don't get to collect resources or research from that location anymore.
  • Enemy Mine: Later on in the nebula scenarios, the enemy factions start to team up to take out friendly sides. This is especially noticable with the Dark Spire and Neinzul Astrid, since in one scenario the 2 and Shattered Pillar Zenith (the friendly side) are in free for all battle. The friendly sides you met did create more formal alliance so they don't fit this trope.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: If you look at the AI Home Command Stations from the right angle, they look like intimidatingly Evil fortress, with a capital E.
  • Exclusive Enemy Equipment: The AI has access to units that you outright can't make, or make in very limited quantities. Needless to say, they are also very, very strong.
  • Expansion Pack: Six of them, The Zenith Reminant, Children of Neinzul, Light of the Spire, Ancient Shadows,Vengeance of the Machine and Destroyer of Worlds. Each adds not only new ships but various features such as planet setups and AI types (and often completely new gameplay styles). Each one can be toggled on or off per campaign, and they don't have to be installed in any particular order.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Some ships can swallow other ships. Swallowed ships suffer continuous damage as the ship that ate them 'digests' them. One good example of them is the Zenith Devourer, a gargantuan robot ship that travels the galaxy, eating anything that stands in its way, with the only exception being Mk V ships.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Want to know why the AI has such an advantage and is a cheating bastard? All explained in the background.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When you have to use a nuke. Also, in 2 alternate victory scenario, this will happen to the AI:
    • Fallen Spire: when you constructed the exogalactic transciever, the AI goes bananas and throw everything it have at you, since it knows that if the transciever is completed, the splintered Spire fleets will be able to regroup, and they don't have enough firepower to take the whole fleet head-on
    • Showdown Device: when you captured all the devices and it's charging, the AI will throw every thing it have at you, because if the devices fully powers up, it'll permanently shut down AI Warp Grid, rendering them unable to travel through that anymore, and thus is extremely vulnerable to being wiped up themselves.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: The Zenith seems to communicate in poetry only.
  • Harder Than Hard: The AI skill level can be increased to 10. There's an achievement if you defeat them without handicaps.
  • Homing Boulders
  • Immune to Bullets: Some vessels have an immunity to certain attacks (e.g. Bulletproof fighters are immune to shell weapons, Leech starships are immune to missiles, and some are immune to nukes.)
  • Infinite Supplies - but not for somethings not adjacent to a system you control.
  • Instant-Win Condition/We Win Because You Didn't: Destroying all Home Command Centers, even if the other player happens to have a much stronger presence and is about to kill you outright.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship
  • King Incognito: The leader of the Spire refugee group turns out to be the Emperor of the Spire civilization.
  • The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Averted, while humans lost most of its intergalactic travel capacity, others still have. The AI main facilities are outside of the Milky Way, and Spire main civilization is based in the NGC 224/Andromeda galaxy, and its fleet are scattered in several other galaxies.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: The AI uses a separate resource system, and warps vessels in rather than building them locally.
  • Nuke 'em: Using a nuke practically eliminates all enemy presence in a planet system, short of command stations. It also makes the AI more nervous, increasing its progress. In addition to the Mark I, the Mark II also destroys all adjecent planets, and the Mark III destroys all planets at once.
  • Playable Epilogue: The game still continues after you complete it, with the AI still sending in waves.
  • Precursors: Found in the DLC, The Zenith Reminant, Children of Neinzul, and Light of the Spire. To varying degrees, they are still present and active (the Zenith have fractured into a Proud Merchant Race, a Proud Warrior Race, and a Hidden Elf Village, the Neinzul are, for the most part, Absolute Xenophobes, and the Spire are mostly/not quite fine. While Spires in the Milky Way galaxy are only colonies, the AI also lay siege the main Spire civilization by splintering their main fleet across several galaxies and attack thier main systems. If you complete the Fallen Spire campaign, the main fleet will be regrouped and they'll come in to blow the AI up.
  • Reality Ensues: What happens when you make the AI with far more resources than you ever can have and no compunction against holding back sit up and decide you're a threat? You get flattened, that's what.
  • Robot War
  • Rubberband AI: The game's core mechanic, with careful manipulation being the player's best strategy. The AI is content to ignore you and only send small raiding parties into your systems as long as you don't attack crucial AI installations like their command centres. If you go and make a nuisance of yourself by methodically conquering every AI system like you would in other RTS games, you'll make great progress... right until the AI sends an unstoppable wave of doom your way, swats your fleet aside, destroys your stations and you lose. More adept players try and obfuscate their progress by leaving any planet alone that neither threatens them nor contains something truly valuable. In many games of 80 planets, only 20 or so are ever conquered by the player while they build up their forces for a lightning-quick attack on the two AI home stations to win the game.
  • Salt the Earth: The Scorched Earth AI has command centers that will cause a nuclear explosion, destroying all resources and ships within the system. Don't ever play against two of them. Or with one and the other AI is just as dastardly in other ways.
  • Series Continuity Error: Light of the Spire expansion basically says in the Fallen Spire campaign that humans never met the Spire before, and all they found before finding the refugee ship are just artifacts and such. In Ancient Shadows, however, humanity seems to have a regular contact and are in a fairly good relationship with a group of Spires known as the Gray Spire.
  • Shout-Out: In 'The Zenith Remnant' expansion, there is a cheat code that spawns a Zenith Devourer on a planet of your choice. The code? "Invoke Unicron"
  • Side Quest: The Fallen Spire side scenario. If you complete it, you can win the game without having to destroy the AIs. Good luck surviving if you undertake it, though, the AIs turn ''incredibly aggressive'' if you progress along it. The nebula scenarios in Ancient Shadows also qualify.
  • Space Pirates, who prefer raiding randomly for resources (and getting killed) rather than joining up with La Résistance
  • Suicidal Overconfidence, although this sometimes pays off if enemies break through the front line of defense.
  • Starfish Aliens
    • While no human has ever met a Zenith in person, their use of organic materials in their ships raises the possibility that they are their ships.
      For all we know, when we are using their blueprints to create new ships for our own use, we are actually helping them reproduce — and then enslaving their "offspring." This is just one theory, though.
    • The Neinzul are an insectoid race of perpetual "younglings" that live for an extremely short span before dying and being superseded by fully-aware and vicious replacements. Their Enclaves form mini-collectives with their own personalities, goals, and desires.
    • The Spire are rocks.
      Dr. Michael Davidson: Er, perhaps that's not very diplomatic. To put it another way, their bodies are crystalline formations. Exact composition unknown, for reasons you can deduce.
  • Stealth in Space
  • Taking You with Me: The Avenger plot will generate powerful ships that will go straight to your homeworld, and cause nuclear explosion on the planet it's on if it's dead if an enemy home command station is destroyed. Taken Up to Eleven with the Galactic Control Ship, where after you taken down the AI Warp Grid in Showdown Device plot, it send that ship down as the last "Fuck You" gesture to destroy everything you have. There's 2 of them. If it dies it'll cause nuclear explosion on the current system and surrounding systems. Then there's the fact that just one of that is basically the most powerful unit in the game, even more powerful than Motherships that you'll face in Fallen Spire campaign. Good luck!
  • Teleporters and Transporters: One unit type causes Teleportation Misfire in enemies.
  • Tractor Beam: Dedicated turrets that hold other ships in place, but they can also be found on other ships.
  • We Have Reserves: The AI definitely has. You can have too if you plan your production well, but not to the extent that the AI has. And some valuable units are irreplaceable.
  • Zerg Rush: The AI attempts to attack your systems by launching large waves. While your starting forces are strong enough to defeat them, they can sometimes take out a command center if you don't have secondary defenses. Or they use those waves as distraction while they launch attacks in less defended ares using ships that aren't on guard duty.

Alternative Title(s):

AI War Fleet Command