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You are outgunned. You are massively outnumbered. You must win.
— The first words that you see on Arcen Games' A.I. War page
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AI War: Fleet Command is a 4x / Real-Time Strategy video game with Tower Defense and grand strategy elements 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, Greenhaven and the Kyr-Sun Empire, fought a centuries-long war against each other, which ended only with the development of AI to manage combat. The AI revolted and nearly annihilated the human species. With humanity on the edge of extinction, the AI has turned its attention to matters (and wars) outside the galaxy. This inattention is your only hope. As the last human commander left alive, you must carefully build your resistance, keeping under the AI's notice until you can surgically strike the AI's home system, ending its threat once and for all.

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The game is a proud and intricate exhibition of asymmetric warfare. The AI not only starts off vastly stronger than you, the player, but follows a different set of rules. How the AI plays is determined by the AI Progress (AIP) value, a measure of how much the AI perceives you to be a genuine threat. As you liberate AI-held worlds and secure dangerous weapons, the AIP will grow, and the AI will pull more and more of its forces back into the galaxy to deal with you. There are very few ways to reduce AIP, but many ways to increase it - and beyond a certain AIP level, the AI's forces will become too great to resist. In practice, you must choose your targets carefully, taking only worlds that will be worth the AIP cost, with the goal of building a war machine that can take out the AI's homeworld before you've provoked the AI into crushing you with one humiliating sweep.

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The original AI War: Fleet Command was the title that put Arcen Games on the map in 2009. Almost a decade later, the developer returned to the well with AI War 2. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and a year in Early Access, AI War 2 officially launched on Steam on October 22, 2019.


This work provides examples of:

  • 2-D Space: Combat and movement is only present on the X and Y axis. The sequel has 3D models instead of 2D sprites, but ships still refuse to move on the Z axis.
  • Abusive Precursors: As it turns out, creating command & control AI out of studying a very powerful and pissed off ancient alien was a really bad idea, especially when said alien managed to convince more idiotic humans to unleash his full potential and end up taking control over said AIs. At least that alien's brother is a lot more benevolent and will help you defeat it.
  • Action Bomb: The Zenith Autobomb (just Autobomb in the sequel) is simply an explosive strapped on to an engine. While it's generally poor to use against structures or high health targets, they can absolutely destroy groups of enemies and are pretty cheap to spam. There's also the Neinzul Nanoswarm (also renamed to just Nanoswarm in the sequel) which in addition to damaging groups of units, can also reclaim them (zombify in the sequel) for you to control! Just don't send either against missile frigates in Fleet Command, which are immune to AOE damage.
  • After the End: The backstory is apocalyptic, with human civilization being extant through the Milky Way before the AI rebelled and exterminated almost everyone.
  • The Ageless: Zenith and Spire, while still subject to physical destruction, are able to live forever.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Duh. It wouldn't have murdered 99.9% of humanity and gone on to do horrible things to every alien species out there on principle if something hadn't gone absurdly wrong in the process of programming it.
  • Apocalypse How: Of the Galactic/Physical Annihilation type with the Nuclear Missile Mark III. The Exodian Blade's final mission also ends in this on a different galaxy entirely, with a show of energy that according to your astronomers would make a Supernova look like a matchhead and most likely annihilated the whole place including the CORE that gave the AI life, all thanks to the Exodian Blade's suicidal strike.
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: Radar dampening enforces this in classic. Certain units and all guardposts (barring wormhole guardposts) have a certain radar dampening range, which makes them immune to being shot at unless the enemy closes the distance specified, or the enemy is immune to radar dampening. Note that this doesn't make them immune to receiving damage from nearby area of effect attacks.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: In Fleet Command, certain units can pierce a certain amount of armor. The Zenith Polarizer is notable for dealing MORE damage to units with higher armor! The sequel has fusion attacks, which bypass a certain amount of personal shielding. Bubble force fields are unaffected by fusion attacks, but have their own share of counters themselves, and specific units can fire through force fields, such as Fleet Command's Zenith Devastator, and 2's Exogalactic Poltergeist.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Downplayed. The AI starts out hideously underestimating your ability to entrench your first few worlds and has no real tactical acumen beyond "throw gradually stronger ships at the humans until they go away". On the other hand, it doesn't need anything more sophisticated...
    • Artificial Brilliance: ...until you set the difficulty up to 7 (out of 10), at which point the AI's Restraining Bolt comes off. Sudden the AI will use everything it knows about your forces, and even basic types will assemble raids from ship types strong against your defenses, counterattack the vital strategic asset you just stole, and time huge cross-planet attacks for when your main fleet is on the other side of the map.
  • Asteroids Monster: All Hydras split into multiple copies of their parent ship upon death, just as capable but that attrition to death slowly and cannot be repaired. Certain units like Blitzkrieg turrets also split into Construction bots when they die.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The sequel's AI Hunter Fleet focuses on probing your defenses and attacking the weakest point. Especially when set to kamikaze, which will make the Hunter Fleet units to have extreme disregard for their own lives in an attempt to destroy your command stations...
    • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: ...but the moment you set foot on an AI homeworld, that AI's Hunter Fleet immediately drops whatever it's doing and rushes back home to try and stop you from defeating the AI Overlord.
  • Attack Drone: Counted separately from actual ships in the second game, as something the flagship can regenerate by itself at all times. They go from mere decoys laid out by mobile factories to the Hive Golem's powerful Yellowjackets.
  • Attack Reflector: Zenith Mirrors specialize in this, receiving 10x damage from all sources. However, that damage amplification works to its ability to reflect all damage dealt to it back at its attacker. Unfortunately for the Zenith Mirror, it can't reflect shots that exceed its own weapon range, splash damage from AOE weapons, or missiles.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Spirecraft in Fleet Command. Since there is a limited supply of asteroids to create spirecraft, you can only afford to waste a few of them. It's very rare that you will ever get more than 6 titanite asteroids, which are used to create mark V spirecraft.
  • 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 technology from one member of beings that were once the Spire's masters, was exiled, and is extremely pissed off at them.
  • 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
  • Back Stab: In the sequel, Ambush turrets and raptors/velociraptors deal bonus damage to units that have been on their planet for less than a certain amount of time.
  • Beam Spam: Comes in three flavors. The sequel makes all beams behave like the Zenith version.
    • Human Heavy Beams: The beam damages a target. If the beam overkills the target, the beam continues on until it either reaches its max range or delivers all its damage. Heavy Beams that have multiple beams fire in a fan shaped pattern and can hit the same target if said target is large enough.
      • The mark 4 Heavy Beam turret is noted to have originally used a star as its power source, and fires 40 beams every 4 seconds, taking large chunks out of of AI fleet balls, if not outright wiping them out.
    • Zenith Heat Beams: The beam pierces a set amount of targets, doing their full damage across all targets hit. If more targets are hit by the beam than can be targeted, victims are chosen randomly.
    • Spire Photon Lances: The beam is sustained over a short duration, and does all its damage during that time, as well as having higher damage than the other beams. The sustained beam means it excels against big or stationary targets, but has trouble dealing with smaller, mobile ships, which can dodge the beam and waste lots of damage.
      • The Imperial Spire looooooove their beam weapons. Most of their ships employ beams, and a large fallen spire fleet can be a laser light show. Especially if you slap on some Heavy Beam Cannon modules.
  • Beef Gate: If you're playing Fallen Spire, the Dragons arrive and join the Praetorian Fleet to keep you away; one per Spire city, to be exact. They are nasty, both immensely tough and packing a giant Coilbeam that can easily blast a hole in a Spire Cruiser and put the hurt on a Battleship, so you will need much more than that if you want to get to the overlord.
    • The strategic reserve in the sequel can warp in an absurdly large fleet to deal with you if you try to deepstrike targets far away from your territory.
  • Big Ball of Violence: Pretty much any homeworld assault turns into this, where you can barley keep track of every unit in combat.
  • 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.
  • Body Horror: While nothing is shown directly due to the game's scale, the descriptions heavily imply there is a lot of awful experimentation and general bodily mutilation when it comes to Neinzul Hybrids and the Scourge. Cybernetics Eat Your Soul is in full effect thanks to the nature of the AI controlling them, and the genetic manipulation involves a lot of horrible trial and error with zero care for anything other than a practical result. Even the Hybrid ships look heavily mutilated and spliced together like some abomination despite being only ships.
  • Boring, but Practical: Fleet Command has the humble fighter. Fast, durable and cheap, while its DPS is average, it hard counters bombers which is vital for protecting all your buildings, and can serve as cheap chaff to distract AI units. In 2, the V-Wing is a pretty big upgrade over its predecessor, boasting engine stun which can slow down even golems! Additionally, it can deal bonus damage to anything with a low gravitic exponent and with a relative increase in DPS, it is able to erase whole groups of corvettes (except concussion corvettes which in turn counter V-Wings).
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The Hunter/Killer. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was just another Guardian, but this beast is something else entirely. It has a mountain of health (and Command-Grade armor, which very few units have any damage bonus against). It's also immune to most of the counters you'd use on other big ships, like artillery and mass drivers. On the offensive side, not only can it deal horrifying damage to fleets quickly, it has damage bonuses against turrets and force fields. About the only thing you can do to kill it is mob it with Bombers and pray. In the second game, it has two bigger siblings, the Hunter/Seeker and the Hunter/Annihilator, which the AI will only deploy as part of Extragalactic War forces.
  • Cap: Present in a couple of forms.
    • Each ship has a production limit, the maximum amount of that vessel that can be in service at one time. The "each ship" part is important, it means that unlocking the MK II type of a basic vessel doesn't just gives you a stronger one - it doubles the total number you can field. AI War 2 doesn't have this due to the differences in fleet mechanics; instead, you need to make certain hacks to both acquire new fleets of a given ship and double their number.
    • Certain fixed defenses (mostly turrets) have a per-planet cap instead of galaxy-wide. These caps are fixed and can never be raised in the original game; certain captures in the sequel can raise the cap and grant you different sorts of defenses.
    • Everything the player builds uses Energy. Energy is a net balance resource, if you're about to use more than you're generating, production halts completely. Energy is produced by Generators, which are limited to one per planet (and the sequel has the command center itself be the generator), though in a pinch the hideously inefficient Matter-To-Energy converters can be used as well.
    • The AI team has no caps whatsoever, and knows it. Irritate it too much and it will happily roll over you with a fleet of 1000 tech-V ships.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The AI doesn't "cheat", it plays by a different set of rules. It warps in ships instead of building them. It controls every star system you don't at the start of the game, and it can react to all fronts at the same time. It has ships that you never will, and ways to make sure you play on its terms.
  • Colony Drop: In the first game, hacking a Nomad Beacon allows you to use the planet's connected to to destroy another planet and sever the wormhole connections with other worlds. DON'T try it with an AI Homeworld, as it will reflect the planet's explosion, with disastrous galaxy-wide results. (The Nomad will explode with the force of a MK III Nuclear Missile, devastating every planet.)
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Inverted with harmonic turrets. For every harmonic turret on the same planet, ALL of them get stronger.
  • Cool Ship: The AI get a few ships you don't. The Mothership is an asteroid the AI have wired engines into and filled with guns, and just one can duel with and destroy your Artillery Golems. The Galactic Control Ships are even more bastardly, they have bigger guns, and their self-destruct systems are Tier 2 Warheads. The toughest player-controllable ship, the Exodian Blade, is the flag vessel of one of the two mythological founders of the Spire race (sort of a Remus and Romulus situation, with space rocks). It can easily wipe a system with no real difficulty, by itself, and if you accompany it with a few hundred Fighters and Ether Jets, it can tank a Home System of the AI pretty easily... but to bring it ONLINE, you need to perform the single riskiest possible System Survey and the AI will instantly halt all exogalactic operations to attack your homeworlds with every carrier in their fleet.
  • Damage-Increasing Debuff: Classic has the Planetary Armor Inhibitor, which sets all hostile ships' armor to 0. There's also the Spire Armor Rotter which can reduce the amount of armor an enemy ship has, which comes in handy when dealing with the Galactic Control Ship. The sequel has acid turrets, which causes any damage done to the victim to take an extra 50 damage from anything that hits it.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Dark Spire are almost as powerful as their cousins, and hate you as much as the AI. Them waking up is all but guaranteed to turn a one-on-one war into a three way war.
  • Deflector Shields: A wide-area force field 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.
  • Degraded Boss: During prolonged games with Fallen Spire, especially with certain allies at your side, low-tier Extragalactic War units tend to be thrown around like candy, and eaten up the same way by your fleets if you've reached that point alive; having two Maugrims and a Hunter/Seeker brawling it out in a single one of your planets during an Exo becomes a common, recurring event.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: If you poke the AI(s) to much, they will not hesitate to roll over you with tens of thousands of mark V ships, or other nasty things.
    • In the sequel, you can hack Vengeance Generators which house the Dark Spire. Hacking them can be used to obtain their ship designs, or destroy the Vengeance Generators. Or, you can perform a hack designed specifically to piss the Dark Spire off. The latter two should not be done without proper preparation for the angry hordes of Dark Spire.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Hacking the Superterminal. If you attempt to hack it, it will reduce the AI progress but raise the AI Progress floor (only in Fleet Command will the AIP floor raise), allowing you to reduce AIP for as long as you can/have hack points. With proper preparation, it's possible to reduce AIP by over 100. However, the AI's response to this hack is exponential, and if you don't time the cutoff just right, you'll have a VERY large horde of angry ships beeline straight to your homeworld.
  • Dungeon Bypass: One often-encouraged strategy is deep striking, where you load a transport or two with your fleet and skip past a high mark AI world to get to a lower mark AI world. Fleet Command's Assault transports come with cloaking and are plenty durable, while 2's transports are blazing fast, allowing you to almost always at least skip one planet. Be aware that Black Hole Machines are designed specifically to counter deepstriking; in the sequel, deepstriking a world too far from your territory can also cause the AI to warp in massive reserve forces to that world.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: A key feature of both this game and its sequel. At the beginning, every system belongs to the AI except your starting system, and every system you conquer raises the AI Progress, aggravating the AI and freeing more of its resources to attack you with. If you play like a normal 4X and expand into every territory you can, the AI will crush you.
  • 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.
    • It's implied offhandedly in Ancient Shadows that Earth suffered a shattering kaboom. "In Memorium Terra", indeed.
    • At the end of the Exodian Blade's sidequest, the Blade enters the exogalactic wormhole in the AI Home system and self-destructs, destroying itself, its sibling and AI leader "The Core", whatever is on the other side of the wormhole as well as both the AI Homeworlds.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Ravenous Shadow in Fleet Command. Gameplay wise, it is basically a Devourer golem copy minus the vampirism and is killable, but story wise it is a... thing that has begun closing in on the Memorium Terra group, and is only being distracted by fleeing neinzul ships. It makes a reappearance in 2 as an Astrotrain project at max intensity, replacing the nuke train.
    • The Zenith can be considered a heavily downplayed version, as their "technology" revolves around achieving the desired result from their own bodies, rather than using machine assistance.
  • Elite Army: The AI's strategic reserve in Fleet Command. The Strategic reserve is composed of a full battalion of mark V core ships, granting them immunity to being nuked and stunned by EMP warheads. The AI only deploys the strategic reserve for specific situations, such as reacting to the superterminal hack, cross planet attacks, or having their homeworld invaded.
    • The Core AI type as a whole is this. While it starts with less ship and has a lower budget to work with, ALL of its mobile ships (when applicable) are deadly mark 5 core ships, meaning unless you have an overwhelming fleet or are capable of replacing losses quickly, the AI will curbstomp you.
  • Elite Mooks: Guardians of any kind take whatever armaments and armor they have above and beyond the usual ships you can field. And a step above that are Dire Guardians, which are practically boss fights in the early stages and still hurt like hell in later planets.
  • Enemy Civil War: An option in the sequel, in that two predetermined scenarios and an option for custom ones is for the AI factions to hate each other and go to war. While they're usually too distracted by that to deal with you, they will quickly force each other to snowball out of control with rising AIP (since they're equal threats, they get equally ready to kill each other), which puts you in a dangerous crossfire as they bring out big guns much faster.
  • Enemy Mine: Later on in the nebula scenarios, the enemy factions start to team up to take out friendly sides. This is especially noticeable with the Dark Spire and Neinzul Astrid, since in one scenario the two 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.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: The Botnet Golem in both games is capable of turning large groups of ships into "zombies" that the player can't control, but are allied to you and attack the AI. In the second game, Parasite-like ships were reworked to do this instead of outright stealing ships. And the AI and other factions got the chance to zombify too, though the latter invariably generate zombies hostile to everyone.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Zoom in close to an AI Home Command Stations, they're clearly intimidatingly Evil fortresses, with a capital E.
  • Exclusive Enemy Equipment: The AI has access to units that you won't ever have, like Guardians, or can only have in very limited quantities, like Golems.
  • Expansion Pack: Six of them for the first game: The Zenith Remnant, 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. As of February 2020, the sequel has The Spire Rises and the upcoming Zenith Onslaught, with more to come in the future.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Some ships can swallow other ships. Swallowed ships suffer continuous damage as the ship that ate them 'digests'. The ultimate example of this is the Zenith Devourer Golem, a gargantuan robot ship that travels the galaxy, eating anything that stands in its way, with the only exception being Mk V ships.
  • Fan Nickname: The Devourer Golem is affectionately referred to as the Cookie Monster.
    • To a lesser degree, the Zenith Trader is given the moniker Zenith Traitor, due to an... interesting bug where the Trader sold stuff to the AI for an absurdly cheap price, making worlds look like this
  • Finger Poke of Doom: Sabot guardposts shoot a very tiny blue projectile. If it hits anything with mass 5tx or greater, it's going to take a ton of damage, if it doesn't get outright killed. That tiny little projectile has a x100 multiplier against anything that big, so you can expect anything of frigate size or bigger to get erased one at a time.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Raid frigate is absurdly fast, and absurdly fragile relative to its cost. However as you mark it up, it gains more abilities, such as immunity to missiles at MK 2, and immunity to gravity slowing effects at MK 4.
    • Anything in the Raid tech category for the sequel.
  • Forever War: In both games, before the AI reared its ugly head, there were two human factions who were fighting each other for approximately 800 years, and it both sides never gained any ground on each other.
  • The Ghost: Whatever it is that the AI is battling outside the galaxy. It's implied to be a concrete threat rather than something vague, something that can actually be fought in space battles, and more specifically something so incredibly threatening that even the bunch of game-ender ships it unleashes on you if you piss it off aren't enough to win.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Want to know why the AI has such an advantage and is a cheating bastard? All explained in the background.
  • Genetic Memory: The Neinzul use this to work around their short lifespans. Each Neinzul Enclave contains all the memories of that particular group, and Neinzul put their memories into the Enclave, so when they die, the next generation can pick up where the previous left off. This is why some roaming Enclaves are either hostile or friendly to you, as different Enclaves had different experiences.
  • Glass Cannon: Several.
    • The Cursed Golem pays for its infinite range/paralyzing capabilities with a hit to its hull and shielding. Compared to most flagships, it's somewhat frail; compared to other Golems, it's utterly brittle.
    • Generally, Neinzul ships deal high damage, but have quite low health. They're cheap to spam though to make up for their squishiness.
    • Plasma Siege starships can hammer fortifications from afar and paralyze masses of units, but compared to other starships/frigates, they're about as durable as an overcooked noodle.
    • Bombers in Fleet Command, despite having a relatively generous health pool, are one of the first things targeted by both sides. Their polycrystal armor type makes them easy pickings for many other ships as well.
    • Many things under Raider tech tend to be frail, but quick and very painful. Even the turrets, with quick construction and a ton of damage, but are fragile compared to other turrets; Scrap turrets even take damage with every shot they take, while others just make it a selling point by giving a benefit (like releasing allied vessels, like the Makeshift turrets and their highly explosive Makeshift drones) when destroyed.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Anything that makes you use a nuke. Also, in several of the alternate victory scenarios, the AI can decide to take you seriously and turn the full force of its attention on you:
    • Fallen Spire: When you construct the exogalactic transceiver, the AI goes bananas and throws everything it has at you, since it knows that if the transceiver 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've captured all the devices and start charging, the AI will throw everything it has at you, because if the devices fully power up, they'll permanently shut down the AI Warp Grid, rendering it unable to travel through that anymore; it would render it unable to maintain its dominance on this galaxy or any other, and utterly vulnerable to getting destroyed piece by piece. And if the Device goes off, it'll unplug both Home Command Stations and throw them at you after converting them into Galctic Control Ships, out of sheer spite for delivering the crippling blow.
    • Exodian Blade: When the Exodian Blade is being repaired, the AI will send large exogalactic strikes every half hour to stop you. Once it's brought online, the AI will send larger strike forces at it every five minutes. Should the Exodian Blade reach an AI Core World, it'll send a strikeforce every minute. Should the Blade reach a AI Homeworld, the AI will send every single ship it possibly has at it, resulting in overwhelming forces deploying to the homeworld every ten seconds. It does this since it knows if the Blade reaches the wormhole in the AI Homeworld, the Blade will destroy not only the AIs, but the Core that controls them both and possibly the entire region of space it resides in.
    • A Mark III Nuclear Warhead is another one for the AI. Set it off, and the AI progress jumps up by 5000. For reference, taking a planet increases AI progress by 20. Amusingly, there's an achievement for winning the game after setting one off. (Tip: immediately after.)
    • In the sequel, the various scattered beacons you can hack, if you know exactly what they do. As the How to Play states, sometimes there's situations where having the Devourer Golem, a giant, indestructible vessel that can blow up and eat anything short of a whole planet and will roaming around at random won't make things worse for you; after all, the AI has way more planets than you, right? And it's not just the Devourer Golem; Marauders, the Dark Spire and even the Nanocaust can have suppression devices you can hack and destroy if you really think having them run around won't make things worse. After all, you only need to kill the AI.
    • Also in the sequel, Extragalactic War response teams were added for when someone has gotten way too strong; usually a terminally unsupervised minor faction or an alliance of them, but you alone can reach that point with a little difficulty. The units packed in these responses are things the AI normally reserves only for the exogalactic threats it's always at war with, like the Spire and the Nanocaust; bringing any of these back to the Milky Way means the AI has decided you're nearly an equal threat, and that it's time for an open, all-out war.
      • Even further, the second game has five tiers of Exogalactic forces, each being a threshold on its own. If all are crossed, the AI will deploy an Extragalactic War Flenser, a starfish-shaped metallic abomination. According to the devs, the player should never see it normally; it takes stacking every possible irritant in the AI's face to even approach this threshold. If you do, the AI has basically had the mother of all apoplectic fits and decided to kill not only you, but everyone and everything else in the region of the galaxy you're in, even if it means letting the Ultimate Evil outside the galaxy gain a foothold in the meantime.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Humanity was at an 800 year stalemate between two warring factions. Both had the brilliant idea to create a combat capable AI that was smarter than any human general could be to break the stalemate. A couple of weeks later and suddenly humanity is reduced to a single (or couple) planet(s) and both AIs control the rest of the galaxy.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: The Zenith seems to communicate in poetry only.
  • Grey Goo: The sequel adds the Nanocaust as one of the third-party factions that can hinder things. Usually opposed to everyone, it infects planets, consumes them, then assimilates ships and sends them out to infect even more, becoming an interplanetary menace quite quickly; at high intensities, they can start giving the AI trouble. In fact, it's explicitly mentioned the Nanocaust is one the sorts of things that has the AI's attention occupied outside the galaxy.
  • Harder Than Hard: The AI skill level can be increased to 10. There's an achievement if you defeat them without handicaps.
    • The design goal for difficulty 10 is for it to be nigh unbeatable. Anything that lets you win without massive cheese against 10/10 AI's is considered a bug or imbalance. Any cheap tricks the AI pulls on 10/10 that make the game unwinnable are a feature as long as they stay off of lower difficulty levels.
    • In addition to the skill levels, the AI Types are sorted according to difficulty. They come in four categories; Easier, Moderate, Harder, and Red. As you can imagine, Red AI types are nasty, including the Crafty Spire, which spawns with lots of Spirecraft, and The Core, whose ships are all Mark V. Have fun. The sequel is more upfront and calls the last AI difficulty Brutal instead of Red, and has more flavors of death for you, including Swarmer and Golemite.
  • Hate Plague: The second game's Scourge Neinzul ships have a different form of Zombification weapons compared to other ships, in that the Zombies are hostile to all ships, not just to the player or the AI.
  • Herd-Hitting Attack: Ships that use major electric ammo in Fleet Command can hit many targets, but loose their effectiveness against smaller groups and are downright useless against single targets. (A Major Electric "shot" is actually a high amount of regular shots, that has a limit on how many times each shot can attack a single target.)
  • Hero Unit: Fleet Command has shadow champions, which play like a typical RPG, starting out as a frigate and leveling up to battleship, and choosing between Human, Zenith, Spire and Neinzul forms. Their weapons are also modular, allowing you to swap gear as long as there is an engineer nearby to build said modules. The Exodian Blade may also count.
  • Homefield Advantage: An important feature when defending is that command stations provide various benificial effects to your units, in addition to being able to place down defensive structures.
    • Eco stations give a minor but noticeable speedboost.
    • Logistic stations give a major speedboost to your units. In Fleet Command, in addition to slowing down hostile units, at mark 3 they also stop hostile units from teleporting.
    • Military stations give a minor speedboost and amplify all damage your units (both mobile and stationary) deal.
  • Homing Boulders: All projectiles track and follow their targets. They can be outrun until they disappear, but very few ships are fast enough to do so.
  • 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.) The Dark Spire's Vengeance Generators are also immune to weapons fire, but in the second game, they can be hacked to remove their invulnerability.
  • Immunity Disability: In the sequel, the various stats (engine gx, mass, armor, etc) may make you immune to something, but excedingly weak to other things.
    • Having a high albedo makes ships immune to being caught in tractor beams or being hit by ion attacks, but it also renders them vulnerable to ablative units.
    • Higher mass makes you immune to the terrifying Botnet Golem, but makes you vulnerable to Sabots, Mass Drivers and Seeker Turrets.
    • Higher armor makes you immune to most weapon jamming weapons, but several units deal bonus damage to high armor units.
    • Higher engine gx will let you soar through Gravity Generator fields and escape Black Hole Machines, but Agravic Pods will bust you up.
  • Infinite Supplies - but not for somethings not adjacent to a system you control, or have a mobile factory in. So long as there's enough Metal (which has infinite sources) and Energy (static) to go around, you can generate a billion ships over time and easily make more after they all explode. The sequel does away with the supply mechanic, focusing only on metal as your production limit, and energy as your unit count limit.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The ships you get from Fleet Research Stations. FRS can only be found at the back of the galaxy furthest from where you are, with all the AIP costs, deep-striking and other such messiness that implies, their hack will have all the costs that implies despite lasting as much as a regular ARS, and the AIP cost is on par with multiple planets, but the ships you get are powerful at what they do, and they grant a strong bonus to every vessel within the same fleet. A successful FRS hack is a gigantic power boost; and, knowing the AI, it can often be worth the trouble if you're having a rough time.
  • Instant-Win Condition/We Win Because You Did Not: Destroying all Home Command Centers, even if the other player happens to have a much stronger presence and is about to kill you outright. And in turn, destroying all the AI Overlords, even if a massive plague of Grey Goo/metal-eating Mega-Microbes\space pirates is still out and about and likely about to kill you.
  • I Shall Taunt You: When one of your command stations is destroyed, the AI taunts you with a derisive voice clip mocking you and your skills. In the sequel, it taunts you over everything, even its own minor defeats; it just twists things to reflect badly on you even when you acquire genuinely dangerous things.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship: The more basic strikecraft and frigates tend to take these looks. More esoteric designs are out there, however, and as soon as the Guardians come out this goes out the window; the AI clearly doesn't take shipwright advice from humanity.
  • King Incognito: The leader of the Spire refugee group turns out to be the Emperor of the Spire civilization, Exaron The Seventh.
  • Keystone Army: Downplayed in Fleet Command. Killing both AIs still lets the AIs send waves and responds to hacking, but AIP never increases from that point forward. Played straight in the sequel, once the AI(s) are dead, the AI forces stop attempting to attack you and will sit idly about on whatever planets they're on. They can still shoot back at you. If there are multiple AIs, a dead AI will become a "rouge" wildcard and will attack other AIs as well as you.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: In Fleet Command, there are various immunities to certain things and ships can have multiple of them. One of the best examples is the Hunter/Killer, which is immune to both Mass Driver AND Artillery Golem shots, which are the usual go to counters for dealing with big targets, as well as a wide array of other effects.
    • Immunity: Being Insta-Killed is exactly what it says, stopping ships from dying to things like ion cannons or counterspies. Note, this does not stop ships from instantly dying via high damage values.
    • Immunity: Area Damage prevents the unit from being damaged by splash damage. An infuriating example are groups of missile frigates not getting stunned by plasma siege starships.
    • Immunity: Reclamation renders units unable to be turned into zombies when they die. Ideal for fighting parasites or leech starships.
    • Immunity: Swallow makes units unable to be eaten by other units such as the Spire Maw or Disassembler Guardpost.
    • Immunity: Tractor Beams allows units to slip by tractor arrays to target whatever they're protecting.
    • Immunity: Nuclear Explosions prevents units from being wiped out whenever a nuke explodes.
  • Living Ship: Most of the alien races not only make use of them, they ARE the ships, specially the Zenith, who are an entire race of Living Ships. Spire ships are cybernetically enhanced Spire soldiers, and the Neinzul brave exposure to the void of space to defend their Enclaves. The AI have the Neinzul Hybrids, created by combining the Enclaves with their technology, creating formidable foes for you to face.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Some units can spew out a constant stream of rockets in both game, most notably the MLRS units. Special mention goes to the dire MLRS guardian, which can spit out 150 missiles every 4 seconds in both games!
  • Marathon Level: More like Marathon Game. A single map is referred to as a "Campaign" for good reason - you'll be there for 7-12 hours. Even the tutorial, which takes place on a tiny 10-planet mapnote  can take 2-4 hours.
  • Mega-Microbes: The aptly-named Macrophages from AI War 2, who will attack and eat ships for their metal content and spread to other planets for more. The AI has a very difficult time handling them since it's curiously blind to their planetary hives, but they'll attack you too.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Several 'minor factions' are hostile to both the player and the AI. These are the Dyson Sphere, Marauders, Dark Spire, and a portion of the Neinzul roaming enclaves in the first game, as well as the Macrophages and the Nanocaust in the second game. (Although the Dyson Sphere can be brought around to fight for you, and with an extremely difficult hack so can the Nanocaust and some Macrophage subfactions.)
  • The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Averted. Humans remain in the Milky Way (as do all the star systems you can interact with), but the aliens - and the AI - are not so constrained. The AI has production facilities outside the Milky Way, and the main Spire civilization is based in the NGC 224/Andromeda galaxy, though its fleet is scattered across several other galaxies.
  • Mobile Factory: The mobile space dock in classic or mobile factory in 2 serve as this, constructing ships for you on the go.
  • Mook Maker: There are many different mook makers throughout both games.
    • Fleet Command has Neinzul Enclave Starships, which constantly spawn drones to attack the enemy. There's also the AI Enclave Guardian which pretty much does the same thing. Shadow Champions with the correct equipment can also spawn fighters, bombers, or sawblades during combat. There's also the infamously powerful Hive Golem, which generates wasps to murder anything AI related.
    • The sequel has AI carrier guardians, which unleash Raider, MLRS and Vanguard drones to fight you.
    • Dire Tethuida and Shredder Guardians both spawn drones which will either explode to zombify groups of your ships, or simply rip them apart.
    • There are also Swarmer Guard Post variants, which are just regular guardposts, only they spawn a constant stream of drone units at you.
    • Frigates such as Tesla Torpedo frigates and Tackle Drone Launchers count, in a lesser way; torpedoes and drones generated and launched are perfectly targetable, but attrition to death eventually.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: The AI uses a separate resource system, and warps vessels in rather than building them locally. It also never needs to worry about Energy or (more bitterly) raising any kind of "Human Progress" value.
  • Neutrals, Critters, and Creeps: Both games can have entire factions of these, depending on the settings. Be it the piratical, extragalactic Marauders, the all-consuming Nanocaust, the opportunistic Zenith Trader, the dormant Dark Spire, the metal-eating Macrophages, the migratory Neinzul Roaming Enclaves, the isolationist and easily angered Dyson Sphere fleets or the merely omnicidal Devourer Golem, they're considered just another factor in the mutual war between you and the AI, rather than groups that can win or lose.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Averted. Melee ships have either powerful stats or effects to make up for their range (or rather their lack theroff), from the swift and high damage Vorticular Cutlass, the metal generating Gangsaw, to the lifestealing Vampire Claw, and the instant burst damage of Spire Mini-Rams, Melee combat is pretty viable. Just beware of any slowing effects, such as gravity turrets.
  • No Fair Cheating: Golems are immensely powerful. A fully loaded Hive Golem can clear a rank IV system in minutes. Using one at an AI Core Homeworld results in the AI using bug spray to wipe out the drones and begin building a reprisal wave.
    • Everything in an AI Homeworld is immune to artillery ammo, so you can't just cheese it by sniping at them with an Artillery Golem.
  • No Recycling: Downplayed in Fleet Command. When you scrap a unit or building, you either get 10% or .1% (depending on the cost) of its original cost. Played straight in the sequel, where scrapping anything gives you nothing but whatever Energy you were using to power it.
  • No-Sell: In Fleet Command, units can have immunities, rendering them invulnerable to specific things (see Kung Fu-Proof Mook). A particularly strong example is the Hunter/Killer which can ignore Mass Drivers and the Artillery Golem, both of which are usually counters to high threat targets.
  • 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 adjacent planets, and the Mark III destroys all planets at once.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several things can cause both you and the AI to have this reaction. Since a terrified AI is a tremendously hostile AI, one often leads to the other.
    • In the first game, if you hack so carelessly that the AI response ends up at "Forest Fire" levels (going too deeply into the negatives by hacking too many things at once will quickly trigger this), it will get so angry it will summon dozens or even HUNDREDS of Avengers to crush you.
    • Whenever you are on an AI Core World, the AI will start sending the strategic reserve to deal with you, and once you reach the AI homeworld, it deploys all of it to fight you at once. In the sequel, it sends its Praetorian Guard after you, and in addition to dealing with the Praetorian Guard, the AI will immediately begin recalling all ships in the Warden fleet AND Hunter fleet back to the AI homeworld. And if that isn't enough, the AI starts dumping Wave and Wormhole Invasion budget into Warden and Praetorian budget to spam units faster at you as a last ditch effort to kick you out.
    • Making yourself friends with the Imperial Spire in both games will greatly panic the AI, causing it to send Motherships at you. Keep in mind, each individual Mothership is considered overkill against the entirety of the Milky Way galaxy.
    • Using the Mark III Nuclear Warhead is just as bad if not worse than allying with the Spire, causing a jump in AIP in the multiple thousands.
    • Controlling all the Showdown Devices will make the AI send armadas of ships your way in an attempt to prevent you from firing them off, since if the AI's warp grid is depowered, that will make them sitting ducks. If the Showdown Devices do succeed, the AI's Home Command Stations will turn into Galactic Control Ships and go on a Foe-Tossing Charge towards your homeworld(s).
    • The Exodian Blade. Once it is fully repaired, the AI will send strikeforces to target it exclusively every 5 minutes. Once it is on an AI Core World, the AI will desperately send forces every minute to take down the Blade. Once on an AI Homeworld, the AI will send units nonstop every 10 seconds until either the Blade or the AI is destroyed.
    • Whatever makes the AI deploy Extragalactic War units, since normally those units are used exclusively to fight an even more menacing threat outside the galaxy. The higher the tier, the more worried the AI is about things; making it past Tier 3 means it's actively terrified the local menaces are becoming just as bad as the Exogalactic threat. If you somehow make it all the way to Tier 5, The Extragalactic War Flenser will make you regret ever doing so. So horrendously strong it can fight entire Spire fleets on its own and win.
  • One-Hit Kill: Ion Cannons in Fleet Command can instantly destroy any ship that does not have immunity: being insta-killed, and are of equal or lower mark. Warhead Interceptors also do this to warheads without setting them off, making them useful for disposing of accidentally created warheads. The Counterspy is also able to instantly kill anything that is cloaked, but oddly doesn't detect cloaked units.
    • Nukes bypass the immunity: being insta-killed but in turn, they cannot destroy anything with immunity: nuclear explosions.
    • The Botnet Golem is able to do this to anything not immune to its insanity inducer. In the sequel though, it's been nerfed.
  • One Size Fits All: Shadow champion modules are generally restricted to certain races, such as the Neinzul exclusive insanity inducer, or the spire exclusive photon lance. However, all races can equip the basic needler, laser, MLRS and shield module.
  • Organic Technology: The Zenith create everything that they use out of their Living Ship bodies.
    • The Spire, to a certain degree.
  • The Paralyzer: Warbird frigates are designed specifically to paralyze masses of ships to make them easy pickings for their friends.
    • To a lesser degree, Riot Starships are able to slowdown or paralyze units as well.
    • The Black Widow Golem can trap whole armies in tractor beams while paralyzing (engine stunning in the sequel)those who aren't caught by the tractors.
    • Paralyzers in the sequel, which are a variant of the Stingray, in addition to doing bonus damage to bubble forcefields can paralyze strikecraft.
  • Piñata Enemy: Astro Trains in the sequel will all drop Metal, Science and Hacking Points when destroyed, to add further encouragement (on top of being heavily armed and carrying dangerous cargo the AI should not have). Some of them also carry Spire Relics if The Spire Rises is installed.
  • Playable Epilogue: The first game still continues after you complete it, with the AI still sending in waves unless you shut down the AI's Warp network with the Showdown Devices or sent the Exodian Blade to destroy its sibling via Taking You with Me.
  • Planet Eater: The Zenith Miners will happily eat any planets they orbit after a certain amount of time, removing supply, energy and science found at that planet. The AI, who doesn't rely much on the former and doesn't need the latter two ignores Zenith Miners.
  • Precursors: Found in the DLC, The Zenith Remnant, Children of Neinzul, and Light of the Spire. To varying degrees, they are still present and active (though the Zenith civilization is no more due to the AI, individual Zenith are still power players in this galaxy, the Neinzul are, for the most part, Absolute Xenophobes, and the Spire are mostly/not quite fine. The Spire forces in the Milky Way are refugees, the AI is devoting the majority of its resources and attention to obliterating the main Spire civilization. Should you survive the Fallen Spire campaign, the main fleet will be regrouped and they'll come in to blow the AI up. Finally, the last expansion has the Exodian Blade and the Core, who were guards of the Emperor of the species that were once the master of the Spire, before they were exiled.
  • Precursor Killers: In the second game, the AI boasts of how it destroyed the Zenith civilization if it defeats a Golem, which has room for debate (it seems to have fallen apart on its own due to sheer age). The lore does however make it explicit that the AI fought (and was in the process of destroying) the Imperial Spire in Fleet Command, and straight up succeeded in destroying the Spire civilization in the sequel, so that's one confirmed Precursor-tier civ to their name, plus one that may or may not be.
  • Puny Earthlings: The AI certainly thinks so. It has such a low opinion of humanity that (barring one off-hand mention of AI-allied Marauders) there are no human elements in the Scourge, even after adding Peltians to the mix, a race from The Last Federation that is the polar opposite of what you want on the front lines.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • What happens when you make a ruthless AI with more resources than you ever can have sit up and decide you're a threat? You get flattened, that's what.
    • Then again, what happens when you've all but annihilated human civilization with your mechanical might and then turn your back on the last pesky human remnants to focus on far worse threats outside the galaxy? Those humans find ways to stay under your radar until they've built up just enough forces to take out your brain in one desperate strike, that's what.
  • Recurring Riff: The title theme is heard in other songs, such as the begining of Voyage to Zenith, the end of AI Revolution and The Hurricane as well as a few other songs.
  • Robot War: The name of the game.
  • 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 centers. If you go and make a nuisance of yourself by methodically conquering every AI system like you would in other RTS / 4X games, you'll make great progress... right until the AI sends an unstoppable wave of doom your way, swats your fleet and stations aside with minimal effort, 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.
  • Sealed Army in a Can: Zenith Reserves are structures you can blow up, which provides you with a squad of Zenith units at a small AIP cost.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Dark Spire, which were stuffed into their Vengeance Generators by the rest of the Spire civilization upon rebellion. If they could willingly leave in order to scour the galaxy clean of everything that moves, they would, but all they can do is stockpile energy from nearby death and use that to express their particular wish.
  • Series Continuity Error: The Spire in the Fallen Spire campaign are a completely alien, never-before-seen race and the first aliens that humanity has established a diplomatic relationship with. Ancient Shadows has several Spire factions that humanity seems familiar with, in particular 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: Depending on how many expansion packs you have installed you may have several open to you. The biggest example are the Nebula scenarios introduced in the Ancient Shadows expansion, which unlock some nifty production facilities that the AI can't get at as well as a handful of ship types.
  • Space Mines: Defensive weapons you can build in order to hinder or destroy AI forces. The AI can also build these, so be wary of running into a paralyzing minefield.
  • Space Pirates: One customizable setting lets you add them to the game. In-universe they represent those humans who prefer looting everything in sight to joining up with La Résistance.
  • Space Plane: A literal unit in both games. In both games they possess radar dampening, allowing them to kite units easily. The sequel adds a variant called the Mirage.
  • Splash Damage: Units like Grenade Launchers or Plasma Siege Starships damage units in tight clusters. There are also beam weapons which are able to hit multiple targets at once.
  • Subsystem Damage: Engine health in the first game determines how much engine damage a ship can take (from engine damage weapons) before it stops moving completely. The sequel adds in weapon jamming which slows down a unit's rate of fire, but otherwise subscribes to Critical Existence Failure.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Almost as common a cause for defeat in this game as it is in most roguelikes.
    • The hunter fleet in the sequel can be set to "kamikaze", which makes them much more aggressive, charging defenses lines that are more than double their strength. This makes them easier to kill generally, but can result in surprise attacks on worlds that are weak relative to their strength value.
  • Starfish Aliens
    • No human has ever met a Zenith in person but their ships are organic. Eventually it's all but stated (and confirmed by Word of God) that the Zenith ships ARE individual Zenith.
      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 extremely short-lived insectoid race (Most Neinzul live only for an Earth day). Their Enclaves form mini-collectives with their own personalities, goals, and desires, and a few of the Younglings can "mature" and overcome the short lives that afflict most of their race.
    • The Spire are rocks, and their ships are cybernetically modified Spires.
      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: Working differently between the two games. In Fleet Command, it's a fairly simple "either cloaked or not" affair where firing or being lit by Tachyon systems decloaks for a time. In 2 there's actual Cloaking Points, that get 20% subtracted whenever the vessel fires and are worn down at varying (numerical) speeds by any Tachyon systems in the area, or other decloakers. As a result, attacking while cloaked isn't something that lasts, but it's very useful for deep strikes and assassinating particulars.
  • Stone Wall: There are quite a few of these.
    • The best example is the Wormhole Guardposts in Fleet Command. They have a whopping four million health, but their attack deals a measly, nearly unnoticeable 2 points of damage in a game where the piddliest fleet ship has hundreds.
    • The Armored Golem, compared to other Golems. While it's not as flashy as the Cursed Golem's infinite range/mass paralyzing abilities, the Artillery Golem's long-range potency and ability to ignore radar dampening, or the sheer swarm the Hive Golem brings, it has an absurdly high hp pool to make up for it. It's also by no means lacking in weapons; they're weak for a Ggolem, but they're still golem-tier weapons.
    • Vanguards in the sequel. They don't hit hard, but they can tank tons of hits for a strikecraft.
    • The Botnet Golem is generally a poor attack option, since the Botnet can't subvert anything stationary, immune to reclamation or big enough. However, they can perform exceptionally well when defending your planets, turning AI waves into energy free, auto roaming killers for you, and outright inhaling cross planet attacks and coughing out hundreds if not thousands of zombies. It helps that most attacking waves are about 80% strikecraft and 20% everything else, with the former all vulnerable to the Botnet's capabilities
    • The sequel's Macrophage faction are this. Macrophage harvesters are pretty weak in terms of damage output, but their ability to heal whenever they damage enemies and their already high HP pool means taking Macrophage harvesters down is a very long process early to midgame.
    • The Dark Spire ships in the sequel are generally pretty durable, but their weapons are rather weak. Special mention to the Dark Spire Eidolon, which has a weapon jamming Tesla coil, enabling it to survive longer against low armor ships.
  • Suicide Attack: In addition to the already mentioned Zenith Autobombs and Neinzul Nanoswarms, there's a few other units that kill themselves to attack
    • Spirecraft Rams can only hit one target and destroy themselves in the process. It's very likely that unless the target is a superfortress or Hunter/Killer, it's not gonna survive. There's also the Spire mini-rams, which are not as devastating, but are not reliant on the rare asteroids necessary to manufacture spirecraft ships.
    • Spire Bladespawners themselves don't suicide into the enemy, but as their name implies, they spawn "blade" ships to do so.
    • Spirecraft Martyrs can only drag units around in tractor beams, but upon death explode violently, heavily damaging if not outright killing nearby units, and can bypass the area damage immunity.
    • The exodian blade performs one when it reaches an exogalactic wormhole in order to utterly obliterate it's evil twin and subsequently, the AIs.
  • Support Party Member: The Support Corps AI type from Fleet Command is this. By itself, it doesn't send waves (unless it is a dual type AI), but it augments the waves of the other AI with supportive units, such as damage amplifying Munitions Boosters, protective Shield Bearers and distracting Decoy Drones. If provoked enough however, nothing is stopping them from rolling over your fleets with hundreds of surprisingly durable Decloaker starships whenever its ally sends a wave.
  • Surprisingly Super-Tough Thing: Inhibiting Tesla Corvettes can be this, as their ability to jam enemy weapons combined with their already innate high total HP makes them pretty tough to kill in large numbers.
    • Attempting to shoot at anything with the fortified property outside their range.
  • That's No Moon!: The Exodian Blade is initially assumed to be a spire relic. It's actually one of the Spire Emperor's personal bodyguards exiled to the Milky Way galaxy and the brother of The Core.
  • The Swarm: Hive Golems, natch. In Fleet Command, they can store up to 500 wasps each, which are fast, powerful and can clear out any system that's not an AI homeworld if they are allowed to hit critical mass. The sequel's Hive Golem is not as powerful in raw damage or swarm amount, but make up for this with an even faster spawn rate, being ranged and metabolizing their victims, giving you metal for each kill they score.
    • Fleet Command also has the Neinzul enclave starships, which spawn a constant stream of drones. If you build all the MK 1 to MK 5 enclave starships, you'll have a neverending swarm of drones with which to bury the AI
    • The Neinzul are no slouch in this regard either, with their ships having an extremley high cap and very low costs, encouraging you to throw them in the thousands at the AI. The Neinzul Enclave ships, both player controlled and NPC controlled will release additional ships to fight.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: In Fleet Command, regardless of where you start or what type the AI is, both of you will always have access to the three triangle ships: Fighters, Bombers and Missile Frigates.
    • The Fighter hard counters the Bomber, able to quickly close the distance and swarm over them before the bombers can reach their target.
    • The Bomber hard counters the Missile Frigate, able to shrug off the missiles easily before simply smashing the missile frigates with ease.
    • The Missile Frigate hard coutners the Fighter, able to annihilate an incoming fighter wave with an alpha strike of missiles before the fighters can get the jump on the missile frigates.
    • In general, hard counters are very prevalent, and immunities also play a role in a much bigger tactical Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock.
  • Taking You with Me: The Avenger plot grants the AI powerful ships that will go straight to your homeworld, and cause nuclear explosions upon death if an enemy home command station is destroyed. Taken Up to Eleven with the AI 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 the AI Motherships that you'll face in the Fallen Spire campaign. Good luck!
    • If you're following along with the Exodian Blade, the Blade blows itself up to destroy its sibling, The Core, who controls the AI.
    • Spirecraft Martyrs can't attack directly. They can only grab other ships in their tractor beams but when they die, they explode and heavily damage nearby units, even units normally immune to area damage.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Certain units such as the Engineer mark III, Spire Teleporting Leech, Teleporting Battlestation and a few others can instantly teleport from one point of a gravity well to the other, making them extremely mobile combatants/support units. However, certain structures such as Gravity Drills and Logistical Command Station mark III can prevent units from teleporting, forcing them to move normally.
    • Translocation weapons causes Teleportation Misfire in enemies, generally knocking them away from the source of the translocation. In the sequel, translocation is renamed to knockback, and isn't as random as certain translocation weapons from Fleet Command.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The AI initially averts this, content to letting you live as long as you don't go beyond your homeworld, but as you start to take more territory, the AI will start to ramp up its response to you exponentially, leading it to deploy exogalactic units if you start getting powerful enough. Ally yourself with the Spire and suddenly the AI will pull out all the stops to exterminate the both of you, spawning in countless fleet ships/strikecraft, hundreds upon hundreds of guardians, and either plenty of Golems escorted by hunter/killers (Fleet Command) or spawning in Exogalactic Units, 3 of which are noted to be overkill against an entire galaxy.
  • Time Abyss: The Zenith are an entire species of biologically immortal living ships, and some of them are billions of years old. Only external things like violence can kill them.
  • Tractor Beam: Dedicated turrets that hold other ships in place, but they can also be found on other ships. Tractoring ships can drag around others as they move with more or less difficulty, possibly even shoving them through wormholes. Or, in the case of Tackle Drones fired out of certain frigates, just bumrush them into the "walls".
  • Trash Talk: The AI is the snarkiest genocidal machine to grace a video game since SHODAN. Particularly in AI War 2, the AI will routinely gloat whenever it wrecks one of your assets, and when you manage to strike a notable blow against it, it will just as routinely offer a sardonic comment downplaying your feat.
    AI Overlord: We can predict your every move. Want to know what happens next? We will give you a hint: it involves poor decision-making.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The AI was created by warring human nations as an attempted solution to their Forever War. Instead, the AIs cooperated to wipe out humanity's civilization. Because they were hijacked by extragalactic aliens.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The Nanocaust doesn't really split up its armies into different fireteams, or ever really does more than one or maybe two things at once, and one of those is always to attack relentlessly as one monstrously huge doomstack of ships. But when that doomstack is bigger than any singular fleet you have - or, for that matter, all your fleets put together - and can suck up anything that isn't unique into its endless mass of hostile metal, it doesn't need a complex strategy to be terrifying.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: The sequel used the Unity engine, enabling 3D graphics for the ships and other objects (even if 2-D Space is still in effect).
  • Wave-Motion Gun: A few. The Exodian Blade's main gun definitely qualifies, and the Mark IV Heavy Beam Turret probably counts as well. And Ion Cannons, of course, which can eliminate any ship they can touch in two shots, tops. The Spire love these, too, with even their resource gathering structures packing enough heat to evaporate a mountain. And some of the Extragalactic War units have these; the Flenser packs the topmost, and can erase everything in a sector with a decent sweep. The Flenser was designed to take on a Spire Fleet enhanced by 13 cities, which is immensely overpowered.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: In Fleet Command, Fortresses and Super Fortresses are exceedingly powerful defensive structures, able to battle whole fleets and armadas on their own respectively. However, they have a damage multiplier of .01 against polycrystal hull, meaning the common bomber will only feel a slight tickle when they're attacked by a Super Fortress. Units with a radar dampening value lower than their range value are also able to take down Fortresses given enough time, such as the space plane
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: Many, many vessels have particular targets against which they're especially good, and it's a good idea to get some armaments against enemies you know you'll see. Dark, low-albedo targets? Tritium is your friend. High albedo targets whose shine deflects energy weapons? Ablative armaments will take care of that. Thick armor? Gunbots are your friend. Thin armor? Concussion will help against that. High energy usage? Nucleophilic armaments have you covered. And so on and so forth. Every vessel has a weapon that will mess it right up.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Marauders are human pirates who, like you, managed to escape extermination at the hands of the AI. They'll attack you and the AI both.
  • We Have Reserves: The AI definitely has reserves. You can have your own reserves if you plan your production well, but you'll never match the AI's reserves. And some of your most valuable units are irreplaceable.
    • The human side is a lot more adept at replacing losses in the sequel. Bring along mobile factories to the front line or just fight one planet beyond, and your semi-indestructible (still perfectly crippleable) flagships will automatically be filled up as your ships go down. Very effective for swarming fleets.
  • 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 systems using ships that aren't on guard duty.
    • Neinzul Youngster AI type will send hundreds if not outright thousands of Neinzul units your way in each wave.


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