Developed and published by Arcen Games, AI War: Command Fleet is a galactic strategy game that pits a Starfleet Commander (You) against a well trained opposition (AI). Although the tongue in cheek title could have been a bit more creative, the game is well done for a development company in its early stages.
While the casual gamer will find the sheer volume of this game very intimidating, AIW:CF will undoubtedly have a strong draw to the RTS enthusiast. Because of its support for a vast number of units, and exploration of a seemingly endless planetary system, it will leave gamers playing the same map for hours on end.
The main objective is to destroy the enemy AI by expanding and colonizing. Players have to be cautious, because if they expand too quickly or try to take over every planet they come across, the enemy will take notice and ramp its defenses and star ship production up in order to stall your progress. Only those who are patient and willing to explore the complexities of this game will be rewarded.
I can’t stress it enough; the depth of this game is staggering. There is a tutorial at the start of the game to familiarize players with basic mechanics: colonizing, harvesting resources, exploration and combat production.
As you progress through the beginning tutorial, you’ll move on to an intermediate tutorial, which teaches war strategies and things to look out for while playing. If that’s not enough, there is a highly resourceful wiki that helps players grow more accustomed to the controls and schemes of the game. As you can tell, there is an extensive amount of preparation just to start a campaign.
Once you feel confident enough to start your own game, you’ll be thrust into a randomly generated map. Typically, a map has between 100 to 200 different planets to explore, which will roughly take ten to fifteen hours to complete. With over 16 billion different map combinations, this game can literally go on forever.
Once in a game, players will have to quickly set up turret defenses, mine resources, set up necessary facilities and build scouts to scour the galaxy. It is important evaluating and exploring early on as you’ll quickly discover critical points you’ll want to capture that will ensure your victory. Once you’ve picked your spots, your next move will be to start production on tens of thousands of combat units.
What’s impressive about this game is the volume of units the game can support. Although the graphics are 2-D and relatively dated, I found it to be quite innovating. Generally, when an RTS game tries to do too much by finding a balance between visuals and animations, the game’s frame rate will take a beating. With so much going on at once, having a dated graphics system was a better move. Even with a mediocre PC, this game will run smoothly.
Similarly, what’s impressive about AIW:CF is the actual AI in the game. What the AI does in the game is based on your actions. If you expand and attack too quickly, the AI will take counter measures to slow you down, which is a real pain. Also, the computer knows which units are strong against what and will use actual combat strategies to exploit player weaknesses. It really is a tough game to play, but like I said before, if you take the time to adjust to the ins and outs, you’ll be rewarded.
Because the game is extremely vast, managing everything within a 150 planet galaxy can get a bit convoluted. Arcen Games did a great job of creating ways of keeping track of everything, but even despite their best efforts, the game can easily become one jumbled mess quite quickly. There have been a number of times when I’ll be exploring and thinking about my next moves, when all of a sudden my resources and energy levels will instantly diminish. It’ll take me a few minutes to figure out what happened, and by then, it’s too late. Keeping track of so much at once can be very frustrating.
Despite the frustrating circumstances from managing a vast empire, the in-game music is subtle and very calming, which flows well with the whole idea of space being tranquil. On the other hand, the sounds effects aren’t brilliant, but they do add a bit of life to the battles. As a result, although sound is a minor part to the game, it does enough to add a thoughtful experience.
In conclusion, AI War: Command Fleet is a deep and intuitive game, but I can’t recommend it to everyone. It is a very niche’ specific title that will only appeal to a small percentage of fans. And even those who enjoy RTS space games will have trouble immersing themselves into it, as it has a very strong learning curve.
Those who do decide to take the opportunity to learn the mechanics will be rewarded with an intelligently designed RTS. As an early title for Arcen Games, I wouldn’t consider it a homerun, but it definitely does take the right steps in the correct direction for an emerging development company.
It's an independent title that does its best to make the most out of the resources it has. Although innovatively designed, the graphics are dated, and even after completing the tutorial, players will still feel overwhelmed.
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There is an intelligently designed game to be mastered, but the level of depth the game has to offer will shun the casual gamer.
The music is soothing, but the sound effects are mediocre at best.
This game can essentially last you forever as a typical match will take about 10 to 15 hours to complete with over 16 billion map combinations to be found. The drawback is that the complexity of the game will prove difficult for players to get that heavily involved: luckily, there's 10 different difficulty levels to the game, the easier of which renders the AI considerably stupider, allowing you to learn the ins and outs of the game.
There is an intuitive and intelligent game to be found, it just takes quite a bit of patience, learning, and experience to find it.