I'd heartily recommend this indie game to any TOG strategy players. I bought it yesterday for $20 from Impulse (also available on Steam and others) as a bit of a diversion while I wait for COD MW2 to arrive. It is awesome!
It is extremely clever the way the developer has built the game. It is a massive 4X game but it isn't a level playing field. Instead of having the AI build up in the same fashion as you, the player, needs to, the AI teleports in ships in waves depending on how well you are doing. Sounds lame, but it works. There is a threat counter that increases depending on what you do. Take a system and 20 or more points get added to the threat counter - which means more powerful ships will join the next wave. Systems are linked by warp points and if you take systems haphazardly you'll find the threat counter through the roof with the AI able to attack through any of the open warp points. This forces you to be very judicious with your selections.
And the AI is devious! If it finds it can't defend a system it will gather the remaining forces from that system and raid your inner systems. So even when attacking a system you need to be very careful to balance what you attack and what you leave. Eg. each system has a control centre. If this is destroyed the system is lost. Also in the AI system are guard posts that periodically spawn new ships (the number and type dependant on the threat counter). If you destroy the AI command centre the remaining ships will then do what ever it decides will cause you the most grief - so you sort of need to skirt around and neutralise as many guard posts as you can before destroying the command centre.
It also means that the game is always changing. One strategy that worked on one system will need to be revised for the next because there will be a bunch more AI ships to contend with - I'm finding this the most rewarding aspect of the game. Taking each system is a game within a game.
Ultimately you can have battles with thousands of ships but it starts off quite small - and even with a lot of ships is is very managable.
I can't even think of a similar game. I guess it is where Stars! (for those that remember that one) or Master of Orion could have ended up.
Oh, and it is geared for cooperative multiplayer as well as single player. And you can join players or allow them to leave when-ever you like while the game is in progress. As each player comes in the threat counter is increased to re-balance the game-play. New players need to be initially allocated some of your systems and ships and then they work with you to defeat the AI.
Anyhow, this probably doesn't sound all that inviting, but it is very different, and it is incredibly well balanced and designed. However, it is relatively complex (there are many keyboard shortcuts that should be learned).
thanks for the heads up.. I sort of looked at this game and wrote it off because I like the detailed fights of SOTS, and to a lesser extent Sins of Solar Empire. But it's a different sort of challenge according to your little rundown
I never really gave SOTS much of a go as it seemed too much of a 'click fest' for me at the time. Sins I liked quite a lot because you could anticipate the attack waves and setup tower defense in key systems - which meant you could focus on one battle while allowing the defense to handle the waves.
I tend to like turn based games or RTS games that play like turn based. Getting old I guess.
Actually, AI War is very similar to Sins in many ways. The only real difference is that in Sins you can reach a critical mass and then steam-roll through the AI quite easily because they are building forces the same way you are. This doesn't tend to happen in AI War because the threat counter and spawning ships keeps a parity.