On Trial: AI War: Fleet Command Review
AI War is a space-based RTS, with all the trappings of a regular RTS: resource collection, unit building, and destroying the enemy. The unique draws here are the immense scale of the battlefields and number of ships involved in combat – more than 30,000 units according to the website. The other potential draw is the cooperative multiplayer campaigns, which I didn’t get a chance to try out. Just from the tutorials and an hour of the campaign, this is a demanding game, mainly due to the scale. Just finding your units to click on them is a chore, and you have to hunt them down a lot on the huge playing field. This might be helped by hotkeys, but those didn’t come up in the tutorial. The text (and there’s a lot of it in unit descriptions) is hard to read, and the interface in general is kind of painful. The developers say the game is “by genre veterans, for genre veterans” and I believe it. The tutorials do a good job of giving you the basics, but playing feels more like a chore than playing a game. It’s too impersonal and distant, with too much to keep track of to be fun. It doesn’t help that the battles aren’t very exciting, with ships surrounding each other and blasting each other at close range without moving. When I imagine space battle, I think of something closer to Homeworld with 3D space and generous use of the Z dimension, and there’s none of that here. That doesn’t mean this game isn’t rewarding, but it seems like something you can pick up the basics fairly easily, and spend a few months mastering. But it takes a special kind of person to like games with this much to manage, and for those people, I think AI War has a lot to offer.
A fiddly online installation for this one requiring far too many button presses and thinking. Honestly – just give me a massive download that installs with a double click and a simple tap-tap-tap on the next button. And screw your license agreements. I don’t agree with any of them because I never read them. And while you’re at it, don’t hide your game in an Arcen War subfolder in my start menu. Put it in a top level folder. The sum of a thousand cuts costs you a point. Another incredibly complicated strategy game, which they claim will take at least 10 hours to complete a campaign, I couldn’t really devote the time to explore fully what it has to offer. But that’s fine – what I’m here to determine is whether it’s worth *you* checking it out. The fairly detailed hand-drawn pixel graphics are from a bygone age, circa mid-90s, and the music once again is fairly torturous, the sound sparse, and there doesn’t really seem to be an actual style. The tutorial is particularly dull, and highlights some issues that the developers might have easily picked up on, notably that their interface is pretty bad and unintuitive, despite the game essentially being the same fare as pretty much any other RTS. Why break convention? It’s as if absolutely no external testing managed to provide feedback to the developers. The tutorial stages can’t even be skipped. And so it goes on. I expect you’d have to be an extreme fan of space based RTS games to enjoy this game. Imagine Homeworld, but flat, fiddly, unintuitive and with a lot less polish. It gains a single solitary point from me for not crashing.
The game started off bad by having a list of prerequisite downloads and installations. The fact that it took over 30+ minutes to get to playing the game was quite annoying. It also required a restart. All of this hassle for lackluster pixel graphics and annoying music? Oh and there’s also three extensive tutorials for me… Honestly, I was so fed up with this tactical game that I didn’t give the gameplay much of a chance…it’s very involved and hardcore and will only appeal to the very strategic. If you’re not a strategy fan don’t even think about going through downloading and installing this demo.
As I loaded the game, I came up with the error message. This was quite disappointing, as the game looked marvelous. I’m assuming this is more of an issue with my computer than the game, though.