Darkly Devious: AI War Ancient Shadows Expansion

Spaceships often remind me of beetles with the carapace torn off

It’s fair to say that Arcen fell of the pace a little with A Valley Without Wind, but then AI War was one of the most accomplished debuts any studio could hope for. If A Valley Without Wind had a stumbling gait, AI War was striding along like the coolest cat in town. It doesn’t have the nattiest threads and but none of that matters once you sit down and play. Ancient Shadows is a new expansion coming for the game, which pits emerging intelligences against players in conflicts that feel as much chess as tower defense or RTS. That’s a new expansion three years after release and it looks like a significant one. The beta is available now for pre-orderers. Details below.

The most significant addition, the ‘anchor feature’ as Arcen call it, is Champions.

With the Ancient Shadows expansion, you can now set a player to the “Champion” role and instead of a home command station and all the usual stuff a player starts with they get a single modular ship. But what a ship. At the beginning it’s basically a super-starship that’s pretty powerful but nothing world-shattering. But it can gain experience, and with experience it can upgrade modules.

Champions will be able to travel to otherwise unreachable parts of the galaxy where they might find splinter factions of each race. Helping these factions can lead to rewards, including new modules and hulls for the champion to use.

It sounds like it might be another layer of complexity and whether or not that’s a good thing for you will probably depend on how much time you’ve spent playing the base game and/or the current expansions. AI War is probably best played from the start, without embellishments, when it’s first played. Over time it’s good to add to it but there’s plenty for the beginner at the beginning.

I haven’t actually played a full game of AI War since the major Light of the Spire expansion so this might be a good opportunity to go back in. Along with the champions, the expansion will eventually include (though not in the current beta):

9 new bonus ship classes (coming soon, not implemented yet).
3 core AI guard posts and one new minor faction
New AI types
New Map types
A large amount of new music (to be released when the expansion fully launches, you’ll need to download the final installer to get the music, it won’t be delivered via update).

On top of that there are now modular fortresses, although only for humans at present, with the rest coming later.

Pre-orders cost £2.64 and give immediate access to the current version while the final release, due October, will be £3.30.


  1. dE says:

    Champions sound like some sort of Adventure Mode. Which could turn out rather interesting. I’ve always wanted a game with a lone battleship against incredible odds. Which oddly enough is just about every other Sci-Fi Series.

    Damn, I’m sold.

    • Dominic White says:

      You can technically play with as many Champions as you want, too. The game requires at least one player to have a stationary base, but if you fill one player slot with that default, and every other slot with champions, you can get a fleet of customizable super-ships to bounce around space.

      Of course, the AI is probably going to curbstomp you in about thirty seconds the moment it sees this, but hey, it’s an option!

      • RegisteredUser says:

        So so far you can’t just basically play as ever-strengthening BSG against the endless respawn AI Cylon empire with their alert bases or what it was being the equivalent of resurrection ships?

        Well that sucks. What a major, major opportunity squandered(so far).

        • Dominic White says:

          Champion ships are effectively immortal. They respawn back at base when destroyed. Thus, they need a base – a weak point.

          • dE says:

            So one person will get the short straw and it’s multiplayer only. Meh. I’ll still buy it, but I’m somewhat less enthusiastic about it now. :|

          • Professor Paul1290 says:


            It’s not multiplayer only. You can play normally and as champion at the same time.

  2. MythArcana says:

    The AI is coming, the rads are blasting in
    Engines stop running and the ore is growing thin
    A nuclear error, but I have no gear
    The AI is winning – and I live by the timer

    Paypal’s calling!

  3. SonicTitan says:

    This game in particular and Arcen in general are criminally, perennially underrated. If they fumbled with A Valley Without Wind, it should in no way harm the goodwill they’ve engendered with A.I. War alone. Long live Arcen!

    • MythArcana says:

      They are truly amazing and have my respect for keeping things thorough and interesting. Their open development policies have brought us this massive game and even Valley is getting a complete overhaul as we speak. They have a knack of approaching ideas in a very cerebral fashion and that perhaps might keep them niche for some time to come.

      • Arathain says:

        Given how willing Arcen is to make major changes to core game systems if they decide they could work better I would be inclined to keep an eye on AVWW, even if you didn’t like it at first.

        • Dominic White says:

          They’re actually gearing up to do a complete art reboot on AVWW. Actually hiring an artist to do a consistent new sprite-set.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            Quite frankly I am not sure that the gfx are in any way the biggest “game changer” for AVWW, quite literally.

            The game mode the beta testers talked about they then cut out seems to be the thing I’m now missing.
            An odd enough decision. Plenty of people who liked the Actraiser kind of game, I thought.

          • Aklyon says:

            I don’t think you’ve seen the RPS comments for anything AVWW related, RegisteredUser. Almost all of them were complaining about the art style, and if there were ones that weren’t, then they were hidden far past the point of caring about any more comments for me.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            Have you?
            Because I’ve been commenting in them, including on the art style, thus making it pretty likely that I know about the complaints.

            I’ve also played the game, and I can tell you that the art isn’t the biggest problem.
            So the people will go from having an issue with the gfx to arriving at the point I’m already at: Wondering if that’s really the game.

            So I still contend that the visuals aren’t the real issue, whether or not various people are turned off by them(or even physically nauseated for some reason) or not.

            They might be an entrance barrier, but what good is removing that if once you’re inside you discover a much bigger problem. :p

          • KDR_11k says:

            If you mean the citybuilding that was patched back in in version 1.2. It’s not exactly the same as it was before but the disconnect between the old city building and the action game was simply too huge (it basically felt like two games with little interaction between them).

    • mihor_fego says:

      Everyone forgets one of the best puzzle games out there, Tidalis. I really think its cutesy art style, which I adore, kept many people away from this gem which can be incredibly challenging both as a score attack game and as a cerebral puzzler.

      • jrodman says:

        I can’t past the “match 3, but different” idea. I don’t want to play more match 3 games. Is there some way I’m making a mistake?

        • MrHanMan says:

          In my opinion, you are definitely making a mistake. Tidalis barely compares to a match 3 game. It’s much much more than that. If you’re curious, there’s a demo. There is even a web demo if you like, so you don’t even have to download anything to try it out.

          Tidalis Lite

    • malkav11 says:

      AVVW still needs some work to truly blossom, but the 1.1 and 1.2 updates have done wonders to make it an enjoyable game.

  4. RegisteredUser says:

    This is actually a great idea. The old game basically initially revolved around figuring out the best way to cheese the AI to get as close to the “heart” map as possible with the least aggrevation and then, well, just pwning it.

    An RPG aspect in the same engine and universe could be an intriguing twist, but it would need a good chunk of new ideas and work. Could be quite fun / epic if done right though.

    Given how disappointed I was by a peek at Starfarer, I’m open for any comers in the “space with development/growth” games.

  5. Gasmask Hero says:


    Now to read the article and comments.

  6. RegisteredUser says:

    Bit of a shame that this isn’t getting much attention/comments.

  7. MrHanMan says:

    This was a day one purchase for me! So far, I’m really enjoying the new Champion ships. It still needs some balancing, but that’s what the beta is for. I can’t believe they are charging so little for this much content. I can’t wait to see how they flesh this one out.

  8. Clone42 says:

    I probably put about 100 hours into AI war which, if you know the game, actually isn’t very much. I’m happy to see new content, but I really wish Arcen would tighten up the interface, it’s pretty horrible. I love those guys anyway.