Incoming! AI War: 6.0 And Ancient Shadows

In the dark, distant future, when the universe has suffered heat death, all that will remain will be Arcen Games, stubbornly releasing new patches for their epic space startegy, AI War. The next patch is due tomorrow, it’s called 6.0, and as I understand the patch coincides with a new expansion: Ancient Shadows. That’s been available in beta for a bit, I think, but tomorrow should the full roll-out. They’ve been expanding and patching this beast constantly since 2009 and they show no signs of stopping. Needless to say, the expansion has tonnes of new features, including: “A whole new kind of human player. It’s possible to control champions alongside your main fleet, or to have a friend or family member control just one single massive ship.”

Trailer below. (And there’s sixty-five thousand words worth of release notes here.)


  1. Mr. Mister says:

    Only friends and family members?

    • LintMan says:

      AFAIK, they don’t have an internet matchmaking service, so if you’re playing co-op MP, that generally means friends and family. (Though they do have a forum set up for people to meet and arrange online games.)

      • Dominic White says:

        Given that a single ’round’ can take several days to play, it’s quite understandable that they haven’t got a pick-up-group matchmaking system going on.

  2. stillunverified says:

    One of these days I’ll actually be able to coax my friends into playing a full game with me.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      I’d like to play multiplayer but NOBODY I know owns the game, despite me raving over it.

      • DarkFenix says:

        I got it with a couple of friends ages back, but then they promptly disappeared and I resultingly never touched it either. Sadface.

        • mouton says:

          The game does require time and dedication. Can’t blame people for realizing it is beyond the resources they want to commit.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            Yeah, that $9.99 price tag made me do some awkward mental math. Apparently, there is no correlation between price and complexity. I really should get around to playing this game. I think I logged 7 minutes into it, all those months back.

    • Skydancer says:

      I’m up for a game. I also started a thread in the forums (link to but never got any interest from anyone.

  3. Slinkyboy says:

    Strange, I never heard of this game, reminds me of the gamemaker game DroneWars which is only building your army and battling it out in space, but this has empire building too.

    Do they have a demo?

    • kemeno says:

      They do! You can find it at: link to – you can also demo any and all of the expansions. There’s a per-game time limit (I think you can play the first 3 hours), but all other features are enabled. Including multiplayer, so you can demo with your friends if you want.

    • LintMan says:

      Also, RPS wrote up a bit of a group play thing for AI War a few years ago:
      link to

      I can find no trace of any other parts, so either they’ve been mysteriously purged from the internet, or they never wrote the rest.

      The game has evolved quite a bit from those days, though, which was probably pre-2.0.

      • Unaco says:

        It was, alas, never completed. I think the reason given was that there was a major update dropped (2.0 or 3.0 perhaps), and the saves became incompatible. But I think we all know the real reason; it being a game diary on RPS.

  4. dE says:

    I absolutely love AI War.
    It’s really hard to explain why though. To me it was one of those games that had to grow on me. When I first played it, I bounced right off. Happened the second, third and fourth time as well. There were so many cases of “dude, what do I do?” that it felt like the Developers took Tutorial Design Notes from Paradox published Games.
    The odd thing is, once you figure it out, it becomes so painfully obvious that everything was logically laid out to begin with and things actually make sense. It’s just complex and so full of stuff to grasp and use.

    One way or another I managed to get into the game and was rewarded for my patience. The game exists in this weird zen like state, where playing turns into a mental subconscious flow. The way the fleets move, spinning mandalas out of wormholes, the way battles seem to obey almost fluid like mechanics, with fleets zooming in on targets, then dispersing like fireworks. It’s almost hypnotic. One way or another, if you’re into space strategy games, you owe it to yourself to at least try this. And stick with it, despite its harsh beginnings.
    Some sidenote to put things into perspective: I’ve now sunken over 50 hours into the game and still haven’t seen all shiptypes, nor understood all of its mechanics. But I’m kicking ass and getting my ass kicked by a creepily capable AI.

    • PUKED says:

      Yeah, for me this game went from wtf to my most played game on Steam so fast that it was surreal. I just remember casually wondering how many hours I had put into it, opening up my most played list and OH GOD WHAT

      Your comment about the ebb and flow of the game is spot on. It takes a while for it to get to that point (the first few planets you take can be kind of a slog) but once you get there the game is really fantastic.

      Probably my favorite part is the Fallen Spire campaign. I’ve had a few games where late on the AI had me locked down hard and I could only desperately hold out for a couple more waves – unless the scrappy remainder of my forces could reach a superterminal, or botnet golem, etc. Not easy, but if it works out it’s pretty much the videogame equivalent of walking away from explosions in slow motion.

  5. Ateius says:

    I’m not sure if Jim’s “Startegy” is a typo or a clever reference to the game being set in space.

  6. Bensam123 says:

    I don’t know… I don’t know what version of AI War I played, but after playing a continual game for roughly 3 days and being like 20 hours into the same damn mind numbing game my friend and I called it quits never to pick it up ever again. It’s like a crappier version of Sins in which you set the AI on mind fuck. The most detestable part from what I remember were ships just randomly appearing in your systems without any sort of warning and having to send half your fleet back to kill them. It was a huge PITA and represented no real tactical battle. They just appeared there… which is silly

    There is a glimmer of hope there, but there is a lot wrong with the game including an incredibly clunky GUI and it being impossibly hard to manage your ships in actual battles.

    • dE says:

      Not gonna argue with your opinion of the game. It’s yours after all. But there is one thing I’d like to mention (maybe it was introduced later, I’ve started playing shortly after the third expansion, so I’m kinda noob in this): The AI is generally very clear about when it will attack and where. If you build a warp gate sensor, it will even tell you from which wormhole you will be attacked. You can also control the AIs ability to launch attacks, by destroying the respective structures in their systems. That and much more.

    • malkav11 says:

      There are no random AI attacks in AI War. With most AI types, they will warp in (generally single ship type) attack waves from any neighboring AI-controlled system with a Warp Gate structure, but these are announced with several minutes warning, down to which system they’re coming from. If you destroy all the warp gates adjacent to all of your systems, then the AI will resort to other, less predictable attack methods, but culling a few of them can let you build up strongholds against predictable assault vectors. There are a couple of other ways for the AI to attack other than waves, but these are generally a response to particular actions the player(s) have taken and there are ways of detecting these coming as well.

      Also, the game is designed to minimize the need to micromanage your ships, precisely because there are usually thousands of them.

      It does have a significant learning curve (one which I am very far from surmounting), and it’s definitely not for everyone. I’m honestly not entirely sure yet whether it’s for me. There’s a ton of stuff, but whether that represents tactical/strategic richness or just clutter isn’t clear to me yet.

    • PUKED says:

      Were you were playing with wave warnings off or against the backdoor AI or something? Like dE said ships definitely don’t come out of nowhere.

    • Skydancer says:

      There’s a type of cross-planet attack that happens in the spire expansion that once you


      make progress with the spire faction, the ai will start sending waves from outer space into your own planets.
      Also: marauders. They will come from outer space and shit on you, but are more of a nuisance than danger from the mid game onwards, and they also attack the AI if they happen to arrive in one of their systems.


      I point out that you can tick everything out of the game, so if they are giving you probems, you just set them off in the game options before starting a new game.

      • KDR_11k says:

        I believe all exogalactic strike forces (which AFAIK all AI attacks triggered by otherwise beneficial minor factions count as) come with a warning nowadays.

  7. MythArcana says:

    Yup! AI War complete since the beginning and still going strong. This game really defines epic in its’ own class and it keeps gettin’ bigger every year!

  8. crinkles esq. says:

    I picked up the game and all existing expansions on a really cheap Steam sale a while back, and I sunk a few hours in, but it quickly got the point of ‘impossible odds’ scenarios. And I’m not much for that kind of thing. Perhaps the expansions are better, as I’ve only played the base game. It should be my cup of tea, but there’s something about it that both bored me and drove me mad. A mad sort of boredom.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      You don’t win by taking every single system. In fact that’s a sure fire way to lose since you’ll ramp the AI Progress (basically how ‘aware’ the AI’s are of you) too quickly and get crushed as you would expect. The whole concept of the game is that the AI’s have crushed the humans into insignificance so if you make yourself too significant, expect an appropriate response from them.

      If you’re used to playing RTS games where you smash everything while advancing, you have to play this differently.

      • crinkles esq. says:

        I’ll have to give it another go; perhaps you’re right in that I approached it too conventionally.

  9. popej says:

    Did anyone else think “Goonswarm!” when they saw the top screenshot? Looks like a ridiculously enourmous blob fight in Eve, even down to the red blob stringing out to stay in optimal range.

    I miss Eve in some ways but I’ll never play it again. So much work for a game!

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Nope just you. But then I’ve played a lot of both EVE-Online (and flown with GoonSwarm during the Great War) and AI War.

      • popej says:

        Fine, ASCN then! All the big alliances were the same. :P

        I don’t know what the AI war was, I played from 03 – 09 so I’m guessing I missed that.