Arcen Return To Space: The Last Federation

Arcen, purveyors of sundry indie oddities, sent a message by pigeon post in the early hours of this morning to inform us of their new game, The Last Federation. It has one of the finest single line pitches I’ve ever encountered – “The Last Federation is a Grand Strategy + RTS Tactics game” – and in honour of the good news that she delivered, the pigeon has now been promoted to Flight Lieutenant and provided with a suitable cap. TLF places players in the role of a mercenary leader in a procedurally generated galaxy, which contains eight alien races to menace and manipulate. The closest point of comparison may well be Soldak’s Drox Operative. Arcen’s pigeon also told us that the spiffing AI War is on sale this weekend, with the complete collection (five DLCs) available for $4.25 and the little blighter didn’t stop there. More news – and a couple of videos – below.

The importance of ‘getting down’ on Friday cannot be overstated and what better way to start the party than with twenty minutes of pausable slow-paced combat between lumbering starships?

Or perhaps you’d prefer four and a half minutes of sci-fi lore, which includes the phrases ‘bombed into oblivion’ and ‘defend against further probes’? I’ve got you covered.

Forget all that for now though because the best way to start the weekend is with a heavy dose of space strategy, in the shape of that preposterously cheap AI War package mentioned earlier. If you haven’t played the fiendishly clever game already, allow the adventures of Smith (not I, not Graham, but Quinns), Gillen and Meer to act like a Persuadatron upon your mind-meat.

AI War is still Arcen’s biggest earner, having made over $1 million, and all profits from the current sale will be launched directly into The Last Federation.

While Arcen have some misses along with their thudding great hits, they’re a consistently interesting company and I’ve never been bored by one of their games. In recent times, I’ve been won over by the roguelike mech action of Bionic Dues, developed a quiet obsession with Skyward Collapse and formed a love-confusion relationship with bizarre horror puzzle-sim, Shattered Haven.

An esoteric sea in a world of games that are often indistinguishable from one another, Arcen make life more interesting and it’s splendid to hear of another big project from them. Especially when it can be described as follows:

Your goal is to unify the survivors into a solar federation that will bring peace. Doing so requires a lot of fighting, a lot of political deals and backstabbing, and occasionally strapping rockets to a moon.

When I get my hands on it, we can swap that ‘occasionally’ out for ‘repeatedly’ or ‘mostly’.


  1. Goodtwist says:


  2. Tom De Roeck says:

    GRRTST! Take that, MOBAs and CODBLOPSes.

  3. dE says:

    Since Animation really isn’t their forté, Spacegames are their perfect match. Looks interesting.

  4. frightlever says:

    AI War was brutal, in so many ways. If they could at least throw in an option for this game to be playable by lovable grandpas then I’d give it a shot.

    Oh, I’m not a lovable grandpa but I find that when grooming them on-line, casual strategy games and Werther’s Originals are the double-pronged approach I take to get them hooked.

    • KDR_11k says:

      You can dial the AI War difficulty down to “sandbox” where the AI is mostly harmless.

    • Vinraith says:

      AI War is literally the most out-of-the-box customizable strategy game in history, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find a configuration that meets your pacing and difficulty needs.

      • trjp says:

        This is common with Arcen games (esp earlier ones) but it’s not always a selling point.

        Their attempt at a match-3 game (Tidalis) – for example – was a bizarre mishmash of a thing with so many configuration options that it was arguably not a game at all, just all the bits of one awaiting a player to meld them :)

        I’ve bounced-off AI War a few times because there’s just far-too-much to take-in – I don’t need that level of depth in my games – so this new game appeals more than it perhaps should…

        • Vinraith says:

          The newer patches include prebuilt game setups exactly for folks that don’t know what they should turn on and off. I won’t dismiss the claim that a game of this depth requires a bit of investment on the part of the player, but I think the rewards are very, very worth that investment.

          And for what it’s worth, Tidalis is pretty great too. The puzzle mode is particularly fantastic.

        • sinister agent says:

          I too bounced off AI War several times, and in fact have yet to finish a campaign (am about 85% done with one though, and would have finished were it not for a lack of time – I barely play any games these days, so AI War is right out).

          Some stock start options arep robably a good idea, but either way I would suggest starting with a 40 planet universe, and choose some AIs rather than random ones so you know what to expect, and can get to grips with how the game plays without being thrown too many curveballs (jumping in at the deep end can be great in many games, but in very complex ones it’s often useless, since you won’t know why anything is happening and won’t be able to learn).

  5. Vinraith says:

    Lately I’ve been back to AI War after an absence of a couple of years and I’m still just overwhelmingly impressed with the game. Single player or co-op, this is still my all-time favorite RTS (even calling it that is really doing it a disservice) and the sheer and staggering number of new strategically interesting options and tactics that have been added since last I seriously played is going to keep me occupied for a very long time. It’s still one of the few strategy games that really comes down to a long string of genuinely difficult choices with real consequences, and somehow they’ve managed to add a bunch more of that without wrecking it. 420 hours and counting and there’s still new stuff to learn, new stuff to try, and new games to lose!

  6. sinister agent says:

    This is great news. I have a lot of respect for Arcen, even though some of their games leave me cold and a little disappointed. They’re always trying to do interesting things, which is how it should be.

  7. mouton says:

    I love their games, they are one of the very few developers that actually try to do something new in games.

    Btw, Skyward Collapse is basically a Khorne simulator. All that matters is eternal body count.

  8. CMaster says:

    Really hopeful this could be something of a return to form for Arcen.
    There’s no doubt about it, AI War was their standout sucess, both from game design and sales point of views (hence why expansion 5 exists).

    Last Federation sounds like it could be excellent, and certainly play to their strengths. On the other hand, AVWW sounded great in all the concepts.

    • mouton says:

      Most of the games since AI War were good too.

      • sinister agent says:

        Most of their games since AI War were very divisive, though.

        • mouton says:

          I generally avoid internet opinions about games for a reason.

          • sinister agent says:

            Heh, fair enough. But, well, perhaps I could rephrase that. Their games were always going to be divisive even if gamers (and the internet at large) weren’t twats. I have mixed feelings about most of them, neither loving them nor hating them or thinking they’re bad.

            I think perhaps part of it is inevitable given that they intentionally aim for fairly niche appeal.

        • KDR_11k says:

          Bionic Dues got a pretty good reception, not a split one like the previous games. It was mostly ignored though.