Downloadable Cunning: AI War – Destroyer Of Worlds

AI War is the sentient grey goo of gaming. Released in 2009, its design and uncanny artificial intelligence received praise from many quarters, including our own Alec, then writing for The Other Place. “This out-of-the-blue one-man passion project is one of this year’s finest strategy games”, he wrote, little realising that the very same ‘passion project’ that he so admired would continue to evolve. The sixth expansion, ominously titled Destroyer of Worlds, is due on August 18th, and with it Arcen’s flagship game will become even more cunning. Trailer and feature list below.

Nomad Planets introduces dynamic topology to AI War for the first time, giving the player new challenges and opportunities beyond the previously-static wormhole network.

One of the Nomads also holds a secret weapon of truly dire power (that gives the expansion its title, hint hint).

The Exodian Blade is a powerful alternate way-to-win, but getting there is a multi-stage journey with a great deal of desperate fighting once things get going.

8 new AI types, from the humorous/annoying “Kite Flier” and “Cowardly” to the monomaniacal “Starship Fanatic” to the aptly named “Brutal”. There’s also “Mime”. Never trust mimes.

A new “Encapsulated” map style.

4 new Bonus Ship Types, including the Neinzul Combat Carrier (with Beam Drones, Rail Drones, Spider Drones, and Grav Drones) and the Maw-gone-mad Powerslaver.

2 new AI Guardian types, including the Combat Carrier Guardian (so humans don’t get to have all the ludicrous-drone fun).

A new “Preemption” optional AI Plot that lets the AI start taking more direct action against you from the start.

More awesome music from Pablo Vega! (that’s still being worked on, but will be added for the official release)

That’s a decent amount of content. The ‘Preemption’ AI plot sounds particularly dastardly.

Arcen consistently release interesting games but it’s no insult to the rest of the catalogue to say that AI War is still the best of them. One of those games I suspect other studios would have tried to emulate if they could work out how.

It’s surely only a matter of time before AI War infects other space games. Sometime next year, you’ll be merrily playing Elite Dangerous and suddenly, enemy ships will exhibit previously unseen traits. A couple of hours later, the game will be actively plotting your doom. Destroyer of Worlds.


  1. slerbal says:

    I own all of AI War so far and it seems like it should totally be my kind of game, but every time I’ve tried it I’ve bounced off harder than a whale on a trampoline. Anyone got any recommendations of a good place to start or some tutorials for the game as it is now (given how much it has changed since original release)?

    • frightlever says:

      Well, this basically. But I said that about Distant Worlds (a very different game, to be fair) for years and then one day thanks to a guide it clicked.

      I actually opened AI War up again last night because the Steam update was acting up and they really need someone to take that 1990 title screen user interface and give it a makeover.

      • alexjhh says:

        I tend to approach it as much as a board game as I do a vidya game, and find that to be the way that it holds my attention the best. While there’s a lot of legitimate tactics in the individual battles (although not necessarily), the ‘abstract’ phase where you’re figuring out a viable line of attack/defense is the most fun for me.

        When it comes to approaching it, it’s still possible to play without the crazy expansion stuff (of which there is A LOT), and while there is a huge amount of readjustment and tweaking that has gone into it over the years, the basic mechanics still hold up for the most part. You might have to get used to approaching each system as a puzzle, with several interlocking elements/defenses, rather than individual enemies though, as the game really is too large scale for that kind of standard approach. There’s a reasonable LP by TheBlackworth that you could watch if you feel the need – it demonstrates the way that Black Hole Generators, as part of his opponents traits, completely change the way in which he has to play the game.

        • frightlever says:


          Will bookmark it for later. I think I have a fortnight free in late 2015.


          • alexjhh says:

            That’s the one. It’s quite out of date, but gives some indication of the way in which it isn’t a traditional RTS – you have to think in a fundamentally different way to the way the computer ‘thinks’, and the AI is reactive with regard to what you do, rather than being an agent on the same level. It’s not by accident that there are so many stats displayed with all the different options – you don’t have to read/understand them all, but the basic idea of ‘I need a way past this tractor beam guard post if I’m going to take the system’ presents a puzzle element that isn’t as clear in games where the sides are more symmetrical.

            One of the most obvious things though, if you start playing, is that crystal is gone since that video series was made. I’m not sure on the decision process (it’s probably well documented on the Arcen forum), and hacking has been introduced (and integrated with the tutorial), so there’ll be a few numbers that bear paying attention to if they differ wildly from what you’ve seen previously.

  2. jeeger says:

    Never finished a game, still going to buy destroyer of Worlds. Arcen needs all the money they can get, and maybe I’ll finish a game some time^^

  3. DodgyG33za says:

    Blimey. I must have slept through 2009. This sounds right up my alley but I have never heard of it.

    Can any one tell me if the AI is good, or just cheaty? I like a good challenge, but hate it when the AI is given abilities the human player doesn’t have. Like being able to see all your movements. Or that CIV one where the AI knew where future resources were going to be and built cities on them.

    • johnkillzyou says:

      The whole point is that the AI has resources and abilities you don’t. It doesn’t cheat per se, but it starts with an insurmountable amount of resources which you have to topple through sneak attacks, abuse of chokepoints and cunning. The AI isn’t even “good” unless you fuck up and get the danger levels so high the AI actually registers you as a significant threat. It just has more guns than you. Waaay more guns than you.

    • Aklyon says:

      The AI doesn’t cheat, it just uses a completely different ruleset from you, and the game tells you so in the tutorial I think. You get metal from salvage from ai ships dieing on your planets? AI gets points from salvage instead to put towards more waves against you.
      AIP at a super high amount and you aren’t playing with Fallen Spire active? (like 1000 or so) Unless you have it set to auto-increase the AIP, you made it that high, so its your problem to solve unless the difficulty is set so low the AI has difficulty even defending itself. if its not and you can’t hold back the assault, it smashes you like angry bear for being too threatening.

      • frightlever says:

        So I picked out a bunch of English words in that post and yet it means nothing to me. That can’t be a good sign.

        Have I had a stroke?

        • farrier says:

          Pancakes exclaim softly to a roof chortles … onboard Dan Brown.

        • KDR_11k says:

          The game’s main number is AI Progress (AIP) that signifies how seriously the AI is taking you (at the start it thinks humans are extinct, then it thinks they’re mostly harmless). Destroying key structures of the AI and claiming territory (or losing specific structures that act as bonus objectives) increases that number, thus increasing the AI’s aggression towards you. The game’s core strategy is which of the AI’s key structures you want to destroy to clear the path towards the two core stations (the AI’s weak point, kill these and you win) without raising the AIP so high that it will overwhelm you. The difficulty level determines how much leeway you get, at near maximum difficulty you can capture like three planets before the AI will flip out, at moderate difficulties you can afford to carve a safe path through the galaxy.

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      The game is not symmetrical, the AI operates on a completely different rule-set as already mentioned. They’re not like you and they’re not supposed to be like you.
      The AI has a lot of advantages over you but at the same time you have a lot of advantages over the AI.

      The AI has far more overall firepower and far superior ship production, so overall it will almost always have you outgunned.
      On the other hand the AI also has a lot of disadvantages. AI ships are not as “independent” as player ships. AI forces are in general far more dependent on support structure such as guard-posts and warp gates and aren’t very good at operating out on their own for extended periods. They’re also much slower to move larger forces around than the players are.

      Player forces on the other hand are usually much more independent and don’t need as much in the way of support structure. In general your ships and assets much more agile and can maneuver faster than the AIs can.

  4. BathroomCitizen says:

    I bought all AI’s expansions: it seems a genuinely good and a very deep game, but I tried it two times through the years and it just doesn’t click with me.
    Maybe it’s just the interface and the presentation that’s a little bit austere for my tastes – and that would be weird, because I love Dominions 4, and that’s the MASTER of austere user interface, but I find a certain charm in it.

    It’s like AI War lacks a soul.

    Please, anybody, talk me into playing this game. I want to like it! Don’t doom me to my fate of buying expansions for a game that I will never play, just because the feature list looks so awesome!

    • Vacuity729 says:

      It’s tough to know where the block is, particularly if you don’t mind Dominion 4’s interface. Still, I’d suggest trying to work through the new tutorials first. I played the old tutorials and found them good for giving me a handle on what I was trying to do, along with an idea of how difficult things could be. By the time I finished, I was quite fired up to try a real game, but I admit I save-scummed my first game from start to finish.

    • Baal Of Fire says:

      While I’ve only bought the original game it didn’t stick with me either. After that I stopped buying expansions. What’s the point of buying something when you can’t enjoy it anyway? Better support the indies that produce games you enjoy. There are so many nowadays to choose from. :)

  5. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I very much preferred the title they gave to one of their devblog posts, “Beltsander of Worlds”.

  6. Vacuity729 says:

    This is probably the only game/DLC I’ll buy on release this year, and that’s bearing in mind the fact that they gave me a free copy of the expansion as a thank you for helping playtest it. This studio has a fantastic track record for support, post-release development, and responsive communication. In addition, the replay value of games like AI War is amazing: for (probably) £4, the value/cost ratio of this expansion is just fantastic and the studio genuinely deserves the money.

    In more specific terms, the Nomads are a stroke of genius that needs to be used in other games: dynamic topology in a 4X-like strategy game is a real game-changer (and lead to me repeatedly meeting that Game Over screen). The other stuff in the expansion’s cool, too, but for me the dynamic topology is, just, pure, gummy-bear-sweetness.

  7. AlexHeartnet says:

    “A secret weapon of truly dire power”. Uhh. There’s already a weapon that BLOWS UP THE ENTIRE GALAXY. Exactly what could be more destructive then that?!

    • johnkillzyou says:

      So, uh, about that universe…

      • AlexHeartnet says:

        The MKIII Nuke is already past the “it doesn’t even matter what else gets destroyed” threshold. When you are confined to a single galaxy, what’s the difference between a weapon that blows up ten or one that blows up a thousand?

  8. SuicideKing says:

    One of the Nomads also holds a secret weapon of truly dire power

    A Halo ring!

    • AlexHeartnet says:

      No, there’s already a weapon that does that in the vanilla game.

  9. ObiDamnKenobi says:

    AhhH! The trailer said “most unique’! I can’t take it seriously! I thought this guy was smart..?