Part 6: Strategic Objectives and Data CentresSeems like it's time for another oversized galaxy map. Let's see what out scouts have been up to.
Ahh, much better than when we started out. Our cluster of five planets is displayed in green, with all scouted AI planets in red. Still a lot of unknowns out there, but at least we have some info to start working out where to go next. So, what are our objectives? Hmm, let's ask the game.
Primary objective: Survive. Seems sensible. There's also a lot of stuff in there about taking down the core shield generators. Think star-wars and the shield generator on Endor; in order to be able to attack the AI home command stations we need to destroy every shield generator network. We'll get back to that later. For now, we're probably more interested in the secondary objectives. Oh, hello! Looks like our scouts have found a data centre on Yarzarmas. Blowing up a data centre is one of the very few ways you can actually decrease your AIP, so let's make that our next priority.
The majority of our fleet is sitting on Oorto, up at the top of our empire. Yarzarmas is two hops away, which means we'll need to go through Boomquonxu to get to it. This is a problem, because Boomquonxu is a MK IV planet.
Planet marks are a good indication of how dangerous they are. They also indicate the mark level of the ships the AI reinforces that planet with so we're going to be running into a lot of MK IV ships here. In fact we don't really want an alerted Mk IV planet sitting next to one of our planets anyway so this makes it a prime target for neutering, i.e. removing all the guardposts to decrease the amount the AI can reinforce it by.
Let's send some scouts in to get a closer look at this place. Oh yeah, this is going to be somewhat of a harder nut to crack. Looks like 1,200 ships on the planet, with a large chunk of that being threat from the wave that escaped earlier. There are also six guardposts and three ion cannons, expensive toys which can instantly kill fleet ships of the same or lower mark. Oh, and these guys.
These are hybrid hives. Added sometime back in version 3, these are AI starships that have been 'melded' with small Neinzul hives that actually control the starship but behave as allies to the AI. The Hybrids have a much more aggressive outlook than the 'main' AI and are much more 'concerned' by your continued existence. In other words, they're a bunch of nasty little shi
First thing we need to do is take down the tachyon sentinel next to the wormhole to Oorto. Easiest way to do this is to just warp in the fleet blob. We'll lose some ships to the ion cannons, but clear out some enemy units at the same time.
Tachyon is down. We're taking fire from the ion cannons and the several hundred fighters sitting next to the wormhole. Also note the blade spawner, which is a new ship type for the AI. In the end my forces retreat having lost around 200 ships, mainly bombers, and taking out only 100 or so of the enemy. But they'll all be rebuilt soon enough.
Now that the tachyon is down we can do something a bit more tricksy. Above is a raiding party comprised of one cloaker starship and six raid starships. Now the cloaker, as the name may indicate, is capable of giving stealth to nearby ships. And the raid starships are extremely fast ships which can shoot through forcefields.
Here's our raiding group sitting next to a completely oblivious pair of ion cannons. Seconds later they explode, while the raids make a dash for the exit. They can't be re-cloaked within ten seconds of firing.
For the next attack I'm going to send in the champion to take out the remaining ion cannon, as he's likely to take out a fair few ships as well while he's making a dash for the exit. Wait, what's this? Aargh, traitorous spire civilian leaders!
These guys. I prefer to use them over auto-incrementing AIP, as they give you a bit of a kick to expand but also some interesting strategic choices. Ten of these are seeded across the map at the beginning of the game, and every hour each one will raise AIP by one. There are two ways to deal with them. Liberate them, at which point they start to regularly decrease AIP by three, or blast them out of the sky. So far the only spire civvy leader I know of it on Plurinzor, the P6 planet right in the bottom centre of the galactic map. But it's three hops away from any friendly planet, so we'll have to defer our decision on him for now.
Champion takes out the ion cannon, then sits there and tanks the incoming enemy fire for a while. His special ability, which allows him to drop a temporary forcefield, helps with that somewhat. Looks like the threat fighters have moved on to another planet by this point, so all that's left are the local planet defences and the hybrids. After a sufficient amount of time for all the local ships to get distracted chasing my champion, the rest of the fleet warps in from the Oorto wormhole.
The champion is about to die, and he's run out of power to generate temporary forcefields. But he's taunted the enemy well away from my fleet's entry point, and thanks to a handy 'snap-back' warp drive will be respawned back on one of my homeworlds momentarily.
As the battle heats up, the AI gets an ill timed reinforcement wave and ships start pouring from the remaining guardposts. It also looks like the special forces have shown up to defend the planet. Special forces are a roving fleet of ships, especially riot starships, which the AI holds a couple of hops back from the human planets and uses to reinforce any planet which comes under attack. This special forces fleet appears to have a large number of blade spawners and tackle drone launchers, which are extremely nasty, so the remnants of the fleet retreats after taking down two missile guardposts.
Just in time for the fleet to be rebuilt, we get a couple of waves. The interesting one here is the one on Miknei, which is using cloaked ships. If we didn't have our Mil II station, we wouldn't be able to fire on these at all. Although as it turns out this isn't an issue just because they're stealthy doesn't mean that they won't blow the hell up when running into mines. Three seconds before this screenshot there were the best part of 300 ships here. Anyway the waves were taken care of handily, although I'm getting more and more annoyed by this cowardly AI who isn't letting his ships get smashed on my defences. Up to 1,500 threat now. And 2.5 million metal, so engineers are retasked to speed-build the zenith power generator and get me out of the constant low energy state.
Looks like Boomquonxu has calmed down a bit, there's only 270 ships there now that the threat and special forces have moved on. Time to move the fleet back in to attack. You may also have noticed the 'Neinzul Viral Clusters' which are sitting next to each wormhole. These are the signature of the viral enthusiast AI sub-type, which happens to be the secondary type of the second AI. They spawn viral swarmers when military ships get too close to them, nasty little blighters which self-replicate by damaging enemy ships, which can quickly get out of control if you don't have enough firepower to alpha them down.
Uh-oh, translocator eye? Yeah, we didn't see this in action last time because there were so many AI ships. Eyes are special structures that are only switched on when the human forces on the planet outnumber the AI 2:1. These serve to prevent the player from just steam-rolling a planet with a massive fleet blob. They have an absurd amount of health, which makes them impractical to attack directly without access to an artillery golem. Luckily though they die automatically once the last guardpost goes down. So, let's get rid of our fleet ships (especially the lightning torpedoe frigates their missiles count as units for ratio purposes) and come back with a fleet of low cap, high damage ships. Or in other words, starships.
33 starships start floating around under cloaker cover, picking off guardposts one by one. As mentioned earlier though, these replicating swarmers are a real danger if you let them get away from you. So a strategic retreat is sometimes advisable, especially when the special forces show up and start throwing their weight around.
Eventually the planet is neutered at the cost of great time and materiel. So many ships were lost, in fact, that at one stage the AI launched a reprisal wave against us.
That's a lot of fighters. Still, nothing the defences can't handle when bolstered by the currently sidelined fleet.
Oh. God. Damn. -570,000 energy? No supply? Yup, that means that all my turrets and forcefields are offline. And what's causing this? Not one, but two AI beachheads. When this option is enabled, roughly 1/10 waves will get a beachhead structure which takes out all the supply on the target planet. That takes out the turrets but it also takes out the energy collectors, which can't work without supply. And no energy means no forcefields. With that 2,600 fighter wave hitting in 25 seconds I need to take these down ASAP to get my defences get back online.
The fleet on Miknei is split into two, and each half dashes for either Oorto or Durxuha. Oorto command station is being hit by a smattering of teleporting raiders, as it no longer has forcefield coverage. It's a military station though, it can take a little punishment.
The second beachhead goes down and turrets come back online. Unfortunately the missile frigates attacking Durxuha took out the energy collector, so until my engineers manage to rebuild it I'm doing this one without forcefields.
2,200 ships on Miknei. This is also our first introduction to AI carriers, which are essentially a way to limit the number of objects on the screen so lesser computers don't melt. Ideally there are about 1,000 free AI ships on a planet at once, with the rest in carriers which slowly release units as other die. However the carriers themselves gain all the firepower of the units inside them. Recently there was a change to the way carriers work. Before they spilled out their contents when destroyed, which then went into the chipper-shredder to keep the unit count low so instead of 1,000 fighters you ended up with 10 starships. Now damage is transferred to units inside the carriers, which is handy for us as it means that minefield all the carriers are flying into is real effective.
Anyway eventually that little situation is tidied up and the last guardpost on Boomquonxu goes boom, taking the eye with it. The way to Yarzarmas is clear. Our champion flies through the wormhole, popping the tachyon sentinel as it goes, and eliminates the data centre. -10AIP, which takes us to uh pretty much the same place as we were half an hour ago.
Next Time on AI War: ARSes, the Botnet Golem and the Dyson Sphere