Part 9: The Spire are made of bloom?Funny you should mention the fallen spire...
Let's give the fleet a minute to catch its breath and our metal reserves a moment to refill. We've just extracted 6,000 knowledge from the two planets we've captured, so let's decide what to spend it on. I think Mk II combat carriers, as drone spam has been pretty effective for us, along with assault transports. Now, we haven't really had occasion to use transports up until this point. However they're extremely handy for moving units across enemy territory, being fairly fast and capable of carrying 200 units each. Assault transports are the tacti-cool version of the standard transport, being inherently cloaked, higher health and suffering less attrition damage per wormhole hop. They also get an attack based on how many ships they contain, in the exact same way as AI carriers. Suffice to say I expect them to be pretty handy sooner or later.
While we're waiting, let's send the champion on a deep strike to Plurinzor to 'take care' of that collaborating spire civilian leader we discovered earlier. You may ask yourself, what makes these guys collaborators rather than friends who should be liberated? Quite simply, their planet isn't of sufficient strategic value to justify taking. It's easier to commit genocide.
Wait, hang on, a wave hitting Dageo? Isn't that one of our home planets?
Aargh, one of those nomad planets has established a wormhole link to the homeworld. And it appears to have the majority of the threat on it. This could be bad.
Oh, and while we're at it the human marauders have decided to join in the attack on Boomquonxu. These arseholes hang around in deep space, occasionally sending deep-strike fleets against both the AI and our resistance. Essentially the flip side of the rebellion frigates.
In the end it doesn't shake out too badly and the threat doesn't attack. Still those nasty cloaked eye-bots, which are capable of shooting through forcefields, take my home command station down to 40% health before finally getting killed. I, uh, also just noticed that apparently Dageo only has one forcefield compared to Zivu's nine. I must have forgotten to build them around my second home command station.
Wait, what's this? Somehow we've managed to reclaim over 500 laser gatlings. That's an insane amount, considering we only had 8 leech starships and no other reclamation capable ships. Still, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.
Right, if we're going by the 'three abstract phases' definition of the game I'd say this is pretty much where the early game ends. We've secured our local area, made a bit of a land grab, and are now ready to start making strategic strikes to build up our forces. Before we move on to taking any more planets let's see if we can't get ourselves some reinforcements which don't require additional AIP. According to the in-game objectives there's two ways we can start doing this we can hack the design backup server on Tolgartol, or we can investigate the sub-space signal on our homeworld. Let's do both.
This is the survey ship we've just build on Zivu. In about five minutes it will have tracked down the sub-space signal and the fallen spire campaign can begin. We've also had another minor faction starbase show up, this time a Neinzul facility which gives us 50,000 energy and 150 metal in addition to some new starships.
This is Tolgartol, which is currently the only enemy planet linked to Miknei. In itself a relatively uninteresting MK III planet, however it does have a design backup server on it. This particular one happens to contain details of the tackle drone launchers. Now this leads to a bit of a quandary, as there are two ways to deal with backup servers. Either you can hack them to eliminate the design from the AI's archives, meaning that we'll never have to deal with these in the special forces or AI fleet again. Or you can capture the design for yourself, but the AI will go on using them.
On balance I think I'd prefer to capture them for myself. Although allowing the AI to field a group of 50+ tackle drone launchers means that my fleets are likely to end up flying randomly all over the enemy grav well, they synergise too nicely with my current drone heavy strategy to pass up.
Hmm, does that command station have external invincibility? It's coming from the command station shield guardpost, which prevents me from killing the command centre until I take it out. Oh well, I'm not looking to take the planet anyway and I don't actually even need to be near the design backup to hack it.
The fleet warps in to Tolgartol and starts making its presence known. Raids are sent to terminate the ion cannon before it does too much damage, but otherwise the fleet remains at the wormhole exit and waits for the active enemies to fly into their swarm of drones. We've also bought something new along with our fleet this time, a mobile builder.
Because we have a friendly command station next door, we have supply on this world. And supply means we can build turrets. So our mobile builder and a handful of engineers set about rapidly building a beachhead of turrets and mini-fortresses.
The ion cannon is down, hybrids are moving in to attack but they'll be terminated soon enough. We've also built a forcefield on this planet that we can park the hacker under, so let's bring him into play.
Here's the hacker, parked under his little forcefield. From the list of options, let's get him to start a design downloader hack. This will cost us 50 HaP, and take roughly five minutes.
The drones are out and having fun, smacking on guardposts and fleeing AI ships alike. In response to our hacking the AI is spawning small clusters of zombie ships every ~15 seconds or so, which are mindlessly flinging themselves at our fleet. And we're being warned that the AI is putting together a little post-hack retaliation force. Honestly, I'm not scared.
Looks like our survey has finished. A new signal has appeared on Zarvo, which is just south of Durxuha. Guess where we're going when this hack is done?
The hack is completed, and under its cover I've taken the opportunity to neuter the planet so it won't be reinforced as strongly in the future. The fleet retreats, leaving behind the beachhead to pick off the post-hacking response. Oh, and the civvie leaders are playing up again. Only +8 AIP this time, and with a -3 to come for a net of +5 this hour. We should probably get on finding more of those.
After dealing with a few waves, along with a portion of the threat that decided to join in, let's move the fleet on to Zarvo. We'll also start building our new toys at a space dock on Boomquonxu, but they probably won't be here in time for this.
Zarvo is a bit of a nasty one as it has one of the special 'screw you' layouts that were introduced lately. There's a fancy tachyon generating command station rather than the normal one, which means it gets planetary tachyon coverage. It also has external invincibility x 4 provided by a cluster of warp counterattack guardposts, and a whole lot of forcefield coverage. Thankfully we don't want to actually capture this planet, just scan it for anomalies.
Anyway, after cleaning up the planet a little and establishing a beachhead, it's time to warp in the survey ship.
We, we found something?
Warp grid has gone off the charts means 'oh hell, lots of AI ships are coming after this thing'. And it is slooow, speed 12 is pretty much the slowest possible thing. For reference fighters are speed 84, the champion 150, and the slowest ship I have is the missile frigates at 44. All are still miles faster than this thing.
A massive AI ship is en route to my planets, my fleet is getting wiped out and I've got a reprisal wave incoming. What is this thing, and why do they want it so bad?
Taking advantage of the chaos the AI is attacking us everywhere. A strike force goes after Sucje and the spire civilian leader sheltering there, forcing me to rush some rebuilt fleet ships up to reinforce it.
I manage to pull the shard back to Durxuha with only 60% of its health left. The AI just keeps coming, plowing straight through the wormhole into turret defences which would normally scare them away. They really want this thing.
Finally I manage to get the shard back to one of my home command stations and the AI warp activity drops off. Looks like we've found some kind of reactor, and those crazy scientists want us to convert it into a scanner. Well, we've got enough metal so let the eggheads do what they want.
In the final act of this little drama, a second reprisal wave hits Boomquonxu. Wait a minute aren't those my ships!? Goddamn mimes!
Next time, on AI War: That's no moon, it's a Dyson Sphere!