Part 10: That's no moon, it's a Dyson Sphere!
Man, the more I read this LP, the more I think it would've been better as a series of videos starting at the easiest difficulty/smallest galaxy with the heat slowly getting turned up as the LP went on. You are doing a great job of explaining what's in each screenshot but it really feels like you are smashing up against the limitations imposed by your medium.
Where were we. Ah, right. God damn mimes. Now that we've passed the 2 hour mark the AI is getting full salvage rather than the artificially low amount it previously got. This means reprisal waves, and you may remember that our first AI opponent is set up to be a mime. Which means that when it sends a reprisal wave it tries to send back the exact same ships that you lost.
That's my shadow destroyer, my lightning torpedoe frigates, my laser gatlings (which I originally stole from the AI anyway, but shh) and my uh, mini-forts?
Oh dear, the AI isn't supposed to be able to get those. This emergent behaviour / bug, depending on how you want to look at it, means that the mime has taken advantage of our beachheads to generate one of its own. That time counting down? That's how long it takes from when a mini-fort stops moving to when it's allowed to start healing allied ships. We, uh, probably want to kill the fleet before that happens.
Oh right these guys are cowardly mimes, remember? Which means half of them run off, and the AI now has pretty much half of my fleet to add to their threat. Here, have an unreadable explosive action screenshot of me taking out the remnants that didn't run away.
Our next objective is to free the Dyson Sphere from its scurrilous AI overlords. While the planet the dyson sphere resides on is in AI hands it will generate dyson gatlings which are hostile to everyone. Above you can see one about to take on some hybrids, and failing. The gatlings are good ships but you need a critical mass to achieve anything much, which just isn't going to happen while the AI is picking them off as soon as they spawn. However once we free it the Dyson Sphere will generate player allied gatlings until it has the same amount as the current AI Progress - If you're on 200+, that can be a very nice free roaming defence fleet.
This planet has a dire guardian lair, the first that we've encountered so far. Another fairly recent addition (I want to say 6.xx), these crank out 'dire guardians' once every hour or so while the planet is on alert. As Sucje is right next to Yarzon, Yarzon is currently on alert. We have the option of destroying the dire guardian lair outright to stop any future spawns but we probably want to put that off until we have better control of the planet seeing as it instantly spawns three guardians.
Also present is a planetary armor booster, which boosts the survivability of all allied ships on the planet. We can capture this when capturing the planet, but honestly it isn't in a particularly useful strategic spot. There's also a teleport raider fab, which would be very nice to capture. We could pop the command station, clean up the guardposts and then put up a command station of our own to capture the fabricator. However that would really piss the dyson sphere off, and rather than sending out allied dyson gatlings it would sent out a constant stream of hostile ships. We could build a command station just long enough to capture the fab, then destroy it to make the dyson sphere allied again, but that would mean the fabricator would only be lightly defended by a turret beachhead and would likely get killed within a few hours. In this situation we're probably better off leaving the planet entirely neutral but hacking the fabricator. Which, as it is still technically in AI hands, will never get destroyed.
Let's move on from strategy to tactics. First up, we can't kill off the enemy command station until we've performed the hack. Our hacking teams need the AI command station as an entry point to their network. Given that, and the relatively small amount of ships on the planet, it makes the most sense to just blob up and throw drones everywhere.
Tackle drone launchers make their first appearance in our fleet here and do a marvellous job of throwing some enemy ships to the edge of the gravity well. Something that is immensely hard to convey in a screenshot, so please enjoy what may possibly be largest, shoddiest gif you've ever seen.
(p.s. if anyone knows of an image host that allows 7MB gif files, please tell me. I've got 500GB/month of bandwidth on that VPS anyway, but still SA level traffic scares me...)
Hacker goes up while the fleet sets about neutering the planet.
Looks like the eggheads have come through and found another sub-space signal. It's on Arkhag, somewhere down south. We'll go investigate that once we've finished with the dyson sphere.
We've also now got 4.3 million metal in storage, which is the most we can retain. Any excess is just getting wasted at this point. So, as well as telling the engineers to help speed build the remaining zenith power generator, let's set up a mercenary space-dock which will only start building units when we have more than 3 million metal in the bank. Mercenary ships cost 10 times as much metal as regular ships but their caps are entirely independent, and they create Mk IV ships by default even if you haven't unlocked them. A nice metal sink, in other words. This one is set up to build etherjet tractors, parasites and a couple of Mk IV equivalent mercenary enclaves (sweet, sweet drones).
Looks like the threat has finally gotten up the gumption to attack us now that our fleet is engaged over on Yarzon. Some of it is flying into the teeth of the defences, but more worryingly a lot of it seems to be beelining for my homeworld. That single forcefield covering the wormhole exit isn't going to hold them for long.
To add to the fun a CPA has just been announced. These are the grown-up big brother to normal waves, where instead of warping some ships directly into one of your planets the AI instead releases a portion of all the ships it has in the galaxy to come chase you down. Essentially you get a big, nasty ball of threat that looks at your turret defences and titters to itself before attacking. Luckily it's on a fairly long timer, so we've got enough warning to pull our fleet back from offensive pursuits and retrench ourselves.
Luckily in the end the threat decide that my homeworld is too much of a tough nut for them to crack. Possibly because of the several hundred turrets I started speed building there when I noticed them heading towards the wormhole. Instead they chew through the turrets and start hammering on the forcefields surrounding Miknei command station. This place is going down.
Back on Yarzon the fabricator hack now has only a minute left to go. Drones are doing their usual thing and have taken out enough of the enemy ships and infrastructure that I feel comfortable retreating the rest of the fleet. We'll reposition to Dageo to strike back at the threat on Miknei.
Seconds before the hack finishes the AI blankets the planet with tachyon radiation. But it doesn't have any ships close enough to attack by decloaked hacker. As soon as the fabricator is infiltrated the champion strikes at the command station, liberating the dyson sphere. We'll leave this guy to his own devices for a while and the dyson gatlings will slowly chew through any remaining AI ships.
Miknei did its job perfectly, acting as a crumple-zone to blunt the AI's assault. It killed almost 1,200 ships before finally dying, which means the remaining fleet didn't feel strong enough to take on either of my homeworlds. They're now just sitting in a cluster on the edge of the system, admiring their handywork.
Pretty soon it's fleet vs. fleet, as my guys warp in from Dageo.
Ahh, my old nemesis returns. Disassembler guardians fly around eating and slowly digesting starships. Think You Only Live Twice, one of the more ... interesting outings for Connery's bond. They are one of the top priorities in things to kill, at which point my swallowed starships should escape with only minor injuries.
After the battle is done and the day is won my fleet retreats (to go tend to an attack on Boomquonxu) and the rebuilders arrive from Zivu. Their mission is to get the defences back online before the CPA hits in roughly two minutes. Given there's no over drain on my metal reserves at the moment, this should be more than doable.
They're heeeeeeere. The previous assault was just testing the waters, now there are 7,500 AI ships all flying around looking to murder me.
Next time, on AI War: Martyrs, defend thy Motherland