Author Topic: Fallen Spire withdrawal  (Read 1717 times)

Offline mithrandi

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Fallen Spire withdrawal
« on: September 07, 2012, 01:45:00 PM »
This will be my first AAR, reconstructed from memory and screenshots taken from autosaves, since I didn't think to take any while I was playing the game. Probably not the most interesting AAR ever, but I do have a little bit of a point I want to make at the end, and the practice can't hurt ;)

I've been playing Fallen Spire almost exclusively for quite some time, but when I accidentally started up a game without Fallen Spire turned on, I decided just to run with it. This was a relatively "vanilla" game setup: realistic map style, all four expansions active, Human Resistance Fighters and Dyson Sphere active, and 7/7 random AIs. Oh, and a champion.

I picked my homeworld from the map to get Shield Bearers, without paying too much attention to the actual layout. That gave me a homeworld in an interesting little semi-crosshatch cluster of 5 systems, with only two connections outwards, so I quickly took the cluster of 5 without much ado. I figured I'd try parallel my Fallen Spire tactics despite the lack of Spire hubs and fleets; after all, I won't have to deal with exogalactic strike forces, right? So normal defenses should be fine against normal ships... with that in mind, I decided to "hold the line" at Nutana and Oshafu, and take everything behind those two chokepoints. An early galaxy map looked like this:

You'll notice I have the map set to "Unexplored Wormholes" for a reason. 5 nebula systems (I'm in the process of doing a mission in Harrinhar, thus it isn't showing as unexplored anymore) all in a line? Yes please! Scouting eventually revealed two Advanced Factories (at Unur and Mucavedo), and the Dyson Sphere at Durvurae; all nicely within my intended "perimeter". Three of the ARSs also fell within this area, leaving only two out in hostile territory; access to the mkIV scout via capture of my first Advanced Factory revealed the location of these to be at Asirador and Tolnowba, located right next-door to a core world :(

During my initial expansion, I ended up dropping a bunch of defenses (including a Modular Fortress) at Distunemas; once I had progressed a bit farther, I captured Nutana and proceded to fortify the hell out of it. Two modular fortresses, one at each hostile wormhole, literally every turret I had (unlocked up to mkIII in most cases), and a mkIII military command station on top of that. In particular, max cap of gravity turrets ringing each wormhole to keep everything crawling along while the turrets shot everything to pieces.

With one chokepoint set up, my entire fleet (eventually consisting of mkI-mkIV fighters, bombers, missile frigates, shield bearers, zenith bombards, grenade launchers, and zenith chameleons) was free for operations on the other side of the empire. I also picked up Spider V and Polarizer V fabs along the way, which was quite nice.

Up until this point, everything had been proceeding at a relatively sedate pace. It was certainly lots of fun seeing 5 carriers pop into Nutana, blow up spilling thousands of ships, which would then be obliterated in a hail of turret fire. I did, however, have to keep a sizeable garrison of remains rebuilders (something like 15 or 20 in the end) in order to replenish things in between waves (both real waves, and accumulated threat). I was spending most of my concentration on the nebula missions with my champion; not much noteworthy happened with those, but they required more attention than steamrolling the AI systems with my fleet. When my champion wasn't mixing it up in a nebula somewhere, I usually had it moving ahead of my fleet, knocking out targets faster than my fleet could move. The Neinzul Shadow Cruiser (radar dampening and cloaking) in combination with the drone launcher bays makes for a very fun one-ship strike force; the mkIV drones can pretty much range across an entire system, while the rest of the guns in combination with the radar dampening ensure anything getting too close to the champion itself doesn't last long.

Eventually, I held both chokepoints; Nutana with my turrets and two modular forts, and Oshafu (which turned out to have a Spire Archive) with my fleet and the other two modular forts.

I settled in to wait for the Archive to run out, but got bored of waiting for that, so I decided to start poking at the core worlds. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Special Forces had a little something to say about this. I would later find their staging planet (Caudorde), which looked like this:

As you can imagine, having that... uh... monstrosity of a fleet (332 spire railclusters, 474 electric bombers, are you KIDDING me?) show up every time I brought my own fleet in made it very difficult to accomplish anything. I certainly couldn't fight it head to head; while my full fleet firepower was close to 2000 (I think) at this point, the special forces fleet was weighing in at over 3000 firepower and I had absolutely nothing that was particularly effective against the railclusters. I think the only ship type I had with bonuses against polycrystal were fighters, which are light, which railclusters get a bonus against... I still had to take one of the remaining ARS systems anyway, to blow up the final A-Prime CSG, so I backed off and decided to approach the AI homeworld from the other direction (via Nutana) instead, in the hopes of finding where the special forces were staging on my way to the ARS at Tolnowba.

After moving through Rarex and Lintho (just neutering them, not destroying the command stations), I ran into the special forces staging system of Caudorde, again blocking my path. I took a brief moment to post the screenshot on IRC (which provoked a few amusing responses), before deciding just to nuke it. At this point, it felt like I was definitely losing the game, but I decided to play it out anyway (half the fun of AI War is losing in hilarious ways, right?). One warhead later, no special forces left! Of course, with such a high AIP, they were rapidly reinforcing, but those numbers were more manageable.

I moved on to Tchmuhag which I haven't mentioned before, but was a ridiculously stacked system: Data Center, Speed Booster fab, Warbird Starship fab, and a Neinzul Youngling Tiger fab. Unfortunately, given its location, I had little hope of being able to hold the system for very long, but I figured I could at least get a full ship cap out from the fabs before abandoning it. Tolnowba yielded Laser Gatlings (which I also unlocked up to mkIII/IV), and I settled in to hold the system for a while as it also had a Spire Archive. There was also a Neinzul Scapegoat fab at Enanneila, but it didn't take long to realise that while holding onto two systems in this area would be hard, holding three would be nearly impossible, so I sadly had to give up on that one.

It was while I was holding on to these systems, waiting for the Spire Archive to run out, that the pace of the game really began to ratchet up. My fleet blob was an awesome amount of firepower, but the adjacent systems were starting to spit out carriers at a somewhat frightening pace; as the game progressed, it reached the point where I was seeing "AI Carrier created at <system>" scrolling past like a stock ticker. It was clear that while the AI Homeworlds were now very close to my grasp, the killing blow would need to come very quickly as well. As the Spire Archive ran out, I abandoned these two systems to their fate, backtracking my fleet the long way around to stage at Oshafu again. I moved in to wipe out the core world of Shozing, which had been somewhat weakened by my earlier efforts, but was still spewing out a ridiculous quantity of reinforcements. I blew up the command station to put an end to the reinforcements; it would put the AI homeworld on alert, but I was about to go hit that anyway.

I topped off my fleet again, and moved on to Rela, the homeworld itself. I was somewhat fortunate with the guard post spawns here: 2 x Core Electric, 1 x Core Leech, 3 x Core Missile, 1 x Core Spire Shield, 1 x Spec Ops. I jumped my fleet through the wormhole, and... "AI is powering the Ion Eye on Rela directly from the warp grid". Oops. On the other hand, the Ion Eye is the weakest of the eyes and "only" results in the death of mostly-rebuildable fleet ships, so I figured I'd try take out a guard post or two before retreating and regrouping. To my surprise, the first guard post I went after vanished in a blink of an eye, so I just swept through the system clearing out the guard posts, before taking out the AI Home Command Station itself. Success!

Dealing with the first homeworld proved to be a lot easier than I had expected, so suddenly it felt like there was some hope that I could actually win this game after all. Unfortunately, I now had the small problem of a ton of mkV ships from the homeworld being freed up, on top of all of the adjacent core worlds going on alert and spewing out mkV threat like a fountain. My static defenses at Nutana were still doing their job, but as more and more mkV ships hammered against them, I was losing more and more turrets every time, and it was clear I didn't have much time before I would be unable to rebuild fully in between assaults. I started to move my fleet back around to Nutana... at which point I realised the flood of mkV ships coming through my *other* chokepoint would almost certainly be impossible to stop without my fleet's presence there. If I had a bit of breathing room, I could probably have taken measures to clear out the existing free threat, but with an AIP of over 1000, the AI's response was now escalating well beyond my means to handle.

I decided my only option was to go for broke; I fired up my starship constructor (which up until now had been essentially unused) just to pad out my fleet to the maximum size possible, and briefly regrouped in Nutana as the AI began to rampage through my systems starting from the other side of my empire. Once I had the biggest fleet I was going to have, I group-moved straight to the other AI homeworld of Gindurudon. The combination of a ridiculous amount of firepower in a big blob, and those fantastic shield bearers, meant I was able to arrive at the AI homeworld with nearly all of my fleet intact; my racing pulse was affecting my mousing skills at this point, but a possible victory was at hand! Never mind the warning messages starting to pile up: "AI is gathering threat because of your deepstrike on Gindurudon!", "Your ships are being insta-killed by Ion Cannons on Gindurudon!", "The AI is powering the Ion Eye on Gindurudon directly from the warp grid!", LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY 2500 FIREPOWER FLEET ON THE AI HOMEWORLD!

In the end, it was a very close thing. The guard posts went down relatively quickly, but cracking the two forcefields sitting on top of the command station and a Fortress nearly proved to be impossible; the last of my Projected Shadow Shields ran out just as the command station was exposed. Sadly I don't have a victory screen screenshot, but just imagine some "YOU WIN!" text and a crazy guy jumping around in front of the computer ;) The random AI types proved to be "Speed Racer" (well, I guessed that from all the speed boosters...) and "Experimentalist".

All in all, I think what surprised me the most about this game was how much emotion was evoked despite the lack of any real storyline elements; the Fallen Spire storyline buildup I find to be quite compelling, but in this game the sense of urgency, of the AI starting to "fully awaken", and of my own desperation as things started to unravel towards the end, were all achieved purely through gameplay mechanics, no scripted storyline or plot at all. *This* is the sort of thing that keeps me playing AI War despite the ridiculous amount of time it takes to play a game.

In retrospect, it seems clear that I've grown far too used to the Fallen Spire style game; trying to take over half the galaxy -- in fact, in one Fallen Spire game, I think I took every single system except one of the AI Homeworlds (had to retrieve a shard off the other homeworld!) -- doesn't work nearly as well when you don't have several Spire Dreadnoughts in your fleet... ;) On the other hand, the fact that I was still able to make it work may give some other difficulty-7 players hope that ridiculously-low-AIP gameplay is most definitely not required to win at this level, although winning this game at a higher difficulty level would probably have required some, uh, alternate strategy.

Offline Hearteater

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Re: Fallen Spire withdrawal
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2012, 02:51:20 PM »
Nicely done and enjoyable read.


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