AI WARS: The Awakening

4_1Another case of forgotten 90s weirdness.

AI Wars aspires to be an action/RPG somewhat along the lines of System Shock 2 or TRON. It’s one of many 90s experimental games. Your avatar explores a complicated 3D environment in search of the cash, passwords, and technologies necessary to achieve your goals, deceiving or fighting its way through hostile ICE programs and data locks along the way. You will encounter neutral and even friendly AI’s along the way, but the central focus is on exploration and combat.

Your AI Wars avatar spends its entire existence within the net attempting to achieve one of three grandiose goals—immortality (by transferring your human consciousness into the net), control of cyberspace (by placing backdoors in every major system), or the creation of true AI (by bringing your avatar to full awareness).

Finding your way through these environments is too difficult, however. Each system you enter connects with many others via numbered doors. Despite the fact that you’re essentially a living computer program, you have no ability to label these doors even after you’ve explored the nodes that lie behind them. Worse yet, there’s no automap function of any kind. The unpleasant combination of these two factors forces you to rely on pen and paper mapping, which is both inconsistent with the game fiction (what are you? ROM?) and irritating.

Combat has its frustrations as well. While AI Wars is not a true first-person shooter (there are definite adventure and RPG elements to the game), shooter-style fighting plays a significant role. On the downside, enemies tend to get hung up on corners or stuck in doorframes a bit too often. Your two offensive weapons, IRC (a paralyzer) and a virus attack that does both immediate and long-term damage, don’t offer much variety.

3_1AI Wars does boast a number of defensive and stealth software, ranging from firewalls that block incoming attacks to the expensive (but very useful) masquerade packages, which deceive enemy systems into believing that you belong there while you crack their defenses. Both offensive and defensive systems can be upgraded to higher effectiveness levels if you can steal enough cash and find a market selling the tools you crave. In short, the game isn’t truly awful, but it’s just not game-y enough for it to be truly fun or immersive.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, WinXP

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