Godlike is too easy. Some feedback for Stardock

Long post about AI prioritizing

Posted on Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hi all. Long time GalCiv player, rare forum poster.

I really like Crusade. A lot. I've put 339 hours into it, I'm surprised to find out, and am starting another game after this post.

But, it is too easy. When I got the expansion, I played on normal difficulty, and then raised the difficulty one setting each game until I was at "godlike." In previous GalCiv games, this setting was significantly difficult to beat. A lot of games I would lose. But with Crusade, I have yet to lose a game on godlike. Last night I won a game even though I could only colonize three planets at the beginning and had no durantium. 

And it is not because I'm profoundly good at these 4x games; rather, the AI is making some major mistakes. When playing godlike, the AI has major advantages early in the game. It will have more colonies and far more resources than I do. It should attack me and end my upstart civilization. But that's not what happens.

Some of this material is probably mentioned elsewhere in these forums, so I apologize ahead for redundancy if that's the case.

1. AI does not seem to research improved weapons (deathray for example). If I research the higher weapons, a significant commitment of time, I can be assured to be the only civilization with this technology. In the late game I may face an enemy "huge" ship class with 500 hit points, but it will have six lasers and only do 6 points of damage. My huge ship, will have deathrays and 200 attack, plus loads of defense and assistance tech. I have yet to fight a battle in which the AI has end-game technology despite having a massive tech advantage most of the game. But it needs end game technology since there are a limited number of resources. The beam weapon track, for example, takes one elerium per weapon. If the AI only researches the first or second tier, then it is doing 2 damage per elerium. My deathray does 20 damage per elerium before any adjustments. Since elerium is limited, I will win.

2. AI does not attack with more than one transport. In the early game, when the AI has the advantage, I will often get attacked by a fleet with one transport and about ten escort ships. I see it coming. I rush two garrison units. I win the ensuing planetary battle. I may be left with no legions, but the AI won't bring a second transport even though it should/could immediately. If these early rushes were more deadly, then I would have to adjust my strategies: maybe I would be more diplomatic, or heed a threat and give an AI what it wanted, or get someone to help me. What I usually do is defend the first transport, while building my fleet. Eventually, because I lose no planets, I will win.

3. AI does not hire mercenaries that improve planets. The most powerful mercenaries are not the battle mercenaries, but rather the mercenaries that impact a planet. The tech mercenaries are especially important. But the AI never hires these. It only hires the mercenary ships that carry combat bonuses, leaving the best mercenaries for me. And I do not have to prioritize these hires because I know the AI will never hire them. Mine all mine. So I get the mercenary that gives raw production, then the one that gives percent increase in raw production, then the one that gives percent increase in manufacturing, and place them all on the same planet. The AI could do this earlier (it has the resources long before me), but it doesn't. Eventually, I will win, especially with the tech mercenaries surrounding my dedicated research planet.

4. AI does not attack my defending mercenary fleets. Those three mercenaries I hired? They should be killed asap. But the AI ignores them. This behavior is so consistent that even if an enemy fleet is next to my planet, I will not bother moving my defenseless mercenaries. The AI simply will not attack them.

5. AI does not appear to use espionage much. I've had one technology stolen, and four planetary resources hobbled by spies in the above 300+ hours of gaming. And I don't bother with defensive spies. Instead, I usually get about 8 or so spies, get ultra knowledge on all factions, then steal relentlessly. Meanwhile, the AI does nothing. It is not provoked by my constant stealing, it does not appear to defend against my constant stealing, and it does not turn the table and steal back. I grant that I have a huge expenditure in spies, with about five or six citizens committed to spying, plus a few free ones. But the AI would really only need one or two citizens to have a counter-espionage pool, reducing my success at spying. Maybe it does this. But it seems I steal a lot of tech, and it doesn't.

6. AI only attacks local starbases. When I go to war, my number one goal is to take a planet. But that might be too tough to do. My number two goal, a close second, is to take over resources, especially durantium. It's the most important resource in the game as it permits most starbase upgrades. I'll send a small fleet out into the black in order to take over resources, knowing that these are finite and that I can starve my enemy. If I have more resources, I can trade them, use them for weapons, use them for special modules on my ships, upgrade my planet resources, hire more mercenaries, etc. But the AI does not share this view. Sure, it will attack a starbase that is near my colonies. But any far-flung mining starbases are ignored by the AI. I don't bother upgrading these starbase defenses because they will never be attacked.

That's it for now. Thanks, Stardock, for your great game and truly rare support and dedication. I'm a big fan from back in the day and a founder's edition player. Next time you release another founder's edition...I'm buying that too.