Overview: The AI seems better than the last version of beta. We seem to be at a point where the AI understands how important a resource rush is. It reminds me of the first time I played GalCiv2 and got only 10 out of 200 planets before the AI had colonized them all. That is a good thing, except that the AI factions are not at war with the creatures, so they can take everything without winning it. My other mistake, even if they did have to fight them too, was trying to clean areas out for loot without bringing any pioneers to make outposts along the way. I lost alot of good opportunities.
Starting Area: I seem to have fallen into a magic based start. I have Lady Irane with Fire, Air, and Life. The other two heroes are of high intellect but have otherwise very low stats. Since I can assume this time will be harder to level, I had better choose Path of the Mage for all three and use regular troops to be my defense. My city is only a 4/2. This was a setback, but I am right next to a Fireshard, Wheat, Iron, Ancient Temple (+3 mana per turn!), and Scenic View. I will have no problems specializing in magic. Especially since one hero has Water and the other has Earth. I wonder is all this was designed or if this is just a lucky start. Either way, specialization seems to be much improved for this particular game.
The AI: Capitar sent out a suspiciously early pioneer by itself (lower group). I decide to let this play out since i have no idea where their capitol is.
The XP Nerf: I just love the new XP system. Getting the first few levels seems easy, but important. Then you hit the level 4 wall and you get desperate. This image here is of me fighting a pretty large army of darklings. They were all over the place when I started, made for some good early fights.
Creature AI: Air Elementals are using their spell to knock down all my units. It took me several rounds to ever get a hit, but eventually Lady Irane got a crit and the game was over. Nice to see a battle that has a very unique tactical situation. If there had been two of those damn things I might have lost really bad.
Cities: Although the AI doesn't often attack cities until much later in the game, I decided to make my only city impenetrable. That is a fire wall that does 15 fire damage at the beginning of combat. I am pretty safe in there. This time my city really feels like it echoes my specialization into fire magic and magical buildings. Nice job.
Deadly Alliance: This is proof that the AI has been expanding so well because it can walk right through creatures. I wondered how they expanded to 15 cities and outposts before I got my second one out. I can handle this as a tester, but it means I will have to slay any pioneers near my lands. So be it. I am impressed at how quickly they expanded on Challenging. By the time I saw what was happening it was too late. Nice to see some aggression.
Expansion: The AI took every settling position on the map. My choices were war or defeat. I chose to claim this undefended village for my own and rush buy pioneers to be able to capture all the shards in the area. This time Tarth will have a colonial empire in the vast deserts of this forsaken realm.
Tactical AI: The AI is using my unit designs from previous games. It excites me to think that by virtue of my perfect units, the AI will be harder to beat and thus challenge me to make even better ones. In this case the AI happened to see my main army coming for an outpost and apparently got some fast units there before I could attack. I am on top there with the mantle of fire spearmen and Lady Irane. The AI used its +3 to Initiative and Moves to charge past my spearmen and kill off my archers. It then used its Katars (very fast and mobile mounted archers) to cripple one of my hero. Later, their regular archers fired at my spearmen. A smart move as any successful hit on them does 4 fire damage with melee. Once I was able to cripple their archers and protect mine, the enemy was devastated by my Fire imbued Spearmen. The AI fought well, but I was using some powerful magic to give me the win. The battle was quite beautiful to watch and rather exciting. This gives mt alot more faith that the AI can make a formidable opponent some day. Keep up the great work and please keep my designs available to the AI. That is just genius at work.