AI control, an all-new feature in a paradox game but what does it mean to you? It is quite simple you can take any unit in the command structure and give it objectives. It will then attempt to achieve them while letting you know if it has enough resources for its mission.
Well first letís talk to those of you who feel that they have no interest what so ever in using this feature. Well first off there is no need to use it and you are certainly not going to be forced to. However it is still useful to you, you see it is a rather neat way to test the AI. The AI is using the exact same system, so every improvement we manage to make to player control is as improvement to the combat AI. It also splits AI testing between higher and lower level command. So if a player using AI control can drive deep into Russia as Germany and the German AI canít then we know straight away where to focus our efforts to get more out of the AI.
The steps to AI control
1) Sort out your command structure. The AI is not going to tamper with your well-organised command structure. There is an exception to this, units assigned out of position in the command structure (e.g. a division under an army or a corps assigned direct to theatre HQ) are classed as reserves and the AI will freely reassign them to where it needs them inside the command structure. This gives you a blend of handing over units to the AI without having it mess things up totally and at the same time allow you to give the flexibility in the use of the units.
The same holds true if you reinforce an AI controlled formation. If you insert the unit in its correct level of the command structure it will stay put, otherwise the AI will be free to reassign it according to its needs. Essentially we are setting up a trade off here. The more rigid you make the command structure the less flexibility you will give the AI in using it but at the same should you take back control things will be easier.
2) Assign objectives. Once you activate the unit AI you are free to assign it objectives. This is a simple right click on the map, telling the AI these are the provinces we want you to care about. Assigning provinces you control are those the AI wants to defend while assigning provinces that the enemy controls will mean it looks to attack them.
3) Set a stance. We have 4 here, prepare, defend, attack and blitzkrieg. At each level the local odds needed to consider attacking is reduces and the sensitivity the AI has to its flanks is reduced. At prepare it wonít attack at all at blitzkrieg it will attack at every opportunity. The prepare order is especially useful if you are thinking about offensives. You set the formation over to prepare and give it some objectives, it will then give you feedback about what units it needs and start moving its troops into position for a future attack without actually attacking. Perfect if you fancy getting your army group ready to attack Stalingrad and the Caucuses. For each stance above it the AI will becomes more likely to attack. So even if you order a formation onto the defensive if the enemy ignore it and weaken the front in front of it then it will try at the very least to improve its defensive position.
Now should you decide to assume manual control of a unit (say a Corps inside an Army Group) then this will deactivate the whole chain of command. Each existing unit will continue to follow its current order (e.g. move here or attack there) but no new ones will be issued. The AI cannot cope with human interference of its orders.
Now theatres are a very special animal they have wide area of operation that they will look to operate in. These are defined by the AI and as such you have no need to actually use the theatre control option. There is a map mode that shows you the current theatres the AI would use. If a player activates a theatre HQ inside a theatre zone of operation then this theatre will assume responsibility for the whole zone, you can supply it specific objectives to give to focus as well. It will request assets in the same way. You can of course have assets outside the theatre HQs control but it will ignore these when it comes to decide what it is doing. When the situation changes the theatre map will change and new theatre zones created or removed. At this point you have the option to simply split or merge the theatres according the situation or assume manual control and divide things up yourself.
I suppose the big question is does the AI cheat? Well the AI doesnít cheat but it can do something you canít. It can consider and evaluate more that its current plan. We donít consider this a cheat because you will do the same, it just is able to talk directly to its theatre HQs to find out exactly what they need where as you guess these things and then find out when the plan is put into prepare. Even while the German Western Theatre is off blitzing France a higher-level AI can look at and consider a plan for the invasion of Britain and start thinking is this worthwhile, what units it will need, and start building them. How does this differ from the strategic AIs in In Nomine or Vae Victis? Well the big difference is not only does it consider other strategic possibilities, it will also remember them. It allows it to not only look at the current situation, but also has the situation changed. Giving it a new level in strategic thought.