Introversion SoftwareDeveloped By:
E10 (Everyone 10 & Up)Release Date:
TBA 2009 Screenshots: LinkIntroversion Store: Buy Now!Website: LinkWritten By:
I never played developer Introversion Software’s 2005 cult sensation Darwinia. Despite being a devoted PC gamer, I just never got to it, despite hearing its praise on nearly every gaming site that I frequent. Maybe I just didn’t “get it” at the time, how this stripped down pseudo-RTS featuring single-pixel sprites battling it out on grids could be so gripping. I wouldn’t say I wrote it off, but I definitely did not have the correct perceptions of it, either. Playing the recently released pseudo-sequel Multiwinia has shown me just how wrong and foolish I was.
Multiwinia is easily the greatest example you’ll find of streamlined game design. Simplicity is the name of the game both in graphics and gameplay. Introversion almost creates a new genre by fusing the unlikely pair of the fast-paced design philosophy of arcade style games with the usually convoluted real time strategy genre. Throw out what usually makes an RTS game “deep.” There is no base building, no dozens of dif-ferent unit types, no resource gathering, no build queues, no micromanagement, and no complex game of rock, paper, scissors to be constantly tracking.
What Multiwinia does provide are two unit types: darwinians and darwinian officers. Darwinians shoot lasers and occasionally throw grenades, while officers can organize darwinians into a wall formation or act as a destination flag to automatically guide spawning darwinians to a chosen destination. Vehicles appear specific to certain maps, and turrets and upgrades drop from the sky as random power-ups. Depth in the gameplay comes from the variations of basic attack and defend tactics that you can implement, managing and guiding your ever-growing army of darwinians, and using your powers-ups to your greatest advantage.
The gameplay modes in Multwinia are broken down into various iterations on a few familiar archetypes. Domination is basically a death-mach: wipe out your enemies and be the last one standing. King of the Hill and Blitzkrieg consist of capturing and controlling/defending various points on the map, with Blitzkrieg the more the tactically heavy of the two, requiring a fair amount of planning. Capture the Statue is a form of capture the flag, only the flag is a giant statue that requires many darwinians to move at a very slow pace. Rocket Riot is similar to King of the Hill and Blitzkrieg, except bigger and longer. It involves capturing various solar panels to fuel a rocket controlled by the player. The rocket must be fueled and then filled with 100 darwinians to launch, and the first team to launch their rocket wins. Rockets can be attacked, reversing a player’s progress, making this mode very deep and very tricky. Finally, there’s Assault, where players are divided into two teams: attackers and defenders. Defenders have to protect a heavily-fortified position while attackers have to try to breach their defenses and destroy the WMD at the center of the base. It isn’t just a suicide run where you cross-your-fingers and send your darwinians to their deaths, though. Attackers can capture turrets to assist them and it requires a great deal of coordination and planning on the part of both sides.
Maybe now you see what I mean when I say that arcade and RTS are two great flavors that go great together. Multiwinia very much is, at heart, an arcade game. Few games last longer than fifteen minutes and some are over in as quickly as five. Rocket Riot, which has no time limit, can last quite a while when playing against a hyper-coordinated AI in single-player, but most multiplayer matches can be completed in a good half-hour. This is the kind of game that’s meant to be played in small bits and pieces here and there. Sit down and play for a marathon session, and you’ll likely find yourself burning out pretty quickly.
Actually, this brings me to Multiwinia’s only real flaw. It becomes almost imme-diately apparent that Multiwinia isn’t meant to be played single-player. The super-efficient and capable AI is just able to move and think faster than the player. This doesn’t make it too difficult, necessarily, but at times it turns the gameplay into a battle of attrition. The AI just never makes mistakes, which can cause games to drag on or feel one-sided. Multiwinia is a multiplayer game, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. However, it does feel as though Multiwinia is meant as the multiplayer com-ponent that some might argue was missing from Darwinia. Playing just one really feels like only experiencing half of the game. Then again, the price is right, so there really isn’t much room to complain about content. Still, I can’t help but feel that the upcoming Darwinia+--which features both games together on Xbox Live Arcade--will be the com-plete game that Introversion maybe sought to make from the beginning.
Ultimately, Multiwinia is a satisfying game in and of itself. For former RTS play-ers like myself, who have been scared away from the genre by continual humiliation at the hands of pro gamers and ever-expanding tech-trees, Multiwinia is a welcome return to the basic essence of the genre. It never feels like playing a spreadsheet or a game of menu navigation. Challenge doesn’t come from excessive micromanagement, map exploration, and hot-key memorization. Challenge comes from meeting the challenges of a given gameplay mode, in a given map, with the resources that are available to you. It’s a beautiful reduction of what makes the RTS genre what it is: strategy. Good strategy and fast thinking are all you need you play Multiwinia, and at the end of the day, shouldn’t that be enough?8.5/
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