"Rather than carefully constructing a balanced army, Multiwinia demands victory through superior manouvers, feinting and flanking, and knowing when to retreat and when to press the attack. Should you amass your Multis for a later assault, or have them charge out of the spawn points to bolster that choke point? All this planning might sound complicated, but Multiwinia's intuitive interface frees up enough brainpower to make tactical planning almost instinctual, as easy as 3.141592653589..."
Multiwinia is an unusually tricky title for me to wrap my head around. It's an RTS, obviously, but not quite like any RTS in recent memory; You don't gather resources and build a base, you don't research new units and construct armies, and you don't spend hours memorizing stats and build orders.
I gather it's an expansion for a singleplayer title, Darwinia, but I don't care. A novel idea is a novel idea. If you're familiar with its predecessor you'll probably know already most of what I'm about to say, and feel free to roll your eyes as I gawk at the reinvention of the wheel. But if you're like me and Multiwinia is your first experience with the Darwinia engine, read on.
In Multiwinia, you have at your disposal a single type of unit, the titular(heh, there's that word again) Multiwinian. Multis, as I like to call them, spawn from aptly-named spawn points scattered around the map, and one of your ongoing goals is to capture them with your digital minions so they can start cranking out comrades. Multiwinians shoot lasers (pew-pew!), and will occasionally lob a grenade at tightly-packed clumps of enemies (BOOOOOM!). Strategy is pretty simple; the usual way to beat a Multi is with more Multis.
Your overall objective varies depending on the game mode you're presently enthralled in, but usually involves lots of 2D carnage. And while these modes are pretty standard fare, everything from King of the Hill to Assault/Defend (and the offbeat Capture the Statue), a Multiwinia match is far from dull thanks to periodic crates that drop from the sky bearing goodies. Crates give you a small advantage over the competition, and anyone who's played an online game knows that people will fight brutally to gain the slightest edge over one another (and the AI is just as relentless). A crate drop might contain machine gun artillery capable of mowing down waves of enemy Multis, or a flamethrower turret that sets them ablaze. Another might have armored troop carriers you can use to zip your soldiers across the battlefield, or a FLYING SAUCER that collects the souls of dead Multis and resurrects them back at your spawn point. Still another might...start growing trees. Magical trees.
Not quite sure what those do.
There's lots of strange and wonderful things crates can bring to spice up the battlefield, including some negative effects that hinder your own efforts. But while crates add an element of unpredictability to every match, all they really do is force a player to rethink their battle plans. The clever player can circumvent these (bizzare) boons with a bit of quick thinking - and that's where the real trick is. With only the same Multiwinians comprising your army, with only a little effort and attention needed to dodge a nuclear missile or snatch up a gun turret, there's no rock-paper-scissors gameplay to fall back on. Victory will be yours only by outthinking and outplanning your foes, making Multiwinia a fairly signifigant departure from the usual real-time strategy game.
Rather than carefully constructing a balanced army, Multiwinia demands victory through superior manouvers, feinting and flanking, and knowing when to retreat and when to press the attack. Should you amass your Multis for a later assault, or have them charge out of the spawn points to bolster that choke point? Right-clicking any Multi will promote him to an Officer, a stationary guardian that will send passing multis on towards another objective, useful for setting up patrols or a steady stream of reenforcements. Or, have him go on the move and gather the soldiers around him into the phalanx-like "formation mode", deadly to anything in front but vunerable to flank attacks or a well-placed grenade. All this planning might sound complicated, but Multiwinia's intuitive interface frees up enough brainpower to make tactical planning almost instinctual, as easy as 3.141592653589...
There's a simplicity here that hasn't been seen in the genre for years, and it's a simplicity I welcome with open arms. That same simplicity can also be seen in its retro-style graphics, which add to the charm of this clever little title. Multiwinia is a casual RTS, something I don't think I've seen before and would have been skeptical about before picking up this game. In fact the very idea of a "casual" strategy game seems a contradiction in terms to me, yet here is Multiwinia staring me in the face. Perhaps I need to rethink my genre classifications.
Just as soon as I'm done with this next match.
Freelance review by Will Roy (December 08, 2008)
Will is grumpy, sarcastic and Canadian. He occasionally crawls out of his igloo to cover sci-fi and strategy games. Has a love-hate relationship with cats. And the colour purple.
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