PC, Mac OS X
Developer: Introversion Software
Introversion Software, Ambrosia Software.
19th September, 2008.
Multiwinia. From 'Multi' - a prefix, meaning "having many", 'win' - a verb, meaning to achieve victory, and 'ia' - fuck knows, quite frankly.
The multiwinian fell and splatted on the screen.
Multiwinia is a real-time strategy (or real-time tactics, if you want to get stroppy) game, with one to four players, six different modes, and 50 maps. In Domination, you squabble over spawn points. In King of the Hill, you fight to occupy scoring zones. Capture the Statue is like capture the flag, except the statues are big, heavy, it takes lots of 'winians to move them, and they are more fragile than your grandmother's hips. Assault is limited to two teams (but still up to four players), with one defending a bomb, and the other attacking. Rocket Riot gives each player a rocket to fuel, crew and launch, which the enemy can of course interfere with. Blitzkrieg involves capturing a line of flags that link your home flag to your opponent's.
The visual style of the game is as coherent and complete as you'll ever see. The square-grid sky and triangle-grid ground, the chunky buildings and craft, stick figure 'winians, blocky projectiles and luminous explosions, Introversion have dug deep into the past and brought it forward with a new gloss of effects and the modern sheen of graphical power. It's lovely. It looks exactly like a virtual world. I know, I've seen Tron.
Airstrike + forest = fiery goodness.
The audio is also very minimalist, and rather haunting. It's never as horrific as Defcon
, which is something to be thankful for, but the screams of a mass of burning 'winians are pretty bad. Not much in the way of music to be had, though there's always the howl of the virtual wind over the virtual plains to cheer you up. Sound effects match the visuals, very bleep-blip with some hard attention-getting bass in the explosions.
The controls, like everything else in the game, are slimmed and streamlined down to the essentials. Left click to select, right click to create officers, space to deselect, tab to flick through your units and power ups. Using the scroll wheel to control the height of the view takes a bit of getting used to, but it's hardly a game-breaking flaw. You never get lost in the keys, and while the option to fiddle around and assign some hotkeys would be nice, it's not necessary. Numbered slots for the power ups is perhaps the only addition one could ask for without being a bastard about it.
So, you're dropped onto the map and start blattering the Hell out of each other. Along with the undisciplined 'winian mob, you can create officers to head up formations, or tell your forces where to go. Armours provide protection and transport, even across the otherwise impassable fractal seas (note to self, look up fractal
), and stationary turrets of various kinds provide massive firepower. Simple enough. Then, you have crates dropping from the sky every now and again, providing power ups. These range from simple speed or firepower boosts to your 'winians, up to meteor strikes, ants (no, not the harmless kind, the other kind), nukes and Futurewinians. Dun Dun DUNNNNNN
Now, the crate system has seen some criticism. The fact that one player can be lagging behind and then arbitrarily acquire a nuclear weapon has obviously irritated some people. The system bears comparison to Mario Kart's (no, hear me out). If a player is only behind by a little, they receive only a little help. If a player is behind by a lot, they receive a lot. While this can have some game-spoiling results, I regard the system as a great leveller and a lot more beneficial to the game as a whole than the usual system of a new player getting the shit kicked out of him in a totally one-sided match versus a more experienced player. It keeps the rapid pace of the game from being nothing more than a clickfest, injects a random element, the odd two amongst all those predictable ones and zeros. You can also alter the crate drop rate and have them only contain basic power ups if someone's lip is wobbling. Even at its game-breaking worst, you've only lost a few minutes of play usually, with most games taking about 10-15 minutes in total.
Remember kids, if the nukes launch, it's Game Over. For EVERYBODY.
The starting power ups option, on the other hand, is the Antichrist, and should be burned.
The various modes also let you play with the scoring system, regularity and size of reinforcements, time limit, sudden death, handicap, and so on, so you can tailor games to suit. You can also run Multiwinia in a window ranging from the wee 640x480 up to 1280x1024. The Domination, KotH, Capture the Statue and Blitzkrieg modes feature one of my favourite things about this game: Retribution
Basically, if your forces get wiped out, you are not relegated to a mere spectator. You can still interfere, but solely through power ups. On a regular basis, you're given air strikes, soul-grabbing forests and various other mechanisms of mayhem and you can use them wherever you like. Needless to say, this is a lot of fun, and I think Introversion have turned me into some sort of debased RTS pervert, looking forward to being wiped out so I can stop worrying about my forces and 'winning', and crack on with causing some havoc.
Enough about my depraved mind, anyway. Multiwinia is fun. Versus the AI, it's a decent game, nothing more, nothing less. Where Multiwinia really shines is online multiplayer, and its longevity is its brevity, speed, pace, and unpredictability. Although there is the occasional dissonant note in your ode to joy when you hear the screams of hundreds as they burn, you'll often find yourself smiling as you play. As your forces cohere and fight, as enemy 'winians flee explosions and wail as they run away aflame, as your turrets blow polygonal chunks from enemy Armours, as the Space Invadery aircraft thrum overhead. No doubt you'll be calling your opponent names when they plonk an anthill on your spawn point, but you'll probably be smiling as you do it.
Dismissable in single player, unmissable in multiplayer. Multiwinia, FTW.