I stay away from RTS. We don’t mix. Whenever we meet things are said, shots are fired. We are from different worlds and despite best efforts, we don’t get on. It’s like the Biggie and Tupac thing, but in game, yo.

Working out why myself and RTS games don’t get on is easy: numbers. From my days (and nights) as a World of Warcraft whore, I came to dislike games based on numbers, statistics or dice rolls. Games where a larger army will always beat the smaller, where a player a level higher than you will win. Where’s the skill or strategy in that? Too many RTS titles feel like a numbers game to me. I see past the smoke and mirrors. If I’m horrendously misjudging modern RTS, feel free to tell me in the comments. In fact, I’m open to being educated! Tell me what games to play and like an obedient dog, I shall.

Multiwinia, the Tron inspired RTS from Introversion (published for the Mac by Ambrosia) manages to do away with the traditional RTS pain. Gone is the micromanagement. Gone are the ludicrously long matches with one unit hidden in a clump of grass, mumbling over his defeat, but staunchly refusing to give up. Instead, a focus on speed, ease of movement and action. And you know what? Me like!

A rough sequel to Darwinia, Multiwinia finds you controlling armies fighting to the death in expansive and varied landscapes. Complete with rolling hills, colourful forests, undulating seas and a cold, digital breeze, in it’s geometric clarity, Multwinia is a breathtaking game. Moving through the landscape after a match gives you time to observe the details; Multiwinian souls scattered throughout the battlefield like stars, freeze-framed grenade fire that sends troops flying into the air. It’s a breathtaking landscape, but a dark one; forests hold the ghosts of Multiwinians in their branches, ants pinch your troops from the battlefield, carrying them off to their nests in neat lines.

But it’s not all pretty pretty. Multiwinia has carnage at it’s core. Once a peace loving, law abiding race, content with themselves, Multiwinians are now a murderous bunch, fractured, each faction intent on domination and destruction. And they’re ruined their world in the process. Remind you of anyone?

In a little under ten minutes you can run through the game’s tutorials and straight into multiplayer. Simple control choices make this possible. For multiple selection of troops, left click creates a circle that expands slowly, allowing you to quickly and easily select any number of Multiwinians. This method of control is so intuitive that it makes battles a breeze. It’s imprecise so to draw you away from the micro management and over to digital destruction. Right click sends orders to Multwinians; move here, send troops there, or make a formation. Watching your troops proceed across a geometric landscape to a force greater than your own, bristling with laser fire, is an awesome sight. Moving out, high into the sky where you can hear the breeze, it’s easy to see the pattern of the battlefield. All things at a distance are easier to understand.

There are traditional game modes like Domination and King of the Hill but also Capture the Statue – lug huge statues to your base to score points, Assault – team based attack/defence, Rocket Riot – fuel your rocket, load with people and blast off to win, and Blitzkreig – capture flags in a particular order. Along with modes are a multitude of maps; some simple, some ridiculous, some near impossible. And if any mode or map combination doesn’t suit you, modify the match! Change frequency of reinforcements, crate drops, time limits and even scoring modes. There’s enough detail in the mechanics of Multiwinia to give hours of play.

Like in the Yorkshire classic Worms, crate drops provide you with fancy weaponry designed to give you an advantage. Multiwinia drops crates at random locations over the map and give anything from nuclear weapons, ant nests and magic forests to asteroid showers and rocket turrets. The problem is is that if your enemy has more land than you (but not necessarily more troops or spawn points), they’re more likely to get a crate drop in their area. Once they’ve got that crate (providing it’s something positive and not something negative like a self spawning ant nest or an outbreak of the feared Evilwinians) they’re often given a huge, game turning advantage. I’ve seen some matches flip when players have received – in the first minute – a nuclear strike and a asteroid shower, which are some of the most powerful weapons in the game. You can switch crates drops off, or change them so they’re less frequent, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re playing on a server and every game you play goes to the dogs. Mind you, crate drops do make things original. It ain’t no typical RTS!

Somehow the details, the magic touches of Multiwinia, can be lost in the gameplay. If you dip into the game – which I suspect many players do – they’re not going to see the clever choices or innovative ideas. I wish there was greater appreciation for Multiwinia. It’s a solid game that’s well worth the price, created by a bunch of passionate, thoughtful developers.

Sadly there aren’t a huge number of players online for multiplayer. This isn’t a flaw of the game, but the players! Perhaps we’ll start to see posters around towns and cities. Something along the lines of: Multiwinia needs YOU! Of course there’s always single player, but for a true test of your abilities, it’s got to be online.

You can find me on Multiwinia under the name Hardcore Harvey. I’m not hardcore at all, in fact I’m decidedly softcore, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

 

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