Multiwinia is a stand-alone multiplayer skirmish game based on Introversion’s 2003 release of Darwinia. Fans of this sleeper title might not have expected a sequel from the developer, one that tends to shy away from rehashes and instead focus on entirely new games. While Darwinia has a lengthy single player campaign, it lacks any kind of multiplayer. So, Multiwinia combines the action elements from Darwinia with six multiplayer gametypes.
King of the Hill involves holding marked locations to gain more points than your enemy. Blitzkrieg is similar to King of the Hill, except the sectors you capture contain flags that are raised and lowered like those in the Battlefield series of games.
Rocket Riot requires the capturing of solar panels to harvest their output for rocket fuel. Assault mode has one side defending a base while another attacks. Domination is a free for all. Capture the Statue has your Darwinians lug statues back to your base for points while the enemy is attempting to do the same and prevent you from capturing any.
The spin on these modes is that you have to capture Darwinian production facilities (the only way to improve your numbers), and locate crates dropped from space which contain bonus units like turrets and transports.
The six gameplay modes and the new selection methods offered make this RTS feel more like Pikmin on the Nintendo Gamecube than a conventional RTS game like Command and Conquer. This is both good and bad: good in that the bite-sized games only last a few minutes, but not so great if you’re looking for any depth, which is only to be found in making formations out of your Darwinians and using the crates.
However good those modes are, there are some problems with the game. First of all, the tutorials are vague and not polished very well. Most of the interface changes appropriately when you plug in a gamepad except for the tutorial messages, which still refer to keyboard keys instead of the gamepad buttons.
After each game you’re dumped out to the menu with no way to continue with the same opponents. The game also does not force you to change your nickname in order to be uniquely identified in online matches, nor does it tell you how to do this. You’re left to guess until you figure out that you have to click on it at the pre-game lobby.
In-game, every player must ready up for the game to start, leaving the power in the hands of any one person to hold the game hostage. Routinely I’ve seen players online hold out, refusing to ready up, until their conditions are met for the game to be played. Granted, this particular issue isn’t the fault of Introversion, however these and other issues must be addressed for the community to thrive.
Multiwinia is on the right track, as Introversion have already released a patch implementing text chat in the pre-game lobby.
Even though it is more of an enhancement to Darwinia than a new game, Multiwinia is a worthwhile purchase if you enjoyed Darwinia and were left wanting more with the same theme. However, it would be a poor starting point if you haven’t played the earlier game in the series. So, try out the demo if you’ve played Darwinia and see if you like Multiwinia. It is a quirky RTS that should convert those who try it.