It's been almost three years since Introversion released Darwinia on the Steam platform, a move that allowed them to access a much larger community than they could with Darwinia's original March 2005 release. With its simplistic graphical design and game-play that made anyone that touched the game crave for more, Darwinia became a hit beyond anything like Introversion's previous two cult classics. Now, Introversion has released its next vision for the Darwinian universe, and has aptly named it Multiwinia. As the title might suggest, Multiwinia is a multiplayer foray into the virtual world, and although it feels like a small addition to the original Darwinia opus, it should have gamers across the globe itching to play it.
Darwinia's storyline was like something out a science-fiction novel or technology magazine. Dr. Sepulveda, a hermetic genius, spent 20 years developing a virtual utopia that he called, you guessed it, Darwinia. The inhabitants of this living and breathing world, labeled Darwinians, were meant to be an attraction for people across the globe, a deviation from what humanity thought possible. Unfortunately, a virus invaded the world of Darwinia and forced Dr. Sepulveda to request the aide of outside forces; aka the player. Expanding on that storyline, the Darwinians that fought the virus in the original game have developed into separate tribes and now call themselves Multiwinians. Bent on destroying each other, these multicolor factions are once again in the hands of real-time strategy fanatics everywhere.
The environments in Multiwinia will be very similar to those who played Darwinia, as the simplistic level design and strange geographical features are once again the standard. Although this may turn off some newcomers, most will be amazed by how colorful and seemingly full of life each of the game's forty-plus maps look, along with how fluidly the Multiwinians traverse the terrain of their home world. Couple this with the sounds of explosions and the realistic screams of dying Multiwinians, and you've got an enticing backdrop in which to dominate your adversaries.
While the control scheme in Darwinia was sometimes tricky despite its simplistic layout, Multiwinia takes the cake for its easy interface. No more drawing shapes or anything of the like. Now, players simply select a range of Multiwinians and send them on their way, or promote single Multiwinians into officers that either direct the flow of their companions or rally them into square, tight-nit squadrons. While the majority of the microscopic critters will fight on their own, the player has a few options for improving their stance on the battleground. For starters, the Multiwinians can now collect crates that randomly fall on the battlefield to activate an event or attain a weapon. There are the beneficial items that the player can use to their advantage, like shields, three types of turrets, meteor showers, and nuclear strikes. Crates also drop neutral items like ant hills and eggs, both of which can be placed strategically to annihilate opposing forces. Use caution, however, because the monsters that come from the eggs and the ants that sprout from the ant hills will attack your own Multiwinians if they get in the way. The final category of possible crate drops will find your Multiwinians in an unfortunate position, as these unfavorable crates spawn effects like the plague, a destructive force that will slowly kill your tiny friends.
Something new to Multiwinia is the slight amount of direct control you have on the battlefield. When a crate reveals the Squad bonus, you have the choice of placing three brightly colored troops that you can then zoom in on to take control of. Also, when you drag the camera towards a friendly turret, you come into a first-person view with a crosshair in the middle of the screen. If your enemy is sending waves of troops in your direction and your turret seems to be slacking off on the job, you can rely on your own skills to blast the invaders to smithereens.
Since Multiwinia is entirely composed of multiplayer scenarios, Introversion has included multiple game modes to keep players occupied. These include some well-known favorites like Domination, King of the Hill, and Capture the Statue. Also, there are some fresh ideas like Assault, in which one team defends a WMD and the other team tries to deactivate it; Rocket Riot, a scenario that finds Multiwinians scrambling to fuel and blast off in a rocket; and, finally, Blitzkrieg, an all-out scramble to capture points spread around the map. While the single player mode gets rather boring after a few games (mainly due to the fact that Multiwinia lacks any hardcore strategic elements), players can always go online to take part in hosted matches. Since most people will be able to play the game without spending too much time learning how, players should always be able to find someone to challenge online.
Introversion recently put out Multiwinia as a solitary title with a $20 price-tag, but the game will also be paired with the original Darwinia in an upcoming release intended for the Xbox Live Marketplace. This move should introduce new players to the worlds of Darwinia and Multiwinia and will also allow an already booming economy of gamers to partake in something intrinsically original. As long as Introversion sticks to its plan, it will not be too surprising if this combination package breaks some records. While there are gamers of all varieties seeking groundbreaking games in their appropriate niches, everyone and anyone is sure to enjoy an experience that is so innovative and downright fun. Multiwinia is that experience, and now fans of the series have something else to look forward to: The next phase of the Darwinia-Multiwinia process.