Multiwinia Hands-On

We got an exclusive hands-on with the Blitzkrieg multiplayer mode in Introversion's upcoming strategy game.


Multiwinia: Survival of the Flattest

Introversion Software has come a long way since it started out in a small English bedroom. From shipping its first game on CD-Rs to signing a distribution deal with Valve's Steam, Introversion is now successful enough to have a central London office where it's developing its fourth original title. The company's Tom and Vicky Arundel met with us in the south of the capital to give us an overview of the company's development, followed by a hands-on with new modes from its upcoming Multiwinia.

In Blitzkrieg, you have to capture your enemies' flags while keeping control of your own.
In Blitzkrieg, you have to capture your enemies' flags while keeping control of your own.

"It really kicked off when we told publishers we didn't want them f**cking up our game," said director Tom, referencing the company's famous IGF award acceptance speech for Darwinia. "Straight after, pretty much every publisher in the business approached us," he continues. He recounts how one major British name turned down his request for £50,000 of funding on one of the company's early titles--a decision that meant he had to survive on nothing, but one that's allowed Introversion to stay completely independent ever since. Having inked deals with Microsoft to develop titles for the Xbox 360, Introversion is now lucky enough to work with the business' major names while continuing to play by its own rules.

Our favourite weapon is the air strike, where Space Invaders-like aliens fire on your enemies.
Our favourite weapon is the air strike, where Space Invaders-like aliens fire on your enemies.

Today though, we're meeting with Introversion to see Multiwinia, the multiplayer take on the developer's first major hit, Darwinia. The game is pretty much complete at this stage, and although the control scheme went through a major rehaul recently, the PC version is on track for its September 19 release. Darwinia fans should be able to grasp the concept behind this four-player strategy game, but those unfamiliar with the company's games should imagine a game that crosses real-time strategy resource management, pikmin-like cuteness, and Tron-esque visuals.

It's clear that Multiwinia is designed from the ground up to be accessed by as many people as possible. It's designed for both PC and Mac, and it will run on fairly humble machines with just the keyboard and mouse for controls. You move the camera using the W, A, S, and D keys and zoom in and out using the mouse wheel. Control of the Multiwinians is all on the mouse buttons--hold the left down to circle the units you want to control, and then move them using the right button. New Multiwinians constantly spill out of your home base, though, so to stop you from having to go back and forth, you can create officers who will automatically traffic other units to certain destinations. If you have an Xbox 360 controller or other USB-compatible pad, then you can use that too.

 The game's visual style is as strikingly original as the gameplay itself.
The game's visual style is as strikingly original as the gameplay itself.

The team was keen to show us Blitzkrieg, a never-before-seen game mode that mixes Capture the Flag and Last Man Standing multiplayer styles. The idea is to maintain control of your home flag while sending out Multiwinians to capture your opponents' flags. The flags are interlinked by power lines, so in order to win the map, you have to take all of the flags in the game. When players lose their flags, then they drop out of the game, but they remain as god-like creatures who can seek retribution against their enemies with powerful weapons every 30 seconds. Normal players also have access to these powers by collecting crate drops. Deadly forests can consume entire patches of Multiwinians and turn them into rogue units, nukes allow you to obliterate from afar, or you can get up close and personal with a tank. But our favourite weapon was the air strike, which sees tiny Space Invader-like aliens descend rain destruction.

There are more nods to video game culture in the second mode we played, Capture the Statue. The idea in Capture the Statue is to get Multiwinians to collect huge monoliths and bring them back to your base. The statues feature cheeky signs with messages, such as "Your ad here"--a nod to the rise of in-game advertising in many major games. Although we didn't see it, we are told that there will also be a statue wielding a Companion Cubes too; Valve's Gabe Newell is apparently a huge fan of Darwinia, and with Introversion owing a huge part of their success to the company's Steam platform, they thought it only right to honour them somehow. As for game mode itself, we found it much more frantic than Blitzkrieg. Although we were winning for most of the game, it soon turned into absolute chaos as the crate drops increased and the majority of teams abandoned statue hunting to fend off attacks. Adding to the confusion was a UFO that caught our Multiwinians in its tractor beam and turned them into Futurewinians--rogue units that ran amok with their own agendas.

There will be about 50 maps in the game in total, all of which can be played locally against the AI, over a LAN, or on the Internet with three other people. Clearly, Introversion wants to have people playing during their lunch hours (or whenever the boss isn't looking) because each game is designed to be over within 15 minutes. There was some confusion as to whether fans will be able to create their own levels for the game, but if it's a success, then the developers say they'd love to work on a new map pack. The PC version of Multiwinia will launch on September 19, with a £15 price point for download and £20 for the disc version. Introversion's Web site will also offer a £30 special edition with an art book, foam models, postcards, and the original Darwinia. Sadly, the Mac version has slipped slightly, but the team hopes to have the conversion work done sometime in October. Stay tuned for our full review once the game launches.

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