iPad Game Review: Outwitters (Universal) Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Outwitters is a multiplayer-only turn-based strategy game. Its killer feature is asynchronous online play. However, it does not support local Bluetooth/WiFi play, nor does it have a single-player component of any kind.
The turn-based gameplay of Outwitters revolves around the judicious use of action points, called Wits. These Wits are automatically earned each turn, and unused Wits are carried over for the next round. You will never have as many as you would like, but then again, neither will your opponent (more on that later). Movement, attacking, recruiting additional units; all of these will use up your valuable Wits, and when they’re gone, you’re dead in the water. If that wasn’t enough, players must also contend with the conspicuous absence of an undo button. Once you move a unit, you’re stuck with it. This is a necessary design choice due to Outwitters’ fog of war mechanic (you can only see what your units can see) but it’s brutal nonetheless. Even these design choices wouldn’t be enough to prevent players from plowing headlong into the darkness with a strong unit so the folks at One Man Left have also decided to remove the ability for units to retaliate when attacked. Fog of war + no takebacksies + limited resources + no retaliation could easily add up to a relentlessly unforgiving game. However, Outwitters has no single-player component so all of these seemingly sadistic constraints actually work to prevent cheaters from prospering as opportunities to exploit are simply nonexistent.
There are currently three different teams available and nine maps (six 1v1 and three 2v2). Although the teams are graphically very different, all the units behave identically except for the top-tier uber unit. It would have been nice to see a bit more variety in the units, but it’s easy to understand why they’re not once you consider how difficult it would be to balance different teams with different capabilities. If you doubt the veracity of this, you only need consider mega-developer Blizzard, who spends almost as much time balancing their games as they do coding them. Outwitters does not currently support Game Center Achievements, although leaderboards for league play are supported.
I enjoyed the graphical style of Outwitters very much. They are cartoonish in appearance, but not to a fault, and each unit is easily distinguished from the others. I did feel, however, that the movement mechanic was a bit of a cheat in that the pieces hop from their starting location to their destination rather than walking/rolling/shambling/etc. The absence of movement animation does not affect gameplay, obviously, but it does detract a bit from the game’s polish, which is otherwise buffed to a high sheen due to full retina assets for supported devices, among other things.
The sound effects are of high quality, but as with all turn-based games, they really aren’t all that noticeable. The soundtrack, however, is fantastic, and sounds a bit like Danny Elfman composed it while wearing a pirate hat (he didn’t, by the way. Mike Reagan of REdVOLT Audio did the music for Outwitters).
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Thankfully, One Man Left took the high road with Outwitters. The game is free to download, and comes with one team. Additional teams can be unlocked for a one-time purchase ($2.99 each), or you can unlock everything (current and future) for $5.99. I must admit I was worried when I saw how the Wit mechanic worked. However, rest assured, there is no way to buy yourself an in-game advantage in Outwitters. Refreshing, indeed.
Outwitters is an excellent asynchronous turn-based multiplayer game. Both league and casual play work very well, and there seems to be plenty of opponents to keep the party going. The lack of a single-player component is sorely missed, however, and for this reason, I can’t recommend this game to everybody.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Beautiful retina assets marred only by mediocre movement animations.
Sound: - 4 - Sound effects are only good, but the soundtrack is great!
Controls: - 5 - Intuitive and accurate interface.
Gameplay: - 3 - The lack of a single-player component greatly diminishes this game’s reach. Online gamers will be in heaven, but those who prefer to play solo should stay away.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Plan your moves carefully, and keep track of your Wits (pun intended). You will never have enough points to do everything you need. Never move next to an enemy if you can’t attack on the same turn. Take time to familiarize yourself with the game’s top-tier units as they are the only ones that are different from team-to-team. Choose your team based on this unit and not the graphical appearance of the team. Quitting a league game to avoid losing is a Bozo Nono, and will count as a defeat. Cowboy up, be a good sport, and take your medicine. Who knows, you might actually learn something by sticking around.
Developer: One Man Left Studios
Release Date: July 4, 2012
Price: Free with IAPs to unlock content
Buy App: Outwitters
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