After what probably felt like a lifetime of drawing, animating, and otherwise supporting little circular blobs for Tilt to Live and its billions of updates, One Man Left decided it was time to move on. Its next project, which just hit the App Store, is an artistically and mechanically brilliant strategy game called Outwitters (Free). These two games couldn’t be more functionally different, and that was the point. Outwitters is the end result of the team’s desire to express itself in a title that didn’t have anything to do with dots.
In a weird way I kinda hope that these guys get bored more often. Outwitters feels like what it was for the team on a practical level: a breath of fresh air. It’s also scary good.
On this week’s episode of The TouchArcade Show bonus edition, we talk about Outwitters with One Man Left’s Alex and Adam. As we were talking, I started thinking about how we were going to angle the podcast. I didn’t have to think long. By the end of the show, I realized we had inadvertently created something of an oral primer for the game.
Describing how this game plays is a lot like describing why Laocoön And His Sons is so radical. Yeah, the snakes are neat and Laocoön is ripped out of his mind, but all the good reasons are buried in the details. Outwitter‘s touches are what makes it pop, the raw mechanics just serve the greater strategy in the game.
At its core, Outwitters is a traditional turn-based strategy game. The goal is to defend your base, while bashing your opponent’s to oblivion. You do this with troops, which you can build at the beginning of every turn. Each of the three factions in the game have a same assortment of five soldier classes. There’s a sniper, which moves slowly but can do tons of damage at range. There’s a soldier, which has a middle-of-the-line attributes. There’s also a damage-dealing heavy character. And there’s a medic and a scout.
Factions all have a sixth class, but these are unique soldiers. The Scallywags have a super sniper, basically, while the robot faction has a troop that can use mind control.
At the beginning of each turn, you are given several Wit points. These are the game’s currency. When you move a character, whatever the range, that absorbs a specific amount of points from that pool. When you spawn a new creature, that also eats at that total. You can bank these points or use them all, but you can only spawn, move, and attack a couple of times per round.
This is one of those details, and navigating this Wits structure is one of the game’s purest joys. It keeps the action focused, but the strategy complex. Each turn begs several questions. What’s my opponent doing and how will I react? Should I bank these points and build up for a major defensive move? Should I spill all of them into a few spawns? Wits also check your ambitions. If you move a heavy, then you might not be able to move that medic by your circle of soldiers.
Of course, there’s also scenarios where you can overcommit. If you move to engage or even defend in a flanking maneuver, there’s nothing stopping your opponent if he wants to rush a now much less defended base. On the other hand, if you move your troops just enough, you can squash a player’s offensive moves because you kept back. I lose in Outwitters a lot, and it’s usually because I’m not thinking of stuff like this.
On the podcast, we lightly discuss a few things that I’ve tried. In my first few games I tried to pull something similar to a Zerg rush. In later games, I built tons of heavies in an attempt to do the same, but with stronger dudes. After playing for a while, I kind of realized that these strategies are too simple. Small mixes are best, but you’ve got to build in a way that is tuned to what your opponent is doing. Again, small details.
Outside of the soldier, each class has stunning abilities and striking weaknesses. One Man Left will always we be watching the game via metrics, ensuring that no class or even faction is unbalanced.
Another detail: this is asynchronous, much like Hero Academy. You’ll have time to think and evaluate your moves, in other words, which you’ll want to do if you want to win. Oh, and another detail: maps have designated spawn points, as well as spots that, once occupied, give you extra Wit points. Figuring out how to rob these spaces from players while also attending to your base is a beautiful point of push-and-pull design.
Hopefully, winning will always be a challenge. There’s a pass-and-play mode included in the game, but there’s also an online component. Like Blizzard’s StarCraft 2, the online functionality has tiers and ladders, ensuring that you’ll rarely get matched up with a person totally outside your skill level. I’ve been getting absolutely destroyed by the game’s small assortment of beta testers, so I’m doubly stoked to give it a spin when more players join.
Players will be key, and that’s the reason why Outwitters is launching a zero dollars as a Universal app on the App Store. You get one team for $0 download, but at launch, you can buy The Adorables and The Feedback for $2.99. Not bad at all.
We’ll have more on Outwitters in the future, but hopefully you’re good to go if you were even a little interested in the game. Our conversation has a lot more to share, so make sure to give that a listen and to give the game a download.