We review One Man Left's strategic battle of wits.
Even if you didn't play it, we'd be very surprised if you hadn't at least heard of Hero Academy, the insanely popular turn-based strategy title from last year. Following hot on the heels of one of the most elegantly-implemented freemium games we've ever seen, Outwitters wants to capture a slice of the action for itself.
As with the game's most obvious inspiration, there's very little in the way of a tutorial for the game (and no single-player content) so you'd better be prepared to dive straight into the action and look damn silly in front of some strangers.
How does it play? Well, you take it in turns to make a series of strategic moves across a hexagonal grid, with the ultimate objective of obliterating your opponent's base. Every time you move one of your units, you use up the currency of "wits" (hence the title). Additionally, each character can only move so many spaces and attack so many times each turn, so you'll have to juggle your offensive and defensive strategies rather artfully.
While this is more tic-tac-toe than chess, there is some pretty decent strategy to be had from the units available on the battlefield. Runners (as the name suggests) can travel further than the average warrior, while Soldiers provide a decent balance between mobility and firepower. Medic, Sniper, and Heavy units provide exactly what you'd expect them to. You can call in new units if needed, but each one costs a certain number of wits, and the only way to increase your available wits is to capture new territory.
Using a system that will be immediately recognizable to Zynga gamers, you can have more than one battle under way at any one time, so if your opponent is being a bit of a slow-coach in their response, you can just fire up another game with a new opponent while you wait for them to catch up. This works out great in the casual, non-competitive mode where results are just for kicks, and there's also a pass-and-play mode for more immediate social play.
In the competitive, league-based gameplay, the game does a good job of putting you in your place, and the first five practice matches you take on will determine which of the five different leagues you're placed into. These range from the casual "Fluffy" category to the intimidating "Super-Titan" league. As with games like StarCraft, consistent success on the battlefield will send you up a tier.
If you do feel you want to throw a little more money the developers' way, then you can always pick up the two character and map packs that are currently available, and we're promised there are more to come. The first of these provides a rather sickeningly cute, pink-themed cuddly toy pack (with special teleporting units), or you can go for the robotic Feedback army who specialize in enslaving enemy units.
Outwitters does a great job of offering up some seriously meaty content for absolutely nothing. There's some fine strategy to be had online, although the experience is very dependent on the commitment and availability of your particular opponent. Still, if you've exhausted Hero Academy, then this is a fine contender for the tactical freemium fighting crown.
What's Hot: As with Hero Academy, this is freemium done right. A great social game both on and offline.
What's Not: No single player component, and so the quality of your gameplay is determined entirely by the behavior of others.