Review: Awesomenauts

Awesomenauts may look retro, sound retro and feel somewhat retro but it puts a new spin on an old recipe by changing up the MOBA genre with action elements, rather than RPG/RTS elements.

If you want to jump into a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game these days, you’ve got plenty to choose from. League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, and even lesser known titles like Demigod have all come out with their own versions of the popular genre of real time strategy game.

However, if you’re simply curious about MOBA games and want to try the genre without being overwhelmed by the mechanics of these RTS version of the game, Awesomenauts is absolutely for you.

Awesomenauts takes side-scroll shooting and the RTS elements of MOBA and smushes them together. It makes for an interesting combo that can get new coming hungry for something deeper but will leave old hands at MOBA games a little empty.

MOBA games pit you in a team against an enemy team on the battle field. Both sides spawn friendly minions that are NPCs that take specific paths along the map to meet enemy units or towers. The point of the game is to destroy the enemy’s ‘core’ which is a structure tucked firmly into a team’s base behind their defenses.

In traditional RTS versions of the game, a single sitting could take anywhere from 40 minutes to beyond a full hour and the gameplay is deeply entrenched in ‘build order’ or the order in which you acquire items and upgrade abilities.

These are the areas where Awesomenauts gets it all right. Online matches of Awesomenauts take 20 to 30 minutes and, because the game plays like a sidescrolling shooter, you’re able to be less rigid with the build order so long as you are able to pry yourself away from the enemy when the situation gets dicey. There’s a definite ‘action feel’ that impacts the ‘long-haul strategy’ feel of other MOBA games.

This is a victory because players have complained about the passivity of other MOBAs because of the need to farm resources to get better items to stand a chance against the enemy. Awesomenauts successfully kills the downtime while keeping the basics of the game intact.

Bots in the game are pretty competent for the most part. I’ve found myself on the receiving end of a death blow from a few computer controlled opponents and have even found myself not realizing which one was AI or human from time to time. This is important because training against bots actually prepares you for online matches and it definitely helps. Although I prefer to play this game against a real person, the competent AI makes it so if I decide to have a gaming session untethered to the internet, I can do it.

Matchmaking online is a roll of the dice it seems. I’ve prestiged several times already but in public games I can be just as easily paired with people who’ve just picked up the game as those who’re experienced and been playing since release.

I had lots of trouble connecting to a friends game and when I did connect I’d get booted almost instantly, although I had no problems with public games and those ran pretty smooth with little to no lagginess for the most part. Connecting with friends on the couch is fine though, as Awesomenauts has splitscreen multiplayer which allows you to pwn noobs with friends in the same room.

Character levels in Awesomenauts are determined by the amount of resources you collect. Instead of having to deal with a separate experience meter, the amount of levels that your character goes up directly connects with the amount of items you are able to acquire. But this also does away with passive level bonuses and to get abilities you actually have to teleport back to home base.

Instead of using a mana system or some different meter of energy to use abilities, all abilities run on only a cooldown timer. This means players don’t have to keep an eye on their mana while readying to cast an abilities and allows them to stay on the battlefield longer without having to return to base to replenish mana. Home base is exclusively used for purchasing upgrades and replenishing health (something you can easily do on the battlefield by finding health kits), this effectively maximizes face time with the enemy team.

Besides that, upon death you are teleported back to the mothership and are launched down into your starting area the way you are at the beginning of the match. On occasion you can have about 10 to 20 seconds before launch, but that’s significantly less than most RTS MOBA games. When you launch you can control your descending ship to collect resources, this kills more time but gives you something to do while you’re on your way back to the battlefield. This makes the wait seem a lot more tolerable.

Abilities up for purchase at the store inside your teams base are mostly specific to the character chosen. Before matches you’re allowed to customize your loadout to make upgrades available for purchase during play.

Regardless of loadout choice, each character boasts two abilities unique to their character and every character is specialized to a role in the game. Clunk the robot can tank damage for the team to help teammates take on opponents or towers, while Leon the chameleon can stealth to hit enemies when they’re least expecting it in order to assassinate and Yuri the monkey can drop mines to cut off enemy exits. There are only six characters though, so you’ll be seeing the same characters a lot during subsequent plays. Six is also a paltry number when compared to other MOBA games that boast a much broader range of playable characters. That being said, the characters are all unique and fill some small niche in the ecosystem of the game’s MOBA trappings. They feel well balanced for the most part. As you play you will unlock new loadout options for different characters by leveling up your player profile.

There are three selectable stages to add a little variety to the battlefield, but the level design doesn’t differ enough to make the stages feel unique. There’ll be a slightly different number of towers, a new booby trap, or another place to grab health but they all play essentially the same.

This is the hitch that will lose people who would otherwise be in the long haul. The few selectable stages and characters will feel a little like ‘rinse & repeat’ after several sessions with the game. If you’re scrubbing up five or 10 plays in, you’ll be rubbing away flesh and bone by play 25. It’s unfortunate because the accessibility of this particular MOBA games makes it a prime target for newcomers but the lack of variety might stymie some.

That’s what makes the price tag so hard to swallow, games like League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth are free to play with the option to unlock additional characters as you face off against opponents and level up your profile, but Awesomenauts comes with a ten dollar price tag and a short list for character selection. It’s a lot of fun at first but the fun wears thin fast as you start seeing the same characters over and over again.

Overall, Awesomenauts is a great game that feels like it falls short of its potential. This game is good for people new to MOBA because it boasts easy to understand mechanics unlike other renditions of the genre, there’s not multiple meters to keep track of as you play the game. But if other MOBA games are a deep swim, Awesomenauts is not deep enough get your ankles wet. You’ll plumb its depths in merely a few laps and this will keep hardened MOBA players from entering the kiddie pool.

Note: The PS3 verson of the game was used for review and was purchased by the writer. Awesomenauts is also available for download on Xbox 360.

3/5

Pros

  • Game is easy to learn for new players
  • The style of sidescrolling gameplay distinguishes it from other MOBAs
  • You won’t have to sink ungodly amounts of time into learning ‘builds’

Cons

  • Lack of variety in characters and stages makes it get stale pretty fast
  • I’m either being matched with newbs or being put up against opponents I can easily steamroll
  • Connecting with friends is shoddy

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Author: Khristopher Reardon View all posts by
Khristopher is a well-to-do journalist with a video game addiction and a knack for writing. He's been playing video games for over two decades and gets a little bit itchy whenever he sees something new which tickles his fancy.
  • Don Parsons

    I adored this game, but I also didn’t play it as much as you (I STILL see you playing lol), and I can see your concerns becoming a problem for me if I continue to play it. That said, it is a LOT of fun. I had a blast everytime I played.

  • http://twitter.com/BaronKyle Kyle Baron

    Froggy G ’till the day I die! lol