Aug 24, 2012

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Awesomenauts Review

Awesomenauts Review

Awesomenauts released back in May of this year and was met with fairly decent praise. The creator Ronimo Games should be commended for introducing a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) title to console gamers and for the most part their title has been successful. Since Awesonenauts debuted three months ago, there have been patches released as well as two new characters added to the game. With these tweaks and additions, is Awesomenauts worth downloading?

The Awesomenauts are a band of mercenaries called in to help settle a galactic conflict in the year 3587. Outside of this little tidbit, there isn’t a story mode though it’s not really missed in a game like this. Each character is filled to the brim with their own personality and play styles and although it would have been nice to further explore their back stories, a campaign wasn’t really necessary. Animation is smooth with action almost akin to watching a Saturday morning cartoon and it’s fitting with the overall design of the game. The music pairs well with the look of the game and the Awesomenauts style should be applauded.¬†Gameplay boils down to two teams of three battling it out to destroy the opposing teams base. Aside from the opposite team defending, each side has multiple turrets (controlled by the CPU) that stand in the way of each base as well as a constant stream of bots pushing forward. The comparisons to Monday Night Combat are inevitable so to put them to rest, yes Awesomenauts can be summed up as a 2D version of MNC.

Although there are differences, the basic gameplay between the two are similar and like Monday Night Combat, the game is both incredibly addicting and downright frustrating at times. Each of the eight characters (nine if you’re on PC) has their own unique styles, strengths and weaknesses and for the most part they balance out until you face players at higher levels. Each level gained unlocks either new characters or better abilities which can sometimes lead to one-sided matches. Although each of the characters weapons and abilities remain unchanged, higher levels unlock stronger variations of these abilities which are often taken advantage of especially against lower ranked new players. If you are going to play Awesomenauts, you need to have some patience because your experience can differ depending on who matchmaking pairs you up against. With level and ranking having little to do with the matchmaking process, expect to be dominated more often then not until you either come up with a better strategy or get paired up with lower leveled players. The characters themselves though are enjoyable and each one is fun to play as in their own right. Whether you prefer to be a quick-moving spy-like character or a slow moving tank, there is a character available to fit your play style and all are fun to experiment with in their own right.

Teams are divided between the ever conflicting red and blue sides. Upon dropping in, players are allowed to upgrade their characters using the games form of currency in Solar. Solar can be picked up by destroying opposing bots, picking them up from spots that generate them, or by defeating enemies. Although the concept sounds simple, the level of teamwork and strategy necessary may surprise first time players. Just upgrading your character’s abilities requires a good amount of strategy. Each character can upgrade an offensive skill, defensive skill (like health) and a support skill (things like aoe healing or abilities that slow down enemies). Choosing when to upgrade an ability combined with what abilities your teammates have, is just another aspect of the strategy needed to succeed in Awesomenauts.

The level of strategy and teamwork needed increases when you get to the actual game. Going head on against an enemy turret usually results in death, but with clever technique, players can easily dispatch of them using teammate cover, wider ranged weaponry, or healing bots to do the dirty work. The brilliance in Awesomenauts stems from the various ways one can approach each match. Whether deciding to be the medic for the team, a tank, defender, attacker, or whatever pleases you, there are a ton of ways to enjoy Awesomenauts and while on paper the game seems limited with only eight characters and a handful of maps, the game within is far larger then expected.

That isn’t to say that Awesomenauts doesn’t have it’s fair share of flaws aside from those addressed above regarding matchmaking. Besides the unfair advantage veteran players possess, getting into matches themselves proved to be problematic at times for my friends and I. On numerous occasions we were disconnected from matches or downright failed to join them. This wouldn’t be an issue if it occurred here and there, but the fact that it happened more then a handful of times worries me since server issues should have been addressed this far into the game’s life cycle. Also, there appears to still be some balancing issues regarding characters and abilities.

Once again I still need to address the major advantage that veteran players possess over newcomers in terms of skill, but granting them greater abilities due to time played makes winning against them near impossible without leveling up. One thing to note is you can play on the same system offiline with friends against bots, while this is still challenging its not as fun as going against real players; however you can level up your character (slowly) via offline play, but even then it would take a lot of gaming to get to the level needed to compete against some of the higher level players out there.

Although the issues with experience levels can be seen in just about any game featuring this multiplayer mechanic, in Awesomenauts the gap between new players and veterans feels much greater and may easily turn off those looking to test the waters. Lastly, the developers had promised new content and though they delivered with the two new characters, console gamers may not get much more in the future since it’s costly to update/patch on consoles.

If you’re looking for a new game for you and your friends, I’d suggest giving the Awesomenauts a download. It’s got a great look, enjoyable (though sometimes frustrating) gameplay, and is a bargain at $10. Although you may have issues easing into the game in the beginning, after putting some time in you’ll uncover one of the most fun downloads of 2012. Get past the beginning troubles and enjoy what is hopefully the first of many more MOBAs to hit consoles.

Platform: PC, XBLA (Reviewed), PSN, Mac
Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
Release Date: 05/1/12
Developer: Romino Games
Publisher: dtp entertainment
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
MSRP: 800 MSP, $10