Awesomenauts Hands-On Preview -- 2D MOBA Action Coming To ConsolesBy Leah Jackson - Posted Apr 30, 2012
Trust me when I say that Awesomenauts is about to become the next big thing. Awesomenauts from Ronimo Games (Swords & Soldiers) offers up a fast-paced satisfying change of pace from your standard mobile online battle arena (MOBA) titles like League of Legends or Dota 2.
Featuring six diverse characters, all with their own distinctive abilities and upgrades, as well as a variety of unique maps to play on, Awesomenauts is about to blast off on consoles, bringing the MOBA genre to a whole new breed of gamer, and boy are they in for a treat.
Awesomenauts takes place during a conflict in the year 3587. Massive robot armies are locked in a stalemate, so they've called upon the Awesomenauts, the most powerful group of mercenaries in the universe, to help turn the tide of battle. None of this is really comes in to play during Awesomenauts, but it's always nice to have a bit of background information.
In MOBA games, the objective is to work within a team of five players to destroy your opponent's base, and that's the same with Awesomenauts. However, most MOBA games are played at a top-down angle. Awesomenauts is a 2D sidescroller.
You start the game on opposite sides of a symmetrical map with three lanes in between the bases called top, middle (mid), and bottom (bot). In order to get to the other team’s drillcore to destroy it, you have to go through a series of defensive turrets per lane. It's kind of like a tower defense game, except this time you're playing as the invaders. To destroy your opponent's base, you assume the role of an Awesomenaut. Only one of each Awesomenaut can be in the game at a time, but they're all interesting and each offer various strengths and weaknesses to the team.
What's great about each Awesomenaut is that they all have their own individual personality. For example, Froggy G, a damage dealing rapping frog, has moves that transform him into a whirling waterspout of pain. He’s, "straight out of the marsh pond ghetto's of planet Ribbit IV."
Other Awesomenauts include Sheriff Lonestar, a damage dealer who throws dynamite on the ground and can summon a bull to push players back and damage a turret. Leon Chameleon is a mobile little reptile who can turn invisible and grab enemies and pull them to him with his extra-long tongue. There’s also Yuri, a crazy monkey who was once part of the soviet space program, who can now warp time and shoot lasers from his jetpack.
The two most interesting Awesomenauts I've left for last: Clunk and Voltar. Clunk's a tank who can self-destruct on top of enemies to deal massive damage, or bite them to steal their health. What I love about Clunk is that one of his upgrades allows him to permanently steal life from everything he bites. If you’re constantly biting enemies, then eventually Clunk’s health can quadruple that of his enemies, making him extremely difficult to kill, but also a character who can dish out crazy damage. I went 26-0 with him one game, because I had more health than practically everyone on the other team combined, and they just couldn't ever get my health low.
On the other hand, we have Voltar, the healer in Awesomenauts. He can heal allies with his Healing Wave ability, but he doesn't have an auto-attack ability that deals any damage. Instead, Voltar can summon both a healbot and drones. The healbot is a stationary device that Voltar puts on the ground and, any allies within its range will get healed. His drones do decent damage, and they're a great way to get offensive players off of him.
There are two things that are really great about playing Voltar. First, anytime he heals with Healing Wave, whether it be a player or a Droid, he'll get money for it. Second, since Voltar can constantly heal heroes and creeps, because he doesn't rely on mana or any type of resource. Having a Volar on your team makes it insanely easy to push lanes and destroy turrets that would otherwise kill a team that didn't have a healer. I find that both of these reasons are great ways to incentivize players who normally wouldn't want to play a healer to try Voltar out.
Another major component of Awesomenauts are the Droids. Droids are essentially minions that periodically spawn for each team, and its their goal in life to attack everything in their way between where they spawn and the other team's drillcore. They don't deal too much damage, and when killed, they yield both experience and money.
Unlike in LoL or Dota, where you have to get the last hit on the creeps to earn gold, in Awesomenauts, the droids drop cubes of money on the ground that you have to walk over and pick up. Even if you kill a droid, members of the opposite team can run over and steal the money it dropped on the floor. More money means more upgrades though, so you always want to try and pick up as much money as possible.
In Awesomenauts, upgrades come in the form of ability upgrades. You spend the money you earn from killing droids and creeps in a shop that’s located in your team’s base. Each character has three upgrades per ability. For example, Clunk’s self-destruct upgrades allow him to deal more damage with his self-destruct attack, make enemies slower around his self-destruct attack so they can’t run out of its range, and make him take less damage when he uses the attack. Choosing which upgrades you go with is crucial in Awesomenauts, based on the strategy that the other team’s using.
Strategies will vary from map to map, which is another great thing about Awesomenauts. The game already has two maps, and both offer the same type of gameplay but introduce different types of elements. At the beginning of each match, and every time you die, your Awesomenaut deploys down to the map in a drop pod, and you play a minigame where you try to collect a little bit of money before you reach the ground.
The two maps we’ve played so far are Ribbit IV and Sorona. Ribbit IV has a top and bottom lane, each defended with two turrets. The map also has a neutral jungle lane in the middle for killing extra creeps for money and experience. Players can freely jump between all of the lanes, and there are jump pads on the ground to make moving around even easier.
Sorona has a top and bottom lane, but in the middle of the bottom lane is a trap called The Worm. If an enemy player steps over The Worm, and you activate it via a button, a huge claw will reach up and kill your enemies immediately. You can “accidentally” kill teammates this way as well, but I must admit it’s really fun to try and bait your enemies over to the Worm and then you jump on the switch to get them.
Awesomenauts may not be for the hardcore MOBA gamers out there, but it’s the perfect way to introduce newcomers to the genre. However, if you're a MOBA fan who doesn't mind a more casual game, Awesomenauts is an absolute blast, and I'm already hopelessly addicted. The game has fun characters, simple controls, co-op split screen gameplay, a fast-paced style, and a level-up system outside each match which rewards players for their contributions no matter how well they do. Everything meshes together greatly in Awesomenauts, and we can't wait to play the full version when it lands on XBLA and PSN May 1.