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Review

Awesomenauts Review (PSN, XBLA)

DOTA by the numbers.

Dutch developer Ronimo Games, it seems, is cultivating a uniquely ambitious approach to game design. For those who might not remember the name, Ronimo was the studio behind 2010 PSN strategy title, Swords & Soldiers.

Unlike its RTS contemporaries such as Age of Empires or Wacraft, Swords & Soldiers re-worked the timeless formula to coincide with the game’s 2D design. Resource management became pain-free, as did commanding your army; Ronimo had taken a genre largely associated with hardcore PC gaming and made it accessible to just about anyone.

Strangely enough, this exact philosophy underpins the studio’s latest digital release, Awesomenauts. Aiming even higher than Swords & Soldiers, Ronimo has taken on one of gaming’s most exclusive, competitive sub-genres, the DOTA-inspired MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) and come out on top.

Info:
  • Out now.
  • Available on PSN and XBLA.
  • 800MSP/£7.99. Currently free on PlayStation Plus.
Spawning originally from a Warcraft III mod, Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) tasks two groups of players with destroying the enemy’s base. Sounds easy enough, but when you factor in a series of defensive towers, minions, and neutral third parties wandering the innards of each map, things soon get complicated. In MOBAs, such as the insanely popular League of Legends, this complexity is taken to the next level with a comprehensive character progression system, players rushing to their bases in order to buy combinable upgrades which yield a myriad of various perks.

When Ronimo decided to take the traditional RTS into two dimensions with Swords & Soliders they had to reform huge chunks of the RTS template. This is less of an issue with MOBAs which, as we’ve seen in the past, can be incredibly dynamic and varied (just look at Monday Night Combat). Ronimo seem to have bonded the niche genre almost seamlessly to what would have otherwise been a fairly standard side-scrolling platformer.

Not only does this separate Awesomenauts stylistically from other MOBAs, but it also has a significant impact on the control scheme, with players being given full control over their chosen character’s movement and attacks. The 3 vs. 3 match sizes also help to keep games in constant motion, eroding any chance of mundane mid-game congestion.

Map layouts all abide to a similar structure, with either one of two “lanes” housing up to four towers, each with mounted turrets. You can try taking these out by yourself though, chances are, you’ll be decimated in seconds. Adhering to its DOTA origins, Awesomenauts forces players to think tactically; though useless on their own, the hordes of AI-controlled minions soon become an integral part of the game as does PvP.

As a 2D side-scroller, you can imagine how frantic combat is, especially when a fight erupts between two players. Crucially, Awesomenauts handles PvP in such a way that it feels fluid and intuitive, if still a little messy in patches.

From the perspective of a MOBA aficionado, six playable characters doesn’t sound like a great deal of variety, especially for the League of Legends crowd who have almost 100 unique champions to experiment with. However, given the action-oriented approach to gameplay, six is a perfect starting point for Awesomenauts with more characters currently in the pipeline.

Each hero is distinguished via weapon choice, as well as their two unique abilities and method of navigation, ultimately defining their role on a team.

For example, Lonestar is a great defensive character, able to shunt enemies away from turrets as well as hurl high-damage projectiles, whereas Voltar can actually heal droids and allied players, adopting a squad of drones that hover around him. As there can only be one of each specific hero per team, there’s no use becoming attached to a certain character; after all, Ronimo has done a great job in balancing them all out.

Aside from a small pool of Solar (the game’s sci-fi currency), each match puts players at rock bottom. After a drop pod sequence in which players can steer their shuttle to collect additional Solar on the way down, it’s up to you to make your own way.

Upon acquiring enough Solar (from killing enemies, droids, and towers) you can then return to base and exchange your funds for new abilities or upgrade the ones currently equipped. Character progression doesn’t carry over from each match, its a meritocratic system that rewards players based on their performance on a per game basis. Rewards aren’t inherited in Awesomenauts, they’re earned.

Outside of the matches themselves, XP will soak into an over-arching level gauge, dishing out new heroes, practice stages and loadout options. There’s plenty of incentive to keep coming back, Awesomenauts also grants additional bonuses for use of the random select option during the character menu or going splitscreen with up to two buddies. Even when playing in practice mode you’re still showered with experience points, and the AI is smart enough to replicate or even outshine human opponents.

Awesomenauts is unashamedly brash in its appearance, borrowing heavily from the cartoon aesthetic many attribute to kid’s animated series in the 1980s. The art style can be a little repetitive in places, though is still emblematic, galvanised by a upbeat and well-rounded soundtrack, each hero having their own particular theme.

Pros:

  • As hardcore or casual as you want to make it.
  • Gameplay allows for plenty of experimentation.
  • Enough characters to cover all the essential bases.
  • Just as challenging offline as it is via PSN/XBL.
  • Audio and visuals are spot-on.
  • Prospects for incremental expansion.

Cons:

  • Being connected to online games which are just about won/lost.
  • DOTA style gameplay can yield hours of fun, though a different game mode would have been a bonus.

It goes without saying that the team at Ronimo has really outdone itself, delivering a game that may seem a little one-dimensional and throwaway from a distance, but easily exceeds the majority of PSN/XBLA’s digital offerings. Awesomenauts is surprisingly accessible, offering plenty of depth for those seeking it, the overall package being one that looks sublime and plays out with such a rare degree of fluidity.

Score: 8/10

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15 Comments
  1. Germanos
    Member
    Since: May 2011

    I just wish I could play them both on my PS3 and VITA when I’m away…

    Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 09:12.
  2. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Downloaded this last night since it’s a Plus freebie. Will have to have a go tonight. I honestly wasn’t expecting that much but it sounds awe…inspiring

    Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 09:19.
  3. Mundham
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    TSA had it’s first Meet last night, courtesy of Youles. Despite some problematic d/c issues, it was a real blast. 3 vs 3 means you’re really butting heads with your opponents, and on the rare occasion going mano-a-mano against a fellow TSAer, with no other droids, turrets, or players on screen, is a real thrill.

    I keep hearing about future DLC, new characters coming, etc – I thought the publisher went into administration last week? Won’t that affect future content?

    Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 09:28.
  4. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    Great little (free) game – had the first TSA Meet last night. Sadly there were obvious connection issues.

    However after the small tutorial it’s actually quite an easy game to pick up (probably harder to master). The balancing seems really good which is something I imagine would be hard to achieve what with the character’s speed, weapons, weapon power etc.

    I really hope this becomes compatible with Vita, and preferably with cross-play.

    Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 09:30.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Great review by the way, very accurate in my eyes.

      Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 09:45.
    • Klart
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      ‘t was great fun at the meet!

      Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 10:27.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Will you be able to join us next Monday, and perhaps a little earlier? I’ve setup a new Meet if you can.

        Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 10:43.
  5. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Was looking forward to this, intial signs were good (fab 1980s cartoon intro) but after that.. oh.

    Player X walks (painfully slowly) to Player Y, launches two special attacks then spams the fire button until one dies. Repeat for 20 mins.

    Alternatively, walk painfully slowly) to the enemy turret and spend 20 mins firing at it until it expldoes.

    Not impressed.

    Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 09:42.
    • Kennykazey
      Member
      Since: Mar 2010

      All games will sound terrible when you describe them in such a lifeless manner.

      I didn’t like the game too much myself after the first match, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded.

      Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 09:56.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        Well it is lifeless and badly thought out and I shall tell you why.

        Indiana Jones.

        Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 10:27.
    • Klart
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      Well it’s a game that should be approached tactical… you probably played with Clunk the robot, he’s a slow character with great defense. You can also upgrade your cahracter to move faster. There’s one fast character that can cloak, has a sword and has a totally different play style hence.

      Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 10:30.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      I have never been able to fire at a turret for 20 minutes, guess you got lucky (minus the exagerated timescale)! I normally get bombared by enemies, whether it be AI or human. Plus the turret’s fire seems to always have a superior range.

      I guess it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

      Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 10:42.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Think you need to give it time TC. I warmed towards it well due to being a MOBA fan myself.

      Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 14:17.
  6. Kennykazey
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    Great game this, especially with a friend in split screen! Just wish they could have made it run in full HD for added crispness.

    Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 10:05.
  7. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I tried the demo and found it wasn’t really for me but glad to see it reviewed well as things were looking shaky with their publishers recent problems.

    Comment posted on 08/05/2012 at 19:26.

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