Well, we all expected it; Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games are on their way to the console. It’s been slowly happening in the darkness but it’s finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for this genre to blow up, yet again, to gamers everywhere. Because of their highly skilled-based PvP environments we’ve seen them kept almost exclusively on the PC platform… until now. Ronimo Games takes the first major stab at the market for consoles with their Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) and Playstation Network title, “Awesomenauts“. In the year 3587 were they able to keep MOBAs the way we’ve grown to love?
Awesomenauts is a very fun game in which you can grow immediately addicted to. As a major addict to games such as DoTA2 and League of Legends naturally I had to try this out. It gives us the familiar feel you get with classic MOBAs but, as a console game, it does seem much more forgiving as the skillshots are almost non-existent and combat feels, at times, like it is very limited by its 2D environment. This new 2D environment also changes many things by allowing for jumping and multiple heights in which to fight on, such as in Super Smash Brothers. It’s filled with droids (minions/creep) who drop Solar (money) just as expected. Kills give money just as expected. Pretty much everything is exactly as you’d expect it to be, but with a few small tweaks to make itself stand alone.
With Awesomenauts they have basically just taken things away, but made them much more game changing. Every hero has its own unique role such as tank, assassin, support, etc. Each has their own unique auto attack and jumping ability as well. The game only offers two skills per hero which, at first, seems ridiculous and bland for any seasoned MOBA player, but it really just makes your enemies mistakes/your quick skills absolutely devastating and in turn making for some very fast paced action. As I said, every hero also has their own jump style. Some can fly, some double jump, some float. Every hero is its only unique little snowflake. My favorite, for example, is Leon Chameleon the Assassin. He is one of the highest sustained damage heroes in the game (nobody beats the damage of the exploding robot for burst. Just like in real life.), so he only gets a single jump as where a very squishy DPS hero such as Froggy G (the mage) has a double jump for escapes as well as moves that can be used as escapes. Because of Leon’s inability to jump and move around the map quickly he was given moves such as “tongue” in which he… well, tongues his opponent (looks way creepier in typing… it’s not that bad in game, I promise) and pulls them towards him allowing him to close that distance if he can land it. Making this one move the make or break between life and death gives an enemy at least some sort of chance to escape upon being ganked. Because of this, kills are somewhat harder to get as escaping can be quite simple it also creates a very fast-paced war from start to finish as one mistake can cost you your life or even cost your the game.
I enjoyed the game a lot, but there were definitely a few problems. Because I’m an ultra-critical, judgmental person naturally I am going to name those things. Heroes. Not enough. There is not even remotely enough heroes to choose from for a game that’s fully released. I know they plan to release more but, as of right now, there is only 6 choices for heroes and nobody on your team can use the same one. That means if you pick last you can only pick from 4 other heroes… and that’s if you’ve unlocked them. Awesomenauts basically took one class out of the classic MOBA which is a tank, support, dps mage, dps assassin/melee, ranged dps and a crowd control/secondary support and released one of each. No choices on which play-style you’d like or anything like that. You like to tank? Good, you’re Clunk. Oh, you don’t like Clunk? Well then you’re not the tank. It’s that simple.
Problem number two is that I hate that they have this weird, unnecessary phase in between the game starting and your respawns where you’re in a rocket ship falling down to the battlefield and you need to move left and right to collect Solar on your way down. Why? You’ve got me. I have no idea why this is in the game. It’s such a drastically different type of mini-game for it to be considered even remotely feasible as an option to collect extra money before you return to battle. I end up waiting to respawn and then waiting a second time for my rocket ship to crash back into the world so I can enjoy myself again. I stopped trying to collect the extra Solar on the way down after 4-5 tries because I find it ridiculous and it upsets me in ways very few things can upset me. It’s like having a new puppy. Your new puppy is amazing and you have so much fun with it, but it goes to the bathroom on your rug over and over. The problem is you can’t train the game to stop what it’s doing.
Another problem I had with my experience was that the combat, while incredibly enjoyable, was a bit… unpolished. The turrets on the maps don’t display tower health very well and you can’t scroll through the map to check their status. Two towers may both look like they’re very low on health because the mini-map shows the same big hole graphic on them when in fact one may be drastically at a lower health. That kind of sucked, but it’s forgivable since it really doesn’t ruin the gameplay for you. Unlike the health bar problem. You see, there really isn’t much screen dominance for any particular unit so if all 6 players are in the same spots with droids and other units in the area it basically just becomes one giant bar of red and green that basically just leads to “I don’t know what the hell is going on so X button, X button, X button X bu- oh, I died”. It hurts the gameplay a lot, but as a 2D platformer it’s kind of hard to fix without making there be six difference health bars taking up 95% of your screen.
Okay, now that I said my part let’s talk the parts I liked. I actually do enjoy the two skill system quite a bit and not just because it’s simple or because I don’t have to use 15 skills every 4 seconds so often and hear the godawful seven thousand right mouse clicks I make playing a PC counterpart, but because those two skills are upgradable and not just set in stone. I’m going to use Leon as an example again because he’s all I ever play and I refuse to use anyone else (not because they’re boring, I’m just terrible with everyone else). See, Leon has that cool tongue move we talked about, right? Well, over the course of the game and when you have enough money to do so you can upgrade that move to go a further distance, steal life upon a successful hit, cause extra damage and more. Games, in my experience, rarely lasted anywhere near long enough to enable you to be able to grab every upgrade, so you can play each match contrary to your teams strengths more-so than you’re used to in other MOBAs. There are no items, so everything you purchase is to enhance your own hero in terms of speed, damage, etc. but, because they are upgrades instead of items you can have many, many upgrades. I really like the way this game uses this system, but it does have its downsides. Leon (that chameleon that I talk about far too much) has a stealth move, and because there are no items such as the “Oracle’s Elixir” in League of Legends once hes’s gone, he’s just gone. And his invisibility lasts until he attacks. So, if you can’t burst him fast enough and allow him to stealth he’s just 100% gone. Oh, and turrets don’t detect it either so he’s free to wander and pickup whatever Solar may be laying around while he waits to pick you off when you’re overextended.
Throughout the game you unlock more upgrades for each skill/attribute that each hero has. For instance, Lonestar throws dynamite as a special move. Of course it can be upgraded, but before each game you can only pick three possible choices of upgrade for that specific move before match making for a chance to work with your own unique playstyle which is pretty cool. Upgrades are obtained for a very long time throughout the game so you always have something to work towards which is a good way to stay motivated. I also like that because of the ability to upgrade abilities so much and with all the focus on those moves and your basic attack combat they removed problems many people had with things like talents and runes. Everyone starts off on the same level every game instead of “Oh, I’m level 30 so I attack 15% faster than you do. I hope that game of basketball you played instead of Awesomenauts was worth losing every single match you play with me”. That’s going to be a very huge selling point with DoTA2 players as literally every single one of them will tell you “fuck runes”.
All in all it’s a nice game to play with friends and the online is very enjoyable. It’s nowhere near as in-depth as DoTA or LoL but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a different take on the genre with a new 2D feel which is what many console gamers want. We don’t need more factions of MOBA to split up the genres fanbase. We need other options to play with differing styles so offer us ragequitters a chance to play their beloved game-type when they’re not on one of the big ticket games on the PC and Awesomenauts gives us that in a very enjoyable and cheap package. For 10 bucks it’s totally worth the pick up. With promises of more heroes, possible game modes and more you owe this game at least a test run on the 30 minute demo they have for download. Prepare for the onslaught, boys. Console MOBAs are here.
SIDE NOTE: When you kill an enemy it says “You have killed a enemy”. No. No I have not. I have killed AN enemy! ADD AN N FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT’S DRIVING ME INSANE! EVEN THE VOICE OVER! AHHHHHHHHH GOD DAMMIT!
No, but seriously. Fix that. It’s bothering me.