In a way, Awesomenauts is every cartoon that people from my generation watched growing up. The game is content in its campiness and silliness, but not to the point where it is overwrought with these attributes. At the same time, the player’s intelligence is not taken for granted – much like it was not with the superior cartoons of the 90’s! – and there is a stark amount of strategy involved in this game. Unfortunately, the novelty of these aforementioned qualities wears off quickly, and Awesomenauts often finds itself muddled in extreme redundancy.
Awesomenauts is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA). MOBAs are an amalgamation of Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games and the action-adventure genre. The genre’s roots can be found in Starcraft, Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends, and Demigod; among others. Most MOBAs have been fairly small in their impact on the industry, the genre itself is arguably considered very niche. Having been centralized solely in the PC realm, Awesomenauts represents MOBA’s the first foray onto console-based platforms.
There is not much of a storyline or background to the Awesomenauts. It is the year 3587 and large robot armies are locked in an intense never-ending stalemate that threatens the safety of the galaxy. The Awesomenauts are the only force that can tip the scales in either side’s favor. I am not going to sit here and complain about a non-story in a game like this – it is no Mass Effect – but I think something a little less quaint may have gotten me more interested in the different characters – in my characters.
The field of battle is modeled after those RTS elements I mentioned earlier. There is a red team and a blue team. Both teams have their own base where they can acquire upgrades by spending currency that is either dropped by slain enemies in addition to being strewn all over the battlefield. There are at least two lines of defense in the form of turrets on each map, as well as some environmental hazards. This sounds pretty simplistic when read out loud, but there is an undercurrent of strategy laced in each game.
Before I jump in to that, there is one thing to note. The grind is something out of this world (no pun intended). Be prepared to die – a lot – and in many different ways, at the hands of many different players. You see, thoughtful matchmaking would place characters of equal or similar in rooms each other. Not in Awesomenauts. In this game, they learn you good. During one of my first go-arounds, I made the mistake of running head first into a confrontation just to see how I would fare. I was promptly JonBenet’ed for my troubles.
I was not killed solely because I was inept or the other player was a higher level, I was killed because I underestimated the game. On the outside, Awesomenauts looks like like beer and skittles, but in reality it should be titled ‘Awesomenauts, written and directed by General George S. Patton.’
Many games are dictated by the level of survivability, maneuverability, and longevity of you and your teammates. I personally benefitted from a stick-and-move strategy, and I noticed that a lot of games followed this pattern as well. Jumping into a fight in which you are clearly outclassed and outgunned is a waste, and it gives your enemies the necessary credits needed to upgrade and level up.
The grind in the beginning is tough, but after a moderate amount of rounds, you will level up and unlock further perks for your characters along with new characters that are initially locked at the game’s start. Customization is where the game starts to show off some uniqueness and diversity among its characters. Each character has their own set of two special moves, along with a set of upgrades that are standard for every character across the board. It is when you make these upgrades that each character’s role becomes apparent.
In addition to utilizing RTS elements, the characters follow a standard RPG lineup of tanks, brawlers, and healers/enfeeblers. Matches are decided by these different combinations, the abilities also help to differentiate between long-range and short-range attackers, area of effect and direct attackers, healers and enfeeblers, etc.
I definitely can sing a lot of praise for this game, but there are a few drawbacks. The biggest of which is simply the redundancy of it all, the mundane repetitiveness that follows you through each round. Every match, every level, and the score; all of them seemed to blur together in one big grey mess. There is some strategy and some matches can become intense battles, but in the end, it just is like another day at the RTS/RPG office, grinding it out. The game does not open up enough the further you progress, it does not retain anything close to that level of freshness that you experience when you first boot it up.
In a way, this game might appeal to one or two types of gamers. There are plenty of us out there that enjoy the hard work of the grind for the gains that come with it. If you are one of these gamers, then by all means, indulge yourself in Awesomenauts, it is good clean fun. However, my overall feelings were that for a game that was the first of its kind, hitting the consoles should have left more than a lackluster impact.