Ronimo Games has released a brand new multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game for Steam, aptly named Awesomenauts. The MOBA genre of games has seen a rise lately, with the success of League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients, but Awesomenauts puts a 2D action shooter spin on the whole genre. Awesomenauts is full of great characters that are created with a very particular aesthetic, solid gameplay, but does suffer from some balance issues with the characters that are currently available. Overall, Awesomenauts lives up to it’s name, which was a very pleasant surprise for me.
The story and the aesthetics of Awesomenauts comes right out of my child hood and plays like a Saturday cartoon from the 80’s. Awesomenauts is set in the future, the year 3587, where massive robot armies wage war across the universe. Each side in this massive conflict begin to hire mercenaries to help break the stalemate. These mercenaries, the Awesomenauts, are who you play as during each skirmish versus the other players online or against practice bots.
The story here is more of a background character, explaining more why you are fighting against another team then really acting as any type of driving narrative for game play. You are fighting against another set of mercenary Awesomenauts over the resource known as Solar, and for control over the planet that you are on. Currently, there are four planets, or maps, that get unlocked as you level up. Each character has a little bio that fits the character design, more on that actual design later. Overall, the story really sets up the aesthetics of the entire game and gives it a good structure and basis for what is going on, without actually driving the narrative of the story or forcing the story to move anywhere.
The game play of Awesomenauts plays like a typical MOBA game. The battles are three versus three, so they are small but can be quite frantic, thanks to the size of the arenas that you fight in. You select a character and a load out in the beginning of the game. The load out will be the types of upgrades that you can purchase throughout the game as you level up and gain Solar, which is the monetary unit for purchases in Awesomenauts. Similar to League of Legends, Awesomenauts allows you to create and modify your Awesomenaut in a unique way. You choose your load out, then choose what you want to purchase during game play. Being able to pick a load out also before the game begins, also allows you to set up a plan of purchases, which helps if you are not overly familiar with your particular Awesomenaut.
You can purchase up to 2 more special attacks that is in addition to your base attack. These attacks are bound to your mouse, which means the game plays much more like a first person shooter then the other MOBA games on the market. You move using the keyboard, then target and fire using your mouse, with each button being bound to a special attack. The other bonuses you buy to upgrade your Awesomenaut all modify these attacks or your base stats.
During game play, your base will generate robots to help you defeat the other team’s turrets that block your path to the opponents’ power core. Again like League of Legends, you have to use the bots to push your team to destroy each turret in order to get to the power core, while fighting off the other team, or hunting creeps that are found on the map. The creeps will give you experience and Solar for each one you destroy, while also giving you a little health. The first team to destroy the opposing power core, wins the match.
The game is mostly an online game, made to play against other teams of three live players. What is really nice with the game play design here, is that if there isn’t enough players, the game will generate bots to fill in the missing spots. Then as players drop in, they take the spots of these bots. This ensures that games are easy to find, and they were for me. You can also play in an offline practice mode, which still allows for achievements and earning experience, so online play isn’t a necessity to unlock other items. Once a player picks a character, that character is locked out for the others, so make sure you pick quickly if you have a favorite. The only negative that I could see here was the balance of the characters. Currently, Yuri the Spacemonkey is a wrecking ball and dominates most games that I played in. Ronimo is looking at these balance changes, and have already put out patch 1.2, which addresses some of these concerns.
I have made a lot of comparisons to League of Legends here with Awesomenauts, and it’s hard not to. Both are MOBA type games, using bots and characters to destroy turrets on the way to destroy the opposing power core. However, the difference is in the actual game play and the aesthetics of both games. Awesomenauts plays much more like a side scrolling shooter, then an action rpg like League of Legends does. League of Legends borrows heavily from Warcraft III, while Awesomenauts truly borrows most of it’s ideas from my child hood and 80’s cartoons. So, if you think this is just another MOBA League of Legends or Dota clone, stop right there! This game plays nothing like those, and, for me, it plays much better as an actual game.
I have mention this before, but the aesthetics of Awesomenauts comes right out of a 80’s Saturday morning cartoon, right down to the opening theme song. The characters are all designed with this type of motif in mind, from the rapping frog creature with the Kid N’ Play haircut, to the space cowboy Lonestar. The graphics look very cartoon like themselves, which works with the aesthetic that Ronimo is working towards. The action was fast and fluid looking on my PC, which recently had a huge upgrade to the video card so I can see more of what the developers were intending here. Awesomenauts may not be on the cutting edge of graphics, but the aesthetics and designs here are just…..awesome.
Even the voice work fits the aesthetics for Awesomenauts. Each character is voiced to spout one liners during game play, and I felt that each character’s voice overs help promote their individuality and really worked for me. None of the voice overs became grating or overused, at least to my level of tolerance. For me, in these types of games, a good voice over is one that adds to the overall game without becoming to noticeable, so Awesomenauts does the job quite well in those regards.
Simply put, this is the best MOBA game I have played outside of League of Legends. The game play is solid and is easier for me to get a handle on, the aesthetics really works well with the overall design, and the voice overs work well without becoming annoying. Sure, the game has some serious balance issues online currently, but so did League of Legends. I will give the people at Ronimo some time to get this right as they see the game play pan out. I understand that the price point for Awesomenauts is $9.99, versus free for League of Legends, but remember that the free version of League of Legends does not allow you access to every champion, while buying Awesomenauts does, you just have to unlock them as you level up. Awesomenauts is well worth the look, especially at the price point they have it on Steam.