The past two days I’ve spent a few hours playing a game called Awsomenauts. At first glance it looks like a gorgeous platformer, much in the style if MegaMan. It really has that oldschool feel and aesthetics to it, though with higher resolution. ;)
But it’s not what it looks like. It’s a MOBA in disguise!
MOBA? What’s that? It’s an acronym meaning Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, and has a large following. There’s several MOBA games out there right now, the most popular being League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, DOTA2 and the upcomming Smite. But what IS a MOBA?
Putting it short, its an online game where two teams fight over a map, tying to reach the enemy camp and destroy their base. Along the way they have to fight through various fortifications (usually called turrets) and weak minions hellbent on attacking anything they find to the death. Each map usually have several routes to the enemy base (called lanes).
At the beginning of a battle each player choses a character with a special set of skills, and throughout the fight they have the option of spending resources they gain on upgrades, making them more and more powerful as the battle progresses. Usually you’ll want to avoid dying, both because you’ll be out of the fray for a while, but also because the enemy team will get resources to boost themselves by whackin’ yo ass!
Phew! Now with that out of the way, let’s talk a little about Awsomenauts…
As I said, it’s a MOBA in disguise as a platformer. You form up two teams of 3 players each try to get across the map to destroy the enemy drill.
Why a drill? There’s some backstory about how in the future some made-up mineral called Solar is really valuable blah-blah-blah so the teams fight each other for it, and to kill the oposite teams ability to dig for it. Truth be told, it’s really not important for the gameplay at all and sounds really silly if you try to take it seriously. But it works, because the game is full of silly anyway. ^_^
When you start the game for the first time you’re treated with a short “story” and a tutorial match that let you understand the basics of the game. It’s nothing spectacular, but it get the job done. Once through that you’re mostly on your own.
On the main meny you have the option of playing online matches where you select the abilities and gear for your character, quick matches where you’re dumped into the fray with minimal customizability, local splitscreen with a friend or practice matches agains AI-controlled bots.
First advice… Do a practice match or two first. It really let you get to know each character, and serves as a good warm-up session because, let’s face it, bot AI can never be quite as good or unpredictable as a human mind. That doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk, but it IS a little easier than the online battles.
And while they are called practice battles they give you just as much XP as the online battles, letting you level up and unlock new stuff.
Yup, after each battle you gain experience points. More if you win, but even the losing team get a little piece of the cake. As you gain levels you unlock various things; New characters, new options for the characters, new arenas to fight on.
When you start out you only have access to three characters, but you don’t have to play more than 2 or 3 battles before a new one is unlocked. At this time there’s 8 available characters, each with vastly different abilities and options. Then a match is started you select the character you want (be quick though, or your teammates might select it before you do), then you customize your build.
You’ll get 90 seconds to select which items will be available to purchace during the game. That’s an important distinction; What you select here is NOT what you will HAVE in the game when you start, it’s what will be available for purchace!
Each character have one regular attack, and two special attacks that must be bought in the store. Each of the three attacks can be upgraded during the battle by spending Solar (which you get by killing things), and enhance the attacks by dealing more damage, healing yourself, creating bigger BOOMs and various other enhancements.
As the battle start you’re stuffed into a dropshop and hurled down into the arena. Along the way down you can steer right and left, trying to pick of blocks of Solar that for some reason seem to hover in the air, allowing you to buy more goodies.
The first thing you’ll pass on the way into the arena is the aforementioned shop. Just hit the attack button and you’re in business (you start with a small supply, allowing you to buy a special attack or two). Next you’ll pass your team’s drill (don’t let the enemy kill this one), and it’s off to the mayhem!
The game can be played both using various setups of keyboard/mouse, and with a gamepad. I’ve hooked up my PS3 controller and it works like a dream. They keyboard controls were decent enough, but a controller really make the gameplay more intuitive. Might be because the game was initially created for consoles?
Once you start into the arena itself things start to happen faster than you manages to grasp.
One of your turrets is under attack so you go there to shoot the droid attacking it just to realize an enemy player was there too, hiding inside some bushes, and as you attack him you realize it’s a decoy and he’s really BEHIND you in stealth, backstabbing you for massive attacks, so you’ll retreat to behind your turret heading for the shop to heal, when another enemy player jumps right in front of you and you are both too stunned to react for a second, then just as you activate seldestruct to blow yourself (but more importantly HIM) up to smithereens he pulls out a holographic bull that rams you backward right into the chameleon guy you run away from, thus blowing HIM to pieces instead, only to suddenly be whacked to death by the mostly harmless critters that litter the place and that you aggroed because of the explosion.
Sounds confusing? It is. But more importantly, it’s FUN! A whole buttload of fun!
I’ve gotten a little better after some matches, finding some combination of abilities that work better than others, and tried out several different characters. So far I’m best at using Clunk, the giant robot that shoot missiles and can selfdestruct for a massive area attack. A really fun character to play is Leon Chameleon, a froglike little assassin that can stealth behind enemies and can use his frog-tongue to reel enemies in. I really suck at playing him (he’s a real glass cannon), but he’s fun.
The arenas themselves are large enough to actually demand a little strategy and teamwork to win, but not so large it’s a chore to go from one space to another. And each arena has it’s own little gimmick that makes it stand out from the others. There’s only three different ones so far, but with the promise of more in the future I can see a heckload of fun to be had here. :)
The only negative I have about the game is that you have to drop down in the drop-ship each time you die, and that there’s no list of all abilities that you can peruse in peace except when starting a battle (which gives you a limited time to do so). The last part can be somewhat excused by having sites like Awsomenauts Wiki, but it would be nice to have it ingame on the main menu as well.
I’ve played a few MOBAs, League of Legends the one I’ve spent most time in, and can honestly say I’ve never had as much unadulterated fun and excitement as I’ve had in Awsomenauts. It’s pure action, mayhem and chaos from the first go, and only ramps up from there!
So to answer the question in the title:
Awsomenauts is AWSOME!