Although the DotA concept isn't all that new any more, since the arrival of League of Legends it has become much more mainstream. As such, there are plenty of games out there that have been developed to try and capitalise, but while Awesomenauts is one of those games, it does it in a completely different way. And to its credit, it shows a great deal of originality despite its core being nothing groundbreaking.
There's a story there, but it's not meant to be an integral part of the experience. There's some galactic war going on and the Awesomenauts have been recruited to try and take out drills. It just so happens though, that the opposition forces have also recruited their own guys. This, presents a tug of war.
Each of the drills is protected by massive turrets which must be destroyed first before the drill can be taken out of commission. There is also a relentless supply of minions charging head-long from your base into the opposition's quarter - sound familiar? The catch is that unlike many other MOBA games, Awesomenauts is a 2D experience.
It actually makes the experience a lot more tactical, because there's a lot less room to play around with.
When you start off, you only have a small array of characters to choose from, but even when you're a higher level there's still only a handful present. It's a bit disappointing, but there's still a good selection of play styles represented. You've got a stealth champion, a tank, a pusher and a full-blown carry. And finding one that suits you is half the battle.
The other half is getting around the match-making system. 3 vs 3 is the name of the game in Awesomenauts, which means that if you have one dud player, you can easily lose. And right now, that happens all too frequently. Each map typically has two lanes, one long and one short. Although there is a tutorial, players not familiar with the game concept are just thrown in the deep-end, much to the distain of their teammates.
There will be matches where your teammates loiter around protecting turrets in the inner circle, despite the outer ones still being around. There will also be other matches where no matter what you do, everyone just ends up in the same lane all the time. If the other team has half a clue, these scenarios present an easy victory and you can end up on a massive losing streak just because people don't have a clue what they're doing.Honestly, in most cases you might end up thinking it's better to just play with the AI - at least when you get a decent match.
It might seem like a harsh critique, as the game is at its core a PvP experience. But it feels like more could have been done to nurture new players. If you keep losing due to the ineptitude of your teammates, you'll just want to quit. Having said that, if you do actually manage to find a game where you get 3 people on each side who know what they're doing, things can be pretty fun.
Before each game starts, you have to choose which abilities you want to be able to use as the match progresses. You then use the in-game money to purchase and upgrade these abilities - there are no items. It's only possible to choose three abilities from each of the different categories, so there is still an element of customisation, but aside from the bottom tree, these are all unique to each character.
You'll be able to collect in-game currency through pick-ups and killing enemies. There is of course currency generated over time and there are health pick-ups in each of the levels, which are provided by neutral monsters.
Overall the gameplay holds up well, even if it is a little limited. Each of the champions has a basic attack and two complementary attacks. There are no ultimates or anything like that. Even though this is the case, there are still lots of different options for play styles, even with the same champions.
Where Awesomenauts excels is its art style and, to a degree, its lore. There aren't many other games that will see a cowboy summoning a virtual bull, that he then uses to ram a flying monkey into a turret. And due to the how it's presented, that all seems perfectly normal. The music does get a little bit annoying, especially the character themes and it's frustrating that they start playing once you get on a killing spree. Froggie G certainly is hip, but having to listen to his music... really isn't.
In terms of replay value, there are plenty of levels to go through, and as you get more experience, you'll unlock more abilities. It's also possible to play alongside a friend locally, which can be a hindrance or an aid depending on how you look at it. If you're paired up with two friends, neither of which knows what they're doing, you pretty much end up in a 1 vs 3 scenario. However, if the two friends are well versed, it becomes a massive asset.
Awesomenauts is a fun entry into the MOBA world, offering a 2D perspective, coupled with a rather zany art style. It's certainly not for the feint of heart though and its mandatory 3 vs 3 core can make the encounter rather frustrating. However, if you can look past this, and end up with some people who know what they're doing, Awesomenauts is great downloadable title.
|Transitions to 2D well.|
|Art style is pretty zany.|
|If you get six people who know what they're doing, the experience is great.|
|Small array of characters to choose from.|
|One bad player and your team is very likely to lose.|
|Music is rather annoying.|