I first came across Awesomenauts on the Xbox 360 back in 2012, and over the last four years, the franchise has become one of the most fun, enjoyable and highly rated 2D Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game ever.
The year is 3587 and conflict spans the stars as huge robot armies are locked in an enduring stalemate. In their bid for galactic supremacy, they call upon the most powerful group on mercenaries in the universe : The Awesomenauts.
And low and behold, we get to play as the band of bad ass butt kicking heroes, Wit a total of 26 characters to choose from, there’s no shortage of options and when you can literally spend hours playing with a single character, slowly getting used to their attacks, how best to power up and utilise their strengths it’s safe to say there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
Games are set in 3 vs 3 matchups, as you try to venture forth and destroy the core of the enemy team, between you and them you each have a number of turrets defending your own base. In typical moba style, there’s also minions (droids) who will wander forward like lemmings until they find something to attack. While they don’t pack the most powerful punch they’ll slowly chip away at any turrets they meet, but best of all they’re little walking bullet sponge’s, so you can be sure of a diversion if you want to plough some firepower into your enemies defences.
Obviously the enemy team will be trying to do the exact same thing, so you’ll want to protect your own droids while trying to dispatch theirs, and then there’s the turrets you’ll want to take down as soon as possible and the small matter of 3 other mercenaries that would like nothing more than smashing your face into the ground.
It’s a tried and tested formula which hasn’t changed much, but Awesomenauts carries it out to perfection, with only teams of 3 you always feel valuable, and it’s easy to blame yourself if your team loses and you didn’t pull your weight, but as fun as each and every match turns out, the major excitement is in the vast selection of characters and te near endless possibilities with each.
Each mercenary utilises the four face buttons, ‘A’ is jump, with ‘X’ performing a very basic attack, these are joined by ‘Y’ and ‘A’ which produce 2 special attacks that will take a pre-determined time to recharge, but will deal far more damage, or give other benefits such as long range missile barrages.
Within your teams base you’ll find the shop, this bright beam of light doubles up as health regeneration so it’s worthwhile popping back even if only to restock on your health bar, but hitting ‘LB’ brings up the shop menu, where you’ll find a selection of power-ups for each of the face buttons, those corresponding to attack and jump (X, A) usually centralise around your basic abilities, speed, health regeneration, or basic attack and defence boosts, while minor many of these upgrades are cheaper so it’s worth stocking up on a few depending on your approach.
The upgrades for special attacks range from simple cooldown reduction or power increase but some will completely change the specific attack making it even more effective in certain situations.
Having spent many, many hours on Awesomenauts on various consoles over the years, I was pleased to see my 360 level had carried over to the Xbox One giving me a healthy selection of characters from the word go, this was a lovely surprise but certainly wasn’t required. Playing from scratch and you’ll quickly start to unlock characters and new levels, with the aid of micro transactions there also a wealth of costumes to unlock and I’ve heard direct from the developers that a new character will be added for free in the coming weeks which shows tremendous support for a franchise that’s now in it’s 6th year.
Even after all of this time I find it near impossible to say who my favourite character is, some of the larger tank-like characters provide fantastic droid support, both in distracting the enemy team and taking down turrets, whereas more agile characters will find it easier to attack the often quieter harder to reach turrets to work an alternate route to the enemies base, with the wide selection of upgrades for all characters it’s going to take a while before you’ve tried all of them, and even then with so many different approaches available depending how you choose to venture forward.
With teams always either Red or Blue you might think the graphics are pretty predictable, but keeping the 2D approach means lines are clear and sharp, with colours vivid and bright, there’s a wealth of effects dependent on the moves, and many special attacks have a distinct tell meaning more experienced and skillful players will easily come out on top when they end up in a one-on-one battle with another Awesomenaut which soon feels more like a tactical match of skill and wits.
There’s little to whine about with levels well details and varied, and the majority of characters all easily distinguishable, another charm is the sense of humour injected into the game in looks, presentation ad that carries through into the audio, with some great and at times comical voices, and a selection of characters that are fun and approachable.
With so many characters, and endless fun on line there’s no limit on the time you can spend on awesomenauts. Like any good Moba, the number of levels, or standard game mode really doesn’t make the title feel limited, the custom approach to your characters make every game feel fresh and even if you only play one game with each possible configuration of power-ups on each character, you’re still likely to be here in months and months to come. Then you’ll find a handful of characters you really like, you’ll perfect the exact power-ups you choose to purchase and work out the best order to get them and the more kills you get, the more wins you earn your team, the more engrossed you’ll become.
Add to that the option of 6 players online and local split screen and online co-operative play there’s plenty to play whether your alone or with friends.
The thing that really stands out for me, is the momentum of the game, it’s constant battle, but at the same time smooth and tactical, it feels as frantic as it does relaxing which lists Awesomenauts as one of the few action games that actually feel relaxing to play.