After enjoying the console space since May, Awesomenauts has finally made its way to the PC. Unlike the console market, there are a plethora of free-to-play MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas). Super Monday Night Combat, League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, DOTA2 and even the original DotA mod have been capitalizing on this market for a while now, can this 2D take of a MOBA game make any ground in the market?
I would say no, but the player base I encountered during my review process clearly proves me wrong. Though, after playing for a considerable amount of time, I wish I wasn’t. I rarely enjoyed any of the time I spent with Awesomenauts…not to say that it’s a terrible game, but all it did was make me want to play other, better MOBAs.
Simply booting up Awesomenauts for the first time set me up for disappointment. It opens with a cutscene that seemed to indicate a campaign mode, which would be a first for the genre. Unfortunately, it’s just a tutorial, once you finish it you can play against the computer in practice matches, but you have to unlock two of the three levels by playing the game. You also only have three characters to start out with, you have to unlock the rest.
I’m sorry, but that is not okay. Every other MOBA on the market either gives you everyone or cycles through unlocked characters on a weekly basis. The reason characters are locked at all is because that’s how the developers make money. The game is free and you pay to permanently unlock your favorite character, but you can always use in-game currency. Making me pay for the game and then I still have to unlock characters is not okay.
I can deal with being forced to play a character I don’t enjoy or understand because I’m cheap, but that’s not the case here. Not that I really found a character I really enjoyed playing. I ended up mostly using Clunk, but it didn’t really do me too much good. Every character has two set special abilities, but the way you level them up can be completely customized to suit your play style. Not that I knew what my playstyle should be.
If I won a match or if I was utterly defeated, because there was never any sort of other outcome, I had no idea why. It never felt like I was doing something wrong or right, just at about a third of the way through one team would take a clear lead and I just had to play through the rest of the match. I think one of the problems is that anyone can drop in and out of a match, replacing or being replaced by a bot, who are considerably better than players.
Playing on a 2D field has some disadvantages too. Getting into a brawl quickly devolves into an unintelligible blob of insanity that generally leaves a random person dead for reasons beyond my understanding. There’s also the problem of aiming along a 2D plane with a mouse. On the console you would just flick the stick in the direction you wanted to shoot. Now, if someone comes from the other side, you have to make sure you drag the cursor across the screen fast enough to prevent your face from being blown off.
The characters themselves seemed somewhat interesting and the theme music that plays for each character does differentiate them, but that was about it. I felt like there was some effort put into giving these characters some interesting qualities, it just didn’t come across. The levels themselves are completely devoid of anything interesting and one of the three maps features a completely useless turret that the bot crawl doesn’t even approach.
As I have put considerable time into Super Monday Night Combat and League of Legends, Awesomenauts just doesn’t stack up to the competition, and the other titles are completely free to play. I tried to enjoy this game, but every time I came close, a completely devastating loss or repeated death streak that I just couldn’t explain held me back. With some considerable balancing, Awesomenauts could be, well, awesome, but its not there yet.