MOBA, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, games will be alien to the majority of console gamers. They may well have heard PC gamers discussing, in whispered tones, the likes of Defence of the Ancients or League of Legends. But these top-down action real-time strategy games simply don’t exist on the likes of PS3 or Xbox360. They are built for the PC and work best with mouse and keyboard control schemes.
But that didn’t stop Ronimo Games from taking the genre, dropping the top-down view in favour of some side-scrolling movement with 2D action and plastering the entire thing with a coating of Saturday morning cartoons. Suddenly, it feels like an arcade game.
PC MOBA games, and the players who play them, consider themselves hardcore. They are incredibly tough games to master, and the journey to mastery is more often than not filled with members of your team shouting at your mistakes, and the opposing team laughing as they kill you yet again. They are not very friendly…
But imagine their faces when the genre they love is not only launched onto the home consoles, but given a humorous, cartoon-like style. When I watched the first Awesomenauts trailer, I managed to convince myself that the game was, in fact, based around a cartoon series, such is the quality of the cut-scenes and the style of the various characters. Awesomenauts looks brilliant, and fits perfectly as an arcade title.
But it is the gameplay that is all important, and Awesomenauts doesn’t let us down there either. Traditionally, MOBA games involve two teams of players making their way along pre-defined paths to destroy the opposing teams base. Each team will have turrets to protect their base, and computer controlled units which slowly spawn and work their way along the paths, fighting both opposing players and turrets. This all goes on for quite a while, until one team finally destroys the other team’s base.
Awesomenauts is exactly the same, except presented in a 2D side-scrolling format. Players pick from six available characters and then start working their way across the screen, along one of the available routes, until they reach one of the turrets. These have to be destroyed before reaching the opposing base, or drillcore. Droids slowly spawn from the base and provide a certain amount of cover when confronting the turrets, thanks to their limited shields. Once the turret is down, the player can move on.
But all the while, the opposing team is doing exactly the same thing. Enemy droids have to be dealt with to protect your turrets, and opposing team members will be more than happy to bring your life to an end. Death can be frequent and costly. The player is able, at any point, to teleport back to the base to heal, and upgrade their chosen character by spending some money, or Solar, at the shop.
Each character has a different jump and basic attack, which can be upgraded at the store along with health and movement upgrades. They then have two special attacks which need to be purchased and again upgraded by spending some hard-earned cash. This not only gives players the chance to advance their character as they see fit, but also ensures that as a match progresses, characters can advance at more or less an equal pace. The game is incredibly well balanced, which can lead to some real “to and fro” games that seem to last for an eternity.
The six playable heroes are really quite varied, with a dynamite throwing cowboy all the way to a flying monkey. As the player competes in matches and earn s experience to level up, they will unlock additional heroes to try out, along with new maps on which to play and new upgrades for their characters. The characters all play differently, so anyone should be able to find one with which they are comfortable. However, much like the PC MOBA games, mastering a character will take a long time and the best players will find themselves concentrating on one character rather than flitting between a couple.
There is a certain amount of depth and skill to Awesomenauts. Although no where near as deep as games like League of Legends, veterans of the MOBA genre will still find the principles are the same and be able to enjoy Awesomenauts, despite the much less serious setting. The game offers a handy practice mode to the less experienced player, which replaces real-life players with bots, but still allows the player to earn expereince. There is even split-screen play included, making Awesomenauts a firm favorite when friends come round.
Awesomenauts may not have the depth of the great MOBA games on PC, but then you wouldn’t expect it to. As a MOBA game, Awesomenauts falls a little short. But as an arcade game that just happens to be based on the MOBA formula, Awesomenauts is a multiplayer blast. It is also nice to play a MOBA game without having team-mates cursing you for being on their team.