PAX East 2012 Round-Up: Awesomenauts
Awesomenauts – Ronimo Games
Long story short, Awesomenauts was my favorite game at PAX East this year. Would you like to know why? Read on, you crazy reader.
When I say Awesomenauts was my favorite game, that doesn’t mean there weren’t other gems to be found on the expo hall. A quick run-down off the top of my head includes (not all PSN games) Dyad, Super Time Force, Guacamelee, Go Home Dinosaurs, Hell Yeah!, Sonic 4, a Final Fantasy music rhythm game I didn’t even play, and Lawnmower Challenge. While I found all of these games to be noteworthy, the one I wanted to play again and again was Awesomenauts. The easiest way to describe the game (and the way the devs were showcasing it) is by comparing it to League of Legends. Awesomenauts is a 2D MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game that pits two teams of three people each against each other. The objective is to reach and destroy the enemy core, but to get to it you’ll have to navigate branching paths (think lanes) and either avoid or plow through enemy creeps, players, and turrets. There are a handful of characters to choose from. Each character has unique special abilities and a customizable loadout like I’ve never seen.
After choosing your character, you come to a screen that allows you to choose what upgrades you want to bring into this particular battle. You see, there’s a shop that you pass every time your character respawns wherein you can spend solar (the games currency) to acquire upgrades. Solar is obtained by defeating opposing players and creeps, or by simply staying alive. When you die, you lose a certain amount of solar. That solar is redistributed amongst teammates of the other team. The opposite, of course, holds true, so that by staying alive, you’ll likely accrue solar thanks to your teammates’ efforts. I played as Lonestar for the first few matches. His abilities include calling a raging bull to push back and damage opponents, and tossing dynamite that causes splash damage when it explodes. Some examples of upgrades are increasing the damage that your bull inflicts, tying a slowing effect to the bull, increasing the number of sticks you toss, and having the dynamite bounce until it hits a target. There are more, I’m sure, but those are the few I remember.
At some point during day 2, I revisited the Awesomnauts booth to quench my thirst for more awesome. This time around, I chose Leon the chameleon. I usually stick to one character and try to master it, but I wanted to test the waters and see if the other characters were fun enough to at least try. I’m happy I did, because I was rocking people left and right with Leon. The game is so deep and so well balanced that by only my third match I was already devising strategies. ‘Okay, so if I drop Leon’s echo I can get behind my opponent and deal extra damage with the backstab upgrade. If he tries to get away, I can pull him in with the tongue grapple move, and since I upgraded it to have a silence effect, I can wallop him without worrying about a shield being popped.’ Along with formulating my own strats, I was constantly checking in with my two partners to coordinate attack plans. This was made easier by the fact that we were all playing on the same screen.
Awesomenauts supports up to three players per screen (it’s split four ways, the fourth screen is a map) and allows all them to take the fight online. There’s drop-in, too, so if you’re playing against bots, they can at any time be replaced by real people. Dungeon Defenders and Hoard are two other games that supported this type of hybrid multiplayer. I’m happy Awesomenauts has it, because I know how little PSN users utilize their microphones. The TVs we played on weren’t particularly big, yet nobody seemed to have a problem seeing everything necessary to play the game. After every match, you earn experience points to upgrade your profile. New characters and upgrades unlock over time. If I remember correctly, there are 45 total levels, and the profile we were on reached max level by day two. So you’ve got to figure that about five to eight hours of play will unlock everything. I also spotted an icon for “More Characters Coming!” on the character select screen. Expect DLC.
All in all, I can’t wait to have Awesomenauts in my own home. I haven’t been bit by the MOBA bug yet (I’ve never played HoN or LoL or even DotA), but after playing Awesomenauts, it seems I’m not immune to the sickness. The only hope I have is that PSN users wise up and turn on their mics, because with a solid community who talk to each other about playing the game, this will be an amazing experience. I just marked my calender for May 1st, I suggest you do the same.
Check some tactical, commentated gameplay between the developers: