Awesomenauts originally launched across Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC back in 2012, and it definitely did something different with the MOBA genre. MOBA games have generally been known to be played exclusively on PC, and usually playing to the same tune across a multitude of games. The team at Ronimo Games made the game 2D, adapted a cheesy yet awesome 80’s cartoon vibe, and added in a dash of RPG elements to what would later be known as Awesomenauts.
Now the Awesomenauts are back in their newly updated release, Awesomenauts Assemble, which is now available across Playstation 4 and PC. For the purposes of this review, I played the game exclusively on PS4, although I have had experience playing the original across Playstation 3 and PC. The most notable improvements the game has in the new release are new characters, a new map, new skins, and totally revamped netcode and matchmaking.
The basic gist of Awesomenauts: Assemble is similar to most other MOBA style games – you pick a hero with his or her own unique abilities and play-style, and you head off down a “lane” of your choosing. While Awesomenauts has lanes just like any other MOBA, they’re definitely more vertical in terms of how easily you can switch between them and find the right path to victory. There are towers that you’ll absolutely have to take down in order to proceed, as they literally act as a physical barrier, as well as a defense against enemies.
First I’d like to talk about art style and overall vibe that the Awesomenauts universe has. If you were ever a fan of old 80’s and 90’s cartoons, you’ll feel right at home with the Awesomenauts. From the first time I heard that catchy and yet totally corny theme song, I was instantly hooked on that nostalgia hook that Awesomenauts has.
This is also a double edged sword as gamers who totally missed that era of cartoons and style might not dig that particular feel. While I think it’s not overt enough to turn people off if they don’t get it, I think it’s thematically integral to the world of Awesomenauts and all of its characters, as they’re all pretty hilarious and completely ridiculous, as far as their stories go.
Take one of the most iconic characters, Sheriff Lonestar, for example. He’s a genetically re-engineered cowboy that a planet made entirely of semi intelligent cow-like species decided to create as an attraction in a theme park. He escaped and promptly used his perfectly honed cowboy skills to wrangle the entire park’s staff up, but he didn’t stop there. Lonestar proceeded to wrangle up every single Bovinian in that system, and after he managed to capture their entire civilization, he hopped into a rocketship and flew into the sunset to become a mercenary in the robot wars. Did I mention that this character is easily one of the more normal ones?
The original game launched with only eight characters, and usually that personally left me feeling a bit disappointed as I wanted more choices to wreck havoc as. Thankfully, Assemble comes with another seven characters, adding up to a total of fifteen.
While this may not seem like a whole lot of characters compared to giant MOBA’s like League of Legends or DOTA, you have to consider the scale of Awesomenauts and its levels. As mentioned before, they’re played from a 2D perspective and are generally engineered to be played in short bursts, versus some of the longer match types seen in other games within the genre.
Don’t let my previous statement make you think the overall gameplay in Awesomenauts: Assemble is lacking at all – it definitely isn’t. Matches in Awesomenauts, whether they be local, against bots, or online, are generally very fast paced, but they end up being very addicting and fun.
As you complete successful matches, you’ll gain XP on your account, which in turn unlocks more characters, abilities for characters, and so on. I found myself not only blasting through intense matches, but wanting to keep unlocking everything the game had to offer.
You may be asking who my favorite character is among the originals and the newbies? Honestly, despite how much fun I’ve been having with the new characters, I keep coming back to one particular character that just has this inexplicable appeal to me for some reason – Leon Chameleon.
Leon can shortly be described as an assassin, a criminal, and a womanizer, and he definitely exudes that in practically anything he does in game. He’s my favorite character because of his quick abilities, and the ability to be extremely aggressive with him in combat.
Some of my favorite moments in the game are playing as Leon, where I manage to sneak up on my unsuspecting opponents while they are low on health and trying to escape back home to regenerate. The best play-style that I’ve found that works for me is speccing into Leon’s cloaking and backstabbing abilities as quickly as I can.
Naturally, if you can manage to get the drop on your enemies with those abilities can easily spell death. After I max those out, I go for his pure attack damage and attack speed buffs, and I generally cap out there as I frequently try to harass my enemies.
Just how improved is the netcode compared to the previous game? While I didn’t have that many issues in the original when I finally got into a match, I think the main problem people had across all platforms was the length of time you waited just to get into a match.
Whether this was due to poor netcode or poor matchmaking I have no idea, but I can tell you that the sequel is completely reinvigorated as far as network play is concerned. Not only do matches load very fast, but I found myself being put up against players of similar levels, while in the original I would frequently get my ass handed to me by pro-level players.
Controls in Awesomenauts: Assemble have also been improved from the original game’s console release. You’re probably wondering in what way could they possibly improve the controls over the original? In the original game you would have to aim and move with the same analog stick, only now you can use the right analog stick to aim specifically.
The finesse behind using the right stick to aim is not as precise as one would want, although it vastly depends on what kind of character you’re using. For instance, if you’re using Yuri, the Soviet space monkey experiment gone wrong, you’ll be able to use the right stick to guide his laser beam. Now if you’re using a melee attacker like Leon or Clunk, you’ll probably just revert to using a single stick like I usually do.
While there may not be quite enough new content to bring back fans to double dip, Ronimo Games are working on bringing their successfully funded Kickstarter expansion for the game, Starstorm, to both PC and Playstation 4.
Starstorm will bring with it five brand new characters, custom game settings that fans demanded, and a totally new map. While the full version of Starstorm isn’t currently available, you can play it right now through Steam Early Access.
In closing I’d like to reiterate how much I thoroughly enjoy Awesomenauts, and most especially the content seen in the new release. However, I do worry that the new content seen in Awesomenauts Assemble may not be quite enough for other fans to double dip.
Seven new characters, two new skins for everyone, and one new map may not look like a whole lot to someone just looking at bullet points. If you’ve never played the game and you’re looking for a fun, refreshing take on the MOBA genre on PC or Playstation 4, look no further.