Awesomenauts Eurogamer Preview.
Let it be said, Enthusiasm is nothing if not infectious. Try as you might, you’ll be hard pressed to find more of it than among the Indie game development community right now. Before I even interact with Awesomenauts, an upcoming downloadable title from Dutch based developers Ronimo, I get a sense of that enthusiasm among the team. Focused in the right places, enthusiasm can make wonderful things happen.
But enthusiasm is for nothing without a competent execution. To assess how well Awesomenauts does as a game, we have to understand what it is. Described as a MOBA (an acronym of Multi-player Online Battle Arena) Players are, at the beginning of each round split into two teams of three players and set against each other, battling it out to destroy opponents turrets (whilst defending their own) to gain control of the map and ultimately, overthrow the opposing team. The familiarity to players of PC games such as League of Legends or DOTA should be immediate. Indeed this is no mistake on Ronimos part, the intention is to bring that very experience over the console. Here, the tried and tested game formula has been tweaked, streamlined and wrapped in personality.
Visually, the game appears to be a direct descendant of the 16-bit SEGA Mega-drive/Genesis games of my youth. The way it plays and feels is immediately familiar, the 2D Saturday morning cartoon visuals, the humor, even the 8 way shooting mechanic sparks feelings of nostalgia. A feeling that I can’t quite grasp until I hear Robin Meijer, Awesomenauts Producer on hand at Eurogamer Expo, mention Earthworm Jim and like that it all clicks. As far as inspiration goes, I know these guys are looking in all the right places
Awesomenauts wants desperately to engage you, constantly. From the moment you decide to begin playing there is little opportunity to so much as look away from the screen. The usual lobby system has all but been removed, instead if other players cannot be found at the moment you start playing, the level will be populated with AI players. An online drop in, drop out system is then employed, replacing the AI characters with human counterparts when they become available. At the beginning of each new round all players experience points are reset to level one (a departure from the usual ongoing level up mechanic console players are use to in games such as Call of Duty or Red Dead Redemption). Currency, or in this case ‘Solar’, is gained through your actions during the battle which, in turn, can then be used mid-game to upgrade your avatar along an entire tree of upgrades. In one game you might increase your move list, in another depending on how the game is playing out, you may want to increase your overall health or the damage you dish out with each attack. Things are kept interesting and at the end of the match your characters strengths and weaknesses may be the complete reverse of how you decided to upgrade that same character during the previous match. The re-spawn screen has also quietly been done away with, the short wait time between you meeting your demise and reentering the battle becomes a mini game of sorts, to collect more solar, to spend in game, to upgrade your character. Engaging you, constantly.
Awesomenauts ace in the sleeve is undoubtably its social or cooprative appeal. Get yourself and two friends together on a sofa and you have a full team ready to go. With the screen split into four (the HUD elements are moved to the forth, bank square for easier viewing) Awesomenauts then takes your team online to blend together both local and online gaming. With multiple characters to choose from, each with very different abilities and benefits, real strategy can be implemented. Because you are playing actual players online rather than AI opponents the challenge of each game will differ in how you work as a team. I expect the experience of a group of friends playing this game together, deciding when to push forward or to pull back, who will upgrade and how, will bring a smile to many faces.
And that’s where game ultimately succeeds, it’s fun. It’s fun when I play the game by myself and that feeling is only amplified by how many other people are playing too.
Release Date : TBC
Developer : Ronimo
Platform : Xbox 360 & Playstation 3
Publisher : dtp Entertainment AG
Pricing : TBC
Note : KyozoKicks played a version of Awesomnauts currently in BETA and as such should not be considered a review of the final product. Approximately 2 hours was spent with the title.