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Jonzor's Video Game Reviews (41)

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Batman: Arkham Knight 4.5/5
Magicka 4/5
Bravely Default 4/5
Awesomenauts 4/5
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon 4/5
Far Cry 3 4/5
Halo: Combat Evolved An... 4/5
Crysis Warhead 4.5/5
Crysis 4.5/5
Final Fantasy: The 4 He... 1.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4.5/5
Borderlands 2 4/5
Final Fight 3/5
Command & Conquer 4: Ti... 1.5/5
Resident Evil: Revelati... 3.5/5
Bastion 4/5
Defense Grid: The Awake... 4.5/5
Borderlands 4/5
Mass Effect 3 4.5/5
Mass Effect 2 4.5/5
Mass Effect 4/5
Batman: Arkham Asylum 4.5/5
Ikaruga 4/5
The Legend of Zelda: Oc... 5/5
Mario Kart: Double Dash... 4.5/5

Next 16
 

Awesomenauts   PC (Steam) 

This place looks dangerous... I like it!    4/5 stars

It’s impossible to write a review of this game (at least for me) without succumbing to the temptation to make some sort of awesome-based pun at some point. The reasons are two-fold:

1. The joke is low-hanging fruit and I’m not above that sort of stuff.
2. The game in question, Awesomenauts, IS in fact, awesome.

But I’ll try my very hardest.

If I had to describe it to someone who had never seen it, I’d say it’s what would happen if Super Smash Bros was turned into a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). This description I feel does an AWES… surprisingly.... good... job, save for the fact that MOBA games are still a fairly new genre so many people can’t even name a MOBA, let alone understand what you’re trying to convey.

And that seems as good a place to start as any. Standard operating procedure in a MOBA is that the level is a territory-control setup. Each team starts with a base, and the bases are separated by stationary defenses that must be destroyed en route to your way to destroying the enemy team’s base. The stationary defenses are pretty stout, so to stand next to them and try to smash them to pieces is a suicide mission. This is where the drones come in. Your base continually spawns essentially mindless drones that attack any enemy in their range. The drones aren’t especially tough, but they never end.

If left to their own devices, the drones and stationary turrets will more or less battle to a stalemate near the middle of the map till the end of time. Enter the players - the Awesomenauts. Your job is to create imbalances in the fight to allow drones to get to the turrets to damage them and provide distraction while YOU damage them. Obviously, the enemy team’s ‘nauts will try and stop you and create their own offensive pushes towards your base, and now you’ve got a sense of the game.

Awesomenauts differs from the most popular MOBAs in that THEY are usually top-down, Diablo-esque click-fests, Awesomenauts is a side-scrolling, cartoonishly-wacky platformer. If there’s another side-scrolling MOBA out there, I haven’t heard of it, but I’m willing to bet it’s not as AWES… well-executed... as Awesomenauts.

So let’s get into the particulars. Strewn about the map is the game’s currency, “solar”, which you collect and use to buy upgrades at a shop near your spawn point. You’ll also get solar automatically when you or a teammate gets a kill or destroys an enemy defense turret, and killing enemy drones drops solar for anyone to pick up. The upgrades break down into four categories: access to two special abilities specific to each ‘naut and upgrades for the ability, character-specific upgrades to each character’s standard attack, and universal upgrades to things like health and movement speed. You already have access to the two rows of upgrades for standard attacks and the universal upgrades, but access to the upgrades for special abilities are locked until the ability itself has been purchased. Each row has five upgrades, and only three of those upgrades per row can be invested in during a match, so you need to put some serious thought into what three you think you may need during a fight. There are a wide range of upgrades in any given row, creating a couple different ways to specialize a character and their attacks so that two people may not play the same ‘naut the same way. Matches also may not last long enough for a player to buy and max out all four rows of upgrades, so you also need to prioritize which upgrades seem most essential.

Time to meet the ‘nauts. The game unlocks new characters as you play, so as I played with each new ‘naut as they unlocked I came to realize that nearly all of the 20ish (I have also bought the expansion) characters are AWES… really… really… fun. I’m not kidding. With the exception of maybe one or two, I had a ton of fun playing with all of them, and they’re all incredibly unique. Serious, serious kudos to the developers for this lineup. My favorites are Coco, the lightning-slinging surfer girl, Gnaw the plant-based damage-over-time specialist, Yuri, the flying Russian space monkey, and Ted McPain the space marine. Special note to Ayla, the psychic gremlin voiced by the one-of-a-kind Ashly Burch, who you may remember as Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2. All the classic character classes are here in one way or another, tanks, healers, rogues, casters... and they’re all worth a look.

You’ll play on non-negotiable teams of three. There’s plenty of mayhem and mix-and-match combinations this game can create with three ‘nauts, but just… you know… it’s ALWAYS a 3-on-3 match.

The game has five maps, which may be least-AWES… er… least-impressive portion of the game. MOBA-style maps generally adhere to the construction of “lanes” (the as-the-crow-files path the mindless drones take towards a defense and then the enemy base) which creates templates for maps. Having templates like this can obviously limit creativity, but in some ways, the gameplay of the genre creates a reason for templates. Anyway, the maps in Awesomenauts break down into only a few types right now: maps with two separate lanes that have their own turrets, a map that splits from one lane to two after destroying a turret, and a map that narrows from two lanes to one. This is an easy fix, and I’m holding out hope right now that a 3-lane map, or at least a LONGER two lane or one/two lane hybrid map will come out. The 3-player cap probably creates certain limitations while making a good map, but who knows, maybe that 3-player limit is on the table after some future expansion.

The visuals and sound in the game are simple, but still well-executed. The game’s opening theme feels like the start of an 80s Saturday morning cartoon, each character’s theme and dialog is funny and appropriate, and the music during levels has a simple, futuristic jingle to it that can surely get stuck in your head. The graphics are a bright, colorful, and silly cartoon that fits the tone set by everything else in the game and the screen always stays clear during the chaos. You’ll rarely, if ever, find yourself getting confused by busy action or wondering what just happened. The screen is large enough to fit a lot of action, but not so big that a surprise or two can’t spring out of nowhere and catch you off guard. Stay on your toes!

As is my way with these games… I’ve spent ZERO time online playing random people. I’ve spent a LOT of time playing with two friends online against computer-controlled bots, however. The game almost always plays smoothly with hardly any glitches or bugs or disconnects. Playing with friends is a ton of fun, and obviously the preferred way to go, but playing by myself to unlock all the characters and upgrades was hardly a chore.

Playing bots brings up one problem we encountered, though… the AI difficulty. Setting the difficulty of the bots works on a slider from 0 to 100, but ONLY in increments of 20. The game defaulted to 60 when we picked the game up.... DO NOT START PLAYING ON 60. The three of us got eaten alive and nearly rage-quit the game after a few hours. Subsequent patches have made it easier to set a more manageable difficulty, I recommend playing a patronizing, lame-duck match at like 20 your first time out before moving it up to 40 as you get your feet underneath you. After finding a working character combination or two and getting the hang of some tactics (here a free lesson: only losers engage in a fight they aren’t CERTAIN they can win. Feint, poke, prod, scout… be annoying… but over-aggressive players are your enemy’s best friend. Remember, stupid deaths by you are instant solar in their pocket) my friends and I are more than a match for the level 60s that used to butcher us like cattle, but we’re not brave enough to dial up an 80 yet.

I’ve never played another MOBA before (like League of Legends or DOTA). But I can tell you that Awesomenauts has a simple foundation that hides a deep and fast-paced game. It’s simple, but the great roster provides a ton of depth and entertainment. If you’ve got a friend or two and a little patience to find characters that fit you, you’re surely in for an AWESOME time. Dammit. I tried.

 

 


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