Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas - MOBA - have been a thing since the "Aeon of Strife" custom map infected the StarCraft community back in 1998. Since then, nearly every Real-Time Strategy game packaged with a map editor has seen its share of MOBA maps. This evolution of the RTS genre shed the macro for a deeper micro experience, simplifying the expansive RTS troupes into a mini-game-like experience that has lived-on in the PC gaming world since. Awesomenauts is an early attempt to bring 2D Action-RTS to consoles, and while its a step closer to expanding the genre to less-obscure heights, it falls shy of its maximum potential.
Awesomenauts (PSN, XBLA)
Developer: Ronimo Games
Publisher: DTP Entertainment
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Players control one of six hero characters to form a team of three, customizing power-ups and special move loadouts before descending into battle. Once on the battlefield, your attack force - with the aid of AI attacker-bots - pushes forward through enemy lines, destroying defenses on the bloody road to victory.
The MOBA formula is addictive, immensely fun, and works wonderfully on a 2D plain. The customization of heroes has all the trappings RPG fans love, and the loadout options make for a less frustrated strategist. Ronimo also tossed a handful of fresh ideas into their action-RTS that help keep the on-screen action a few seconds away.
It's done then! This is where I give the game its high-score and recommend to the masses, who frequent online-competitive battlefields, Awesomenauts like it deserves?
Ronimo deserves credit for Awesomenauts, without a doubt. It's beautifully Saturday morning cartoon, plays like a 2D action game should, and undoubtably hits all the right notes for genre fans. It's also the only MOBA game on the console market. Yet, I hesitate to recommend the game highly. Why?
Awesomenauts is fairly bare boned at its asking-price. 3 heroes require heavy grinding before unlocking, along with two of the three maps. Three maps is a shameful number of battlefields to expect to grind hours of time through, no matter how good the maps. I also found Awesomenauts to lack a single-player practice experience that was worth playing more than once. A handful of practice-options would have went a long way with anyone unfamiliar with the formulaic gameplay, or even strategists looking to test attack/defense theories.
My playtime with Awesomenauts went smoothly on 3V3 loaded servers, with a few hitches in lag as expected. The community of gamers playing was thin, and I often found myself waiting to start a game more often than not. If the Awesomenauts community doesn't populate quickly, there wont be enough going on to warrant a visit, deeming the game useless as solely a single-player experience.
With the trend of the video game market twisting in ways never seen before, why Awesomenauts wasn't an ad-touting, free-to-play game is beyond me. The niche market that plays Defense of the Ancients are not looking to turn the genre over to consoles, nor is their anything special Awesomenauts is doing to pull console gamers to frequent it. It's sadly an over-priced gem that will live and die by the success of its community; a community that has far too many options as far as spending $10 goes.
I liked Awesomenauts enough to say that if you like the idea of seeing MOBA titles on consoles, you should support this effort. In a 3v3 Lobby with friends, excitement and tensions are present alongside hours of fun. When that group of buddies isn't gathering for some more Awesomenauts, neither will you. This Ronimo jam faded quickly on me, never digging its hooks deep enough to drag me away from the PC options I have for playing an action-RTS. What it does, it does well...but it just isn't enough.