PAX East – Awesomenauts Is, Well…Pretty Awesome

There seems to be a large number of MOBA oriented games on the show floor. League of Legends has a gigantic booth and we enjoyed our time with Smite yesterday. Today we forgone traditional MOBA customs again and this time tried out the 2D side scroller Awesomenauts from Romino Games, which, for an indie game, was drawing quite the crowd.

Romino seems to be out to simply the genre and capture the chaotic essence of team fights, something magnified by putting the game in a 2D view. Placement, something that’s hard to learn for newcomers, isn’t as much of an issue here, as all you need to worry about is backing up out of the way and jumping over enemy attacks. In addition, Romino has simplified the buying items system. Instead of learning which items work for each character, you’ll actually have twelve skills unique to each character and are able to purchase them all once you gain enough in game cash.

By simplifying the genre, players are able to actually enjoy playing Awesomenauts instead of learning item and skill builds. The learning cap is nowhere as steep as it is in, say, Heroes of Newerth, and is actually easier to learn the ropes than League of Legends. Each character has a jump, normal attack, and two special attack buttons, all of which are mapped to the face buttons on your controller. During a playthrough, my teammate had some trouble getting acclimated to how his character works, but by the end of the game, which we won short handed, he had a basic understanding on how everything works.

Speaking of short handed matches, Awesomenauts will load in bots to take the place of any human spot that isn’t filled. As expected, bots are nowhere near as intelligent as actual players, but its better than being 100% short handed. Additionally, since most of your damage is going to be coming from your special attacks, all of which naturally have a cooldown, teams with a bot aren’t too handicapped.

As always with the genre, there are two issues to deal with: hero balancing and keeping the game in balance if a newcomer over feeds. For the most part, they’re both non issues. In both games that I played, despite the fact that one hero in particular was fed and really strong, the winning team had to put in some hard work to win the game. In particular, enemy turrets packed a pretty serious punch, something I’d normally not be happy about, but it seems natural here.

All in all, my time with Awesomenauts was well spent and I’ll probably be heading back to play it some more Sunday. With a release date of next month, I’ll be counting down the days until the retail release.

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