Quick, Accessible, Fun.
When Awesomenauts came out in 2012, it was the first time that I had ever heard the term “MOBA”. I watched some of it, didn’t understand much, and continued not caring about MOBAs. In 2015, I tried out SMITE and fell in sweet ‘loooooove’. I had finally seen the MOBA light! Now, with both the knowledge and interest in the genre, I can bring it back full circle with the release of Awesomenauts Assemble!. It has just arrived on the Xbox One, about 2 ½ years after it came out on PlayStation 4.
From what I gathered during my “extensive research”, Awesomenauts Assemble! is a re-release of the Awesomenauts that came out on the old systems in 2012 – with a few changes here and there. It stars wacky mercenaries, called Awesomenauts, that fight for the red or blue team (3v3). Like any other MOBA, the goal is to push creeps/minions, destroy towers and destroy the opposing side’s base. Unlike any other game in the genre though, it’s 2D and feels just like a platformer. Even extra currency in pellet form can be picked up throughout the level, which fits a platformer perfectly.
Platform: Xbox One, PS4
Price: $9.99, $19.99, $44.99
Price I’d pay: $19.99
Each Awesomenaut has a basic attack and most have two unique abilities that run on cooldowns. While ‘two abilities’ is low for a MOBA, the upgradable items that can be purchased throughout the match can drastically change what these abilities can do and how they operate. Some characters are more complicated, but most are easily learned after just a few minutes of use. Getting quickly familiar with characters allowed the ‘fun’ to happen sooner, as it allowed me to think more about how I wanted to build these abilities, rather than trying to remember what the abilities are and which button they are tied to.
There are numerous other indications that Awesomenauts was designed to be casual and fun instead of dense and competitive. All multiplayer matches are join-in-progress, and until filled up, have bots. The AI is smart enough, mostly, but I did see them malfunction frequently as they moved quickly back and forth for several seconds at a time. At many times, the teams will have uneven human players and it’s still a big disadvantage to the team with fewer humans. Luckily, bot-only matches are still enjoyable, with customizable difficulty and the ability to pause.
In MOBAs, a good team composition is huge. In Awesomenauts, it’s helpful but hindered in a few ways. The biggest issue is that join-in-progress means I’m picking a character before I even know what my teammates are. While picking characters in a lobby with humans, there is no way to call rolls. The way players can order/communicate with teammates is extremely basic and largely useless. Comebacks are hard to come by because structures never come back or regain health. Lastly, a small portion of each character’s items are locked behind a profile level unlock which doesn’t create an even playing field.
What all these boil down to is a game that is designed to be quick, fun, and very accessible. Awesomenauts could make some changes to make it more competitive – and I would welcome that because I enjoy playing it. At the same time, I accept it for what it is and still value what it’s doing.
Awesomenauts Assemble! pricing is extremely complicated. $10 is the base game, with a total of 18 Awesomenauts. For $20 bucks, an extra 8 characters are given. For $45 you get some skins. Ten dollars is a safe bet, but I think there’re some really cool characters for just $10 more. Characters not owned can be purchased separately, for a few bucks each. In addition to all this, skins and announcer packs are also sold for real money that range from $2.49 to $7.99 a piece. Remember, the PS4 version has been out for years so some of this can vary.
Awesomenauts Assemble! has heroes with a lot of personality, and the game as a whole does the same – largely due to great music. Most importantly it looks good and feels good. Every Awesomenaut feels distinctive whether it’s their abilities, basic attacks, or even the way they get around.
While all MOBAs have gone one direction, Awesomenauts Assemble! is still – after all these years – one of a kind. Its 2D platforming and overall accessibility make it great for kids, people new to the genre, and MOBA aficionados looking for a cool distraction from their main game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.