Awesomenauts, the 2D, side-scrolling MOBA from Ronimo Games, is different to many games in the genre. For one it’s not isometric or 3D however the game’s differences go deeper than just visual styles and genre merging. Awesomenauts is definitely one of the more unique games in the genre, with other MOBAs busy following League of Legends and DOTA 2’s success, Awesomenaut’s defines itself by its differences and offers a product which is definitely at least worth one play session from even the most hardcore of MOBA fans. The larger question is, is it worth spending more time on, especially when compared to other MOBAs.
One of the major differences between Awesomenauts and its counterparts is the number of champions/heroes/nauts. League of Legends boasts over 100 playable champions, with DOTA 2 also boasting a number close to that. Awesomenauts on the other hand only offers players fifteen ‘Nauts (as the game so lovingly calls them) to choose from. Players can get four other Nauts from the expansion pack, Awesomenauts Starstorm, however that still doesn’t make the amount of playable champions anywhere close to what other games have to offer. What Awesomenauts lacks in quantity though, it makes up for in quality.
Each Naut has a very unique style and set of abilities, with each Naut suiting a specific role. Lonestar, a space sheriff, for example is the only Naut whose kit (abilities and playstyle) is built around pushing lanes and taking objective. There is no other Naut who has the pushing power that Lonestar has. That’s not to say other Nauts can’t push lanes, you can upgrade certain Naut’s abilities which allows them to push fairly easily, it’s just none of the others have been built from the ground up for it.
Whilst this gives each ‘Naut a sense of uniqueness and personality, it does have its negatives. If the Naut you wish to play has already been chosen by an ally, then you’ll have to choose a (sometimes) completely different Naut and change your playstyle accordingly. In League of Legends if someone chooses Caitlyn, I can choose a character with similar traits, and playstyle to her, whereas in Awesomenaut’s this simply isn’t the case.
With regards to Naut’s, they only have two unique abilities. This takes away from the Naut’s personality, as two abilities isn’t enough for a Naut to define itself. Each Naut’s abilities don’t really feel like they synergise together, instead being composed of some sort of escape/cc ability and a damage ability. Heroes in LoL/DOTA 2 have four abilities, which allows for more focused and tightly design champions which have abilities which synergy. Caitlyn from League of Legends, for example has a skillset which clearly defines her as a sniper. Raelynn, who is the same role, doesn’t feel as defined as the other Naut’s.
When talking about picking Naut’s, one cannot help but examine how Awesomenaut’s operates with regards to choosing a Naut to play. The player will join a game and, unless the game has already started, will have to choose his Naut without any idea of what either the enemy or his allies are choosing. This can quickly lead to messy team compositions which have no synergy, as well as encourages a lack of strategising.
This wouldn’t be a problem if you could change what abilities you can upgrade and how you upgrade them once in the game, however that isn’t in the case. After choosing your Awesomenaut, you’re required to choose what upgrades you can buy from the shop. This is before you’ll know who your allies or enemies are.
Unlike other MOBA games, players in Awesomenauts don’t buy items with their gold (Solar in Awesomenaut’s case) from the store, but rather upgrades. The player has to choose which upgrades they can buy after selecting their Naut, and there is no way to go back on an upgrade selection. This means that if I’m up against a stun heavy team, and I didn’t choose an upgrade which decreases the cooldown of stuns, then I’m screwed.
This is one of the many things which makes Awesomenauts a less competitive game. You also can’t rejoin games after disconnecting from them (something that seems to happen a lot), and there is no easy way to spectate other players whilst they’re in a game. There is a replay feature in the game, however it only came very recently (a long time after Awesomenauts had launched), and feels a bit weird being added in at this point.
Of course none of this would matter, however Awesomenauts has leaderboards and ranking systems which imply that the developers want there to be some sort of competitive nature in the game, however they haven’t really provided the features to allow such a thing to happen.
Which is a shame, because Awesomenauts is a very skill based game. It requires quick reflexes and forward thinking, more so than LoL or DOTA 2. Whilst one could argue that both LoL and DOTA 2 require quick thinking, it’s nowhere near the scale of Awesomenauts which requires players to keep a steady hand just to make sure ranged auto-attacks hit.
Having said this, Awesomenauts does have less things for players to keep a track of. There are no large neutral, jungle minions which required to be slain at the right time for buffs. There also aren’t “summoner skills”, which run on a cooldown, or jungle patterns and timings to remember. There also isn’t a huge array of items and heroes/champions to constantly think about. With movement being easier to control in Awesomenauts, you don’t have to necessarily worry about whether or not someone is going to gank you.
Awesomenauts is a casual game, which isn’t a bad thing, and has been designed in such a way. Awesomenauts definitely gives you more fun per minute when compared to other MOBAs, however it falls flat on its face with regards to competitive gameplay. Awesomenauts is a game you can play with friends; League of Legends and DOTA 2 are games you can play with a team. Does anymore really need to be said?