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Awesomenauts (Xbox 360) artwork

Awesomenauts (Xbox 360) review

"Awesomenauts is easy to recommend simply because itís so different from other experiences available on consoles. It brings in the competitive edge that makes online FPS games so popular but does something wholly different with it."

In certain circles, the name Defense of the Ancients (or Dota) is mentioned only in tones of the most rabid passion. Originally a mod for Warcraft III, Dota grew into a separate entity and more or less originated the genre now known as MOBA Ė Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Various others have followed Ė League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth are perhaps the best known Ė but itís the beta version of the true sequel, Dota 2, that has received the most reverence in recent months.

Typically a MOBA sees two teams of player-controlled characters, backed up by weaker AI-controlled characters, attacking each other across a map that is split into several paths, each defended by several auto-firing towers. Itís kind of like being on the attacking side in a tower defence game, but with both teams trying to simultaneously attack and defend.

Consoles have remained almost entirely MOBA-free. Part of this might be a control matter; like MMORPGs and RTS games, MOBAs demand precision of control and rapid navigation of menus, tasks which have never sat comfortably with the Xbox 360ís Ďside of beefí controller or the PS3ís ĎTV remote controlí pad. The only MOBA-like game that springs to mind is Masters of Belial on Xbox Live Indie Games Ė incorporating all the finest (if slightly simplified) elements of a MOBAÖexcept for the multiplayer and online portions. Oops.

Well, times change. Roaring into view with MC Hammer references and hammy French accents comes new 2D MOBA-wannabe Awesomenauts. Gloating PC purists gleefully point out at every opportunity that console versions of PC games tend to be diluted and simplified. If you can get past their hyena cackles and bourgeois sneers they have a point, and Awesomenauts demonstrates it once again. Rather than the half-RTS, half-action-RPG epics of Dota, console owners get Super Smash Bros with upgrades and defensive towers.

Thatís not really meant as a criticism. Awesomenauts certainly lacks the depth of the big name MOBAs but it delivers on most of the important points, and its simplified nature makes it a good starting point for those whoíd like to try Dota but canít get a beta key and/or donít want to cry themselves to sleep for the 700 consecutive days of continuous play necessary to fully understand the game. You can learn Awesomenauts in ten minutes, and feel tolerably competent within an hour. Opting for side-scrolling 2D rather than top-down pseudo-3D hugely simplifies the arenas and the routes available for attack. The upgrade system ditches confusing crafting system and complex builds in favour of simple skill trees Ė two unique active powers per character, and a handful of passive health/stat upgrades available to all.

The aim is to assist waves of AI droids in attacking the enemy teamís heavily armed towers. With each tower you manage to eliminate, you can advance one step closer towards the final objective Ė a drilling mechanism that has to be destroyed in order to take the victory. Assaulting towers isnít a simple matter of charging at them, though. If you attack one alone, you will unceremoniously be killed in seconds. You need to at least have some droids on hand to act as cannon fodder, and preferably some fellow players as well. Awesomenauts doesnít let you off lightly for throwing your digital life away. Each death costs you in-game currency, which inhibits your ability to buy upgrades and thereby keeps you as weak and vulnerable as a sleeping kitten. Of course, while all this is going on you also have to prevent the other team destroying your own towers.

All in all, it plays very well with a controller and itís easy enough to learn that it shouldnít put off casually curious players. The feel of combat is definitely more Smash Bros than Warcraft but thatís the choice Awesomenauts makes, and itís a valid one.

Itís not without its deficiencies though. The gameís cartoony sense of humour, while generally pleasant enough, can grate after a while. Similarly, the arenas donít vary enough to prevent repetitiveness setting in after three or four matches in a row. Perhaps the biggest flaw with the game, though, isnít really anything in the game itself. The problem is console owners. There are legions of high quality, innovative, original, involving multiplayer games on Xbox and PS3, but most have little to no community because the console community is simply far more prone to sticking to familiar ground than the PC community is. On PC, MOBAs and other non-mainstream genres maintain a healthy following; on console, anything outside half a dozen major franchises is lucky to make a dent for more than a few weeks. Iím not sure why that is, but it does make me pessimistic about Awesomenautsí longevity. How long will the gameís community last once people start losing the battle to resist the crack junkie siren call of Halo and Call of Duty? Only time will tell.

Awesomenauts is easy to recommend simply because itís so different from other experiences available on consoles. It brings in the competitive edge that makes online FPS games so popular but does something wholly different with it. If those of us who enjoy Awesomenauts donít just wander off and leave it to die, this could be a lasting multiplayer action gem. It doesnít come close to being a real console Dota but it does at least make the attempt, and produces something worthwhile of its own in the process.

SamildanachEmrys's avatar
Community review by SamildanachEmrys (May 06, 2012)

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EmP posted May 06, 2012:

I'll tell you what's awesome. Me! For fixing those oversized screens of yours. I sometimes wonder what will happen to this place if I'm not around.

But enough about me! I've recently obtained this game and was discussing just last night how I thought it was like nothing I'd ever really played before. I was then brought crashing down to earth by being told this is a long runnning sub genre I've somehow managed to overlook the hell out of.

Cool review; we disagree on some thing about this game, but I guess I'll cover that when I get around to penning my own peice soonish. If you're still playing, drop me your tag and I'll keep an eye open for you while I'm running around with a giant robot, exploding in people's faces.
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zippdementia posted May 06, 2012:

Sammy, your reviewing has improved a lot since you first starting posting here. This review is pretty awes- no, gotta use another word. This review is, uh... dope. I especially like how you end the review talking about how it's failure or success is going to have less to do with the game itself and more to do with the console crowd. It was an interesting place to go with the review and you went there without losing the point.

My only criticism is that intro is a little long- it took me a little too long to figure out what you were talking about. I think the conversation about DOTA is well written and has a valid place in this review. Putting it straight-up at the intro threw me off, especially when accompanied by screenshots that clearly aren't DOTA. Maybe a slightly more connected lead-in would help.

Anyway, liked the review a lot and actually got interested in the game though, as you correctly surmise, I won't pick it up. Mostly due to time constraints, though. And because I spent all my extra money on pre-ordering Max Payne 3.
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bbbmoney posted May 06, 2012:

Yeah this is a pretty bold way to write a review. It came across well on my end, but I've put probably 600 hours in League of Legends and other MOBAs by now. I'm not entirely sure if the review would be as successful for people unfamiliar with all these acronyms, and even 2-3 paragraphs is a really light way to paint the general aspects of MOBA culture with.

And on top of all the references to the PC community and control differences, I feel this is a good article written for a small audience.
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SamildanachEmrys posted May 06, 2012:

I didn't want to get too into the whole MOBA thing, since it can be pretty offputting. It's true that the beginning might not be the best place for it but I wanted to get all that general stuff out of the way so I could talk about this specific game. It's not a review of a genre.
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zippdementia posted May 06, 2012:

And hey, don't get me wrong. I really like this review and I like that I've seen you improve so much! You've also tackled a game I wouldn't know how to write a review for and yet when I read it, you make it seem very straightforward.
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SamildanachEmrys posted May 07, 2012:

Thanks! Improvement can only be good.

And thanks to EmP for correcting the images. There's no longer a preview option before posting, so I have no idea what the layout will look like.
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zippdementia posted May 07, 2012:

Yeah! What happened to the preview button? I've been having to preview stuff on my blog.

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