The three-on-three platformer-MOBA Awesomenauts has been around for nearly five years now, and has done quite well for itself in that time. But with all that water under the bridge, and player numbers not quite what they used to be, developer Ronimo Games has decided that it's time to switch things up by making the game free to play. 

"Going free-to-play has always made sense for Awesomenauts, as more players simply means it’s a better game for everyone," the studio said on Steam earlier this week. "It greatly improves the matchmaking and networking experience, and brings more people to community events and the amazing community-made mods." 

The full changeover won't take place until May 24, but the free-to-play beta for existing players went live on Wednesday with the release of the 4.0 update, cleverly called "Going Free-to-Play." It includes a new tutorial and "beginner experience" to help ease new players into the game, a new progression system for both player profiles and individual characters, an "Awesomepoints" in-game currency that can be used to unlock characters, portraits, and "droppods," and medals that will showcase various in-game achievements.   

Real money will remain the only way to purchase character skins, but it can also now be used to acquire individual characters and droppods as well. There will also be a new "Awesomenauts All Nauts Pack" available for purchase that will grant access to all current and future characters, as well as an exclusive "Collector" medal and skin. Existing players will keep all the content they currently own, and everyone who owns the base game and the Starstorm and Overdrive expansions will be automatically upgraded to the All Nauts Pack.

Ronimo rolled out a 4.0.1 update today that takes care of a number of gameplay issues that surfaced in the 4.0 update, which you can read about here

PC Gamer

Being one of the few MOBAs that doesn't make me angry or feel incredibly stupid (often at the same time), it's nice to see that Awesomenauts still has the playerbase to justify an expansion. Awesomenauts: Overdrive will arrive early in the new year packing premium and free components.

For those dropping cash ( 6/$9), there are three new heroes: Professor Milton Yoolip, a scientist who looks to be in command of mecha-saurs; Chucho Krokk, a bounty hunter who rides a hyperbike; and twin babies Jimmy and Amy, who pilot a death-bot.

The game as a whole will get substantial tweaks to encourage more team play. Details are light on this point beyond the statement that patch 2.13's XP and leveling changes were the first of many similar updates to come. Matchmaking is also in line for an overhaul and will assemble a pool of players to match instead of allocating games on a first-come, first-served basis as it does at present. Late joining matches will be removed, but games can be re-joined after disconnecting.

There's more free stuff! Starstorm Station map is actually playable now in custom matches in a pre-alpha state, but Overdrive will patch it into the mainstream. The big draws on Starstorm are its wormholes and the bottomless space under the map (protip: hazardous to health). Finally, Ix the Interloper, the product of autumn's Design-Your-Naut 2 contest, will be added as a free hero. Ix can link to other heroes, healing or damaging them and switching places on command.

Thanks, RPS.

PC Gamer

If for some reason you budget your video game spending by the weekend, then here's good news: you can spend that money on something else. May I suggest: nicer food. A new pair of shoes. A trip to the nearest theme park. 

The reason is, Steam is making ten games free this weekend as part of its aptly titled Free Weekend promotions. The games include Company of Heroes 2, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Grid 2. You'll have over 48 hours to play them, as they unlock 10am Pacific time on Thursday, October 16. After that you'll need to pay for them, with the promise of substantial discounts.

Here's the list:

Awesomenauts Blade Symphony Company of Heroes 2 Don't Starve Grid 2 Injustice Killing Floor Payday 2 Trine 2 XCOM: Enemy Unknown

It's a good week for free games: is giving away Alien versus Predator Classic this week as part of a GOG Galaxy test run.

PC Gamer
Awesomenauts patch

Sidescrolling MOBA-like Awesomenauts gets a little less like and a little more MOBA with an upcoming patch, which is now in beta if you want to try it out. 2.6 ditches the loadout system and replaces it with a full-on shop. Sorry, a "big ass shop" that will allow you to buy whatever you want during a match. Well, anything Awesomenauts-related anyway. You won't be able to buy a Faberge egg or anything like that. The update also adds new bots, nifty graphs during replays, and a profile screen this forum post will inform you of the whole kaboodle.

Here's Ronimo's reasoning behind the new shop system, and the removal of loadouts:

"From a design perspective the loadout system was meant to increase item build options, but what we found was that it actually works quite the opposite. With the ever increasing size of the Awesomenauts team, new gameplay, situations, added mechanics and with no information on enemy team composition or selected level players were forced to pick the best items for every situation before the battle. This limited options, effective builds and created frustration when the situation in game was not optimal for your chosen build and reduced overall fun."

"With a completely new interface and expanded shelves, you now have 6 options in the shop per skill row. You still can buy 3 items per row, but you will have all the items available to you to choose from during the game. This will give you more control over your build, allows for situational items to become a lot more interesting and hopefully we ll see more items being picked..*cough*baby kuri mammoth*cough*! We are certain you are going to enjoy this major overhaul!"

This is only the first beta version of patch 2.6: here's a list of everything that will be included when it becomes official, like, minus a few features that haven't been revealed yet. If you're wondering what we thought of Awesomenauts way back when it was first released for PC, you only have to read our review.
PC Gamer

Dutch developer Ronimo Games announced on its Kickstarter page that Starstrom, the crowdfunded expansion to its 2D platformer Awesomenauts, will kick off later this week. Ronimo says it's putting the finishing touches on a new character, Ted McPain, and that if all goes well players should see be able to see him in the game this Thursday.

The new update will also add the first batch of custom settings and a deathmatch mode. The rest of Starstorm's content should roll-out by the end of 2014.

McPain, who premium backers have been beta testing for the past couple of weeks, will be the first five new characters added in the expansion. Only two others listed on the Kickstarter page: Sentry X-58, a tank class, robot character, and Skee, an assassin class "techno shaman."

The Starstorm expansion will also add a spectator mode, global chat, twin-stick controller support, new music, a new map and a whole mess of new skins for existing characters.

Ronimo launched its Kickstarter campaign back in August. It was incredibly successful, hitting its goal of $125,000 in just a few days, and eventually netting the developer more than double that amount with $345,835 in total.

You can read our find our full (and favorable) review of Awesomenauts, here.

PC Gamer

Well that was quick. Awesomely quick, you might say. Ronimo Games' 2D MOBA Awesomenauts took to Kickstarter last week, asking for $125,000 to fund the Starstorm expansion, which would add a spectator mode, new characters and miscellaneous other stuff if funded. Well, today it be funded, and with 23 of your human days left to go.

Starstorm will launch as paid DLC when Ronimo have finished drowning themselves in champagne and playing Pin the Tail on the Intern - which as I understand it is a custom adhered to by pretty much every successful Kickstarter project - and started making the thing in earnest. As previously mentioned, among other things Starstorm adds a trio of new characters, a spectator mode and a twin-stick control scheme, which I think will change the way the game plays a fair bit - at least to anyone who doesn't use a mouse.

Ta, Joystiq.
PC Gamer

How do you improve on Awesome? (Or, if not awesome, then pretty darned good.) Easy: you chuck in more characters and features and ridiculously catchy theme tunes. Ronimo Games, creators of Awesomenauts, have taken to the Kickstarters to fund an expansion to their sidescrolling platformy MOBA. It's called Starstorm, and if they raise $125,000 it will be a thing that totally exists.

As well as introducing new characters Ted McPain (dude with big gun), Skree (a 'techno shaman'), and Sentry X-58 ("Class: Tank"), Starstorm will add a spectator mode, global chat, new tunes and a twin-stick control scheme, while the stretch goals delve into more exciting territory with talk of new maps, a level editor and Steam Workshop integration too. Ronimo want $630,000 to make everything happen, and so far they've raised nearly $52,000, with 29 giant 'X's left to scribble on the calendar.

Here's a pitch video, which is (brilliantly) delivered partly in song form:

PC Gamer

Summer has always been a bit of a lull when it comes to video game releases. It’s the time of year where we hear more about the upcoming fall releases rather than actually, you know, playing games. Luckily, we have the Humble Indie Bundle 8 to keep boredom, UV rays, and those treacherous, shark-filled oceans at bay.

The Humble Indie Bundle traditionally features recent indie darlings for the low, low price of “whatever the hell you want”, and this year is no exception. No matter what you pay, you’ll get access to Little Inferno, Awesomenauts, Capsized, Thomas Was Alone, Dear Esther and their soundtracks (and Steam keys if throw in a dollar or more). Linux users should be happy to know that the Linux versions of these games are also debuting with the bundle.

Forking over more than the average purchase price (a modest $5.72 as of this writing) will net you Hotline Miami and Proteus plus its soundtrack. Yes, you might be saving up for the pricey GTX 780 that your annoying friend already has, but maybe you could skip eating today?

Like always, you can choose where your money goes, rationing out which developers and charities get your hard-earned bitcoins. You have a full two weeks to decide who gets what while stocking up on harpoons for the inevitable shark invasion.
PC Gamer

The excellent Awesomenauts is free to play until Sunday, and will be available to buy half-price for the duration. Awesomenauts cheerily translates the levelling, lane-pushing and tower bashing of Dotalikes onto a 2D plane and dresses it up as a Saturday morning cartoon punch-up. It feels like Bucky O'Hare has teamed up with Captain Planet to fight the Ninja Turtles, but with more robots and less IP infringement. Read our full verdict in the Awesomenauts review, and download it now via Steam.
Sep 7, 2012
PC Gamer
Awesomenauts PC review thumb

Two cheery teams of three attempt to kill each other while slowly chipping away at the other team’s turrets. If you aren’t familiar with action-RTS games, Awesomenauts’ simple side-scrolling approach is a fantastic place to pick up the basics. Smash the other team’s defences to bits, then destroy their core so that you can win the game.

The first thing you need to know is that it isn’t safe to attack turrets without the help of your team’s tiny robots. These droid helpers march across the map in pairs, and gain a major health boost when close to enemy turrets. Stand behind these bite-sized soldiers and you’ll be able to attack turrets without getting hurt, but you’ll usually have to protect the droids if you want them to get that far.

Killing turrets, players, and enemy droids earns you solar – the currency you’ll spend to buy upgrades for your character throughout the game. Gradually overpower the enemy team, and eventually you’re more than likely to win. There are eight different characters to play as, but Ronimo tease that there’ll be more to choose from soon. Initially you’ll have to choose from the standard upgrades, but as you level up in the game each character will gain access to a choice of 24.

You can only choose 12 upgrades to take into a game, and it’s very unlikely you’ll get the chance to max all of them out. Creating a tactical build order is an important part of winning the game, but in contrast with more complicated action-RTS games, roles in Awesomenauts are very fluid. Clunk is a tank and Voltar heals, but most other characters can serve more than one purpose.

The variety of skills ensures it never feels like there’s one ‘correct’ character build. None of them are so weak alone that they need support classes in order to survive, but teams of three friends who play together have got plenty of scope for making tactical builds. There’s depth here for those who want it, but on the surface Awesomenauts is relatively easy to pick up and play.

The inclusion of keyboard and mouse controls in the PC version have forced a few substantial changes to the game, though. The Xbox 360 version only supported eight-direction aiming, while mouse support upgrades this to 360 degrees.

This massive advantage to ranged characters meant that a lot of the game needed to be rebalanced, and at this stage it doesn’t feel like it’s quite there. Playing with a controller still remains an option, but puts you at a big disadvantage: moving and aiming are mapped to one stick, which naturally takes away a lot of control. The other problem is the AI that replaces human players who drop out during a game. Erratic, dim, and yet often still hard to beat, the AI isn’t much fun to play against.

To compensate for their lack of tactics, these AI chumps seem to automatically gain solar at a rate that’s almost impossible to keep up with – a cheap balancing trick that’s overtly unfair. When you’re playing against humans it isn’t a problem, but this isn’t reassuring for new players. It’s a hell of a lot less complicated than other MOBA games, but many are likely to be turned off after a few practise games against the evil AI.

Adding a new control scheme changes the game in unexpected ways, and Ronimo still has work to do if they want to stand out from the crowd. It’s charming, addictive, and on the verge of being a genuine classic – a gateway drug and an ideal introduction to the burgeoning action-RTS genre. But as things stand, it isn’t quite awesome.

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