Awesomenauts - the 2D moba

I like Heroes of the Storm because it's a MOBA you don't have to spend weeks of your life learning, but even it can sometimes be demanding. Coming back after a while away there's definitely a sense of having to regain momentum, putting in effort to catch up with the new maps and characters and the tweaks to the old ones.

Returning to Awesomenauts now that it's gone free-to-play has been a smoother experience. Originally released in 2012 by Dutch studio Ronimo, it takes some of the concepts familiar from DOTA and games like it—teams of heroes with powers on cooldown, enemy cores protected by waves of weak NPCs and hardy defences, currency to spend on improving abilities mid-match—and then slaps them onto a side-scrolling platformer with all the color and energy of a 1980s cartoon.

They feel like castoffs from Saturday morning cartoons.

That changes everything. Instead of clicking to move you have direct control of your hero, and can comfortably play with a controller (I prefer keyboard and mouse, but the option's there). Attacks need to be aimed, making every shot a skill shot, and instead of staring at your ability bar to see when Ball Lightning is coming online you engage with the action. The readability problem other games in the genre struggle with is reduced, the size of the characters and cartoon aesthetic making it easier to tell what's going on and what you're supposed to take away from it.

Those characters are great too. They feel like castoffs from Saturday morning cartoons, like a crossover between BraveStarr, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, five shows about aliens that look suspiciously like Earth animals, and two about giant robots. Each has their own theme song that plays on the character select screen, with Froggy G's bouncy rap a highlight.

There's a French chameleon assassin who leaves decoys and turns invisible, a hairdresser in a VR helmet that makes her think she's using her scissors to cut hair and not throats, a Russian monkey cosmonaut who turned his rocket into a jetpack, and a squid sea captain named Admiral Swiggins. That's not even half of them.

And, blessed relief, there's no meta to speak of. Almost every one of the characters is a valuable part of a three-Awesomenaut team, and nobody throws a tantrum in the chat window because someone bought the wrong power-up. Only Clunk, a robot with a bite attack and self-destruct button, is seen as a bit of a liability in competitive play—everyone else is worthwhile.

That's not to say it's perfect. While Awesomenauts is the easiest MOBA to recommend to new players, those new players immediately face a two-part tutorial narrated by a robot with an incredibly annoying voice. It's skippable, but doing so means losing out on a hefty amount of Awesomecoins, the currency used to unlock characters who aren't part of each week's free rotation. And though Awesomenauts initially did without experience points, instead relying on Solar—basically gold—for in-game levelling up, they were later added by an expansion and have proved controversial. It's another reward for the team that's already winning, and another thing for new players to learn about.

In a crowded genre it's a rare standout, one with personality and the confidence to mess with the formula.

But the matches are quick, usually around 15-17 minutes long, and the chat's relatively free of rage. Perhaps the quick matches and bright colors help keep it friendly—Overwatch is the only online game where I'm less likely to come out of a loss feeling frustrated by it. When you die you get launched back into the fight via drop pod, and spend most of your wait steering it to the ground collecting Solar on the way. It's a minigame that gives you something to do while waiting to rejoin play instead of stewing on your failure.

Another plus is that there are mods if you want some more maps or to sample the chaos of no-cooldown mode. Custom mode lets you try out these, as well as offline split-screen play, which is something I wish more MOBAs had, though perhaps it's uniquely suited to Awesomenauts' side-on view. 

Going free-to-play has given Awesomenauts a boost in player numbers, and I usually only have to wait a couple of minutes for a game at the moment. (During the wait there's a secret minigame you can find by pressing the tiny play button in the corner of your Awesomecoins balance, top right. You're welcome.) It's impossible to say how long this burst of interest will last, but Awesomenauts certainly deserves a second chance. In a crowded genre it's a rare standout, one with personality and the confidence to mess with the formula.

I'll leave you with Leon Chameleon's theme tune, a straight-up Serge Gainsbourg chanson. Leon is for lovers.

Awesomenauts - the 2D moba

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.

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