Sometimes I struggle to know where to start with reviews. I’m a bit like this with Awesomenauts Assemble! This Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) has evolved since it was first released on the 360 back in 2012, and Assemble! seems to be more of a compilation of the original game and the multitude of add-ons that you could purchase with it. This doesn’t mean that Assemble! isn’t a very good game in its own right, as I’ll explain.
I’ve seen Awesomenauts Assemble! described as the perfect entry-level MOBA. This is kind of handy, as I’m definitely standing at the entry doors of this genre of game. I’ve not played the original game and I’m a relative newb to the genre, so this should be the perfect storm. Has Awesomenauts Assemble! got that superhero feel that will keep me coming back?
Believe it or not, Awesomenauts Assemble! has a backstory. The year is 3587. Conflict spans the stars. Massive robot armies battle each other to an eternal stalemate. Space is a rich resource for mining and these mining stations need a money-hungry mercenary to defend them. These mercenaries fight for the spoils of war, Solar. Battling against each other across a linear 2D environment is the arena, your only headache will be picking which Awesomenaut to play as.
Developer, Ronimo, have packed a multitude of characters to play as, in the game as well as numerous costume packs via DLC. As you play the game, and hopefully win, you’ll collect XP. This XP is collated into your level score, which unlocks more locations and even more characters. It could be a little daunting, but strangely, to the game’s credit, its not.
So, each event is set in a huge two level arena that contains your base, a shop, some defence turrets and the opposition. The opposition obviously have the same number of defence turrets as you and in truth, you’ll be pretty evenly matched. The aim of the match-up is to break through one of the defensive lines and destroy the enemy drilling platform. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, as I mentioned, you’re pretty evenly matched so this is going to rely on you being able to pull off some kill streaks and generally survive without your energy being depleted too quickly. To that end, initial character choice could be the key to winning this. There are many characters to choose from as well. I think I’m right in saying that at the last count, you could pick from a cast list of 17 once everyone is unlocked. All of these mercs have their own special abilities and battle roles. There are 10 main character types, from Assassins to Healers and I found examining your ‘Naut’s traits before picking them a great help.
There were definitely some characters that I’d return to time and again, and some that were kicked to the kerb after one match. I couldn’t get on with Coco Nebulon for example, yet Voltar even as a Healer, was used more than once. My firm favourite was Sheriff Lonestar though. He has a nice mix of medium range weapons and a push-back ability that unleashes a galloping bull at your opponents.
So, you’ve got your character, you’ve picked your arena, it’s time to get down to action. The gameplay drops you into the arena from height, where you’re given the opportunity to grab some Solar if you’re quick and then you’re ready to fight. Here’s where Awesomenauts Assemble! comes to life. It needs to be pointed out from the start; the battle arena gets very busy. Not only is there you, but on your team, you’ll have some ‘bots. These usually include a couple of other ‘Nauts to play with you, as well as up to three drone ‘bots. The drones usually act as cannon fodder while you pick off the turrets. Turrets will always target the drone ‘bots over you, so it’s a good idea to follow them around like a little lost puppy. To that end, you’ll probably find yourself taking the higher of the two levels more often than not. The drones can take some damage though, so once you’re in range of the turrets, don’t be shy on opening up and letting them have it.
Your main weapon will probably have a slow rate of fire to start with. This can be a bit of a drag at the start of each individual match. Any special abilities are usually unlocked initially in the shop in your base. These will cost you Solar and can be upgraded to reduce the cool-off period, power and damage amongst other things. For this reason, regular visits to the shop are highly recommended.
Once you’re happy with the relative powers your ‘Naut has, then you’re probably at the point where you’ve breached your opponent’s defences and you’re attacking their Drill, or the other way around. Once this is happening, it’s pretty much game over. I found it incredibly difficult to prevent the other team from winning once this process had begun, and similarly, once I’d started to attack their Drill it was in the bag.
Impressively, to say that there are so many sprites on screen, the gameplay speed doesn’t suffer. It’s frenetic and you’ll find yourself legging it to find some Health on a number of occasions, and to visit the shop, of course. As well as the battling characters, there are also environmental hazards to negotiate and even some local wildlife that might try to get in the way. Take these out and you’ll usually be rewarded with some Health.
Aswesomenauts Assemble! really gets going, however, when you introduce other folk to it. The ‘bots are OK, and do provide a challenge, but there’s nothing like the unpredictability of playing another person. The key factor here is the title’s accessibility. You don’t need to learn complicated button combos or have to select and deselect abilities to be able to progress. You can simply jump straight in and whoop some butt. It’s a delight to pick up and blast. The whole package is geared to making the game as user-friendly as possible, from the graphics to the audio, it’s all very polished and most of all, fun.
If I have a criticism, it’s that the arenas feel a little samey. Despite the option of being able to change the planet you’re on, the layout is pretty similar for each match. You get two lanes, top or bottom, to run along and battle, and that’s it. Some variety could’ve been used here, although in saying that, there is a good amount of replay value in the layouts that are offered.
How can I sum up Awesomenauts Assemble!? It’s an accessible Multiplayer Online Battle Arena that is suitable for everyone to grab and have a blast. Sure, you’ll find that some of the characters are not to your taste and, like all games of this nature, it’s a matter of trial and error, but this is part of it’s charm. Find your favourite character, get your friends involved and destroy the enemy. There’s no real excuse not to.