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Awesomenauts preview: Looking pretty awesome


There's a reason Awesomenauts is called Awesomenauts, and not Goodenoughnauts. The 2D online battle arena game by Ronimo Games (Swords & Soldiers) was one of the surprise delights of Gamescom 2011. The title features a style of gameplay that's becoming familiar with the mainstream rise of games like League of Legends and Dota 2, but is a more arcade-style experience that is reminiscent of Monday Night Combat or Super Smash Bros.

Expected to launch on XBLA and PSN, all the game's matches are 3v3 and allow for every combination of couch and online co-op. Players have a home base, with two turrets (towers) to protect in each lane of the several available maps available in the game. Most maps include two lanes and a fog of war "jungle" area where teammates are can pick up extra cash, bonuses and health packs.

Gallery: Awesomenauts (5/18/11) | 4 Photos

Combat is quick and dirty as minions are spawned by the two mains bases to attack the turrets that need to be protected by player characters. Opposing players want to attack the spawned minions first, as the turrets will focus on minions when players are around, giving players a chance to wreck said turrets' shops.

When three players are on the same console, the screen splits to squares, with the fourth square providing the game's minimap. The map is quite informative in Awesomenauts, warning when a specific turret is being attacked and a new icon replacing the turret when it's close to being destroyed.

Character design isn't taking itself seriously at all. Featuring a cowboy, ninja, monkey in a space suit and alien overlord, the characters have powers that fit their style well. Each character has a combination of four defensive or offensive powers, two given at the start, two that can be upgraded during the match. Some examples of powers: the cowboy can produce a charging bull, the monkey can fly around with his jetpack and drop mines, the ninja produces a distracting clone when he stealths and the alien overload can float like Princess Peach, produce orb turrets and heal teammates.

Players level up in each battle, but there's also an overall player experience ladder. XP bonuses are earned by the amount of money a player has at the end of each match, for winning and for selecting the "random character" option at the beginning of each match, incentives players to learn each of the characters.

Asked about how the team would handle updates to exploits (several of which I discovered while playing), they said the plan is to update as often as possible. My only concern with this is we heard the same thing for Monday Night Combat, which was overrun with cheaters only a couple weeks after launch on XBLA. That one wasn't fixed for months, despite Uber Entertainment's patch being available shortly after launch to fix the problems. Hopefully, we won't be similarly hurt by Ronimo.

The game will launch with six playable characters, and the select screen teases three additional champions. The team is currently working on adding the new characters when they are done and balanced, maintaining a semi-consistent timetable on their addition. No details were shared if those characters would be free or paid DLC.

Awesomenauts is shaping up to be a hectic title that could deliver a great blend of the MOBA genre and a brawler at launch. If the developer can update the game often enough to resolve the inevitable exploits that will be discovered in such a game, the title will live up to its name. Awesomenauts will "hopefully" be available in October.

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