When I reviewed the original PlayStation 3 release of Awesomenauts back in 2012, I found it to be a fairly fun side-scrolling take on the increasingly popular MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre, with a stylishly appealing Saturday morning cartoon-like approach in its presentation and a good variety of unique characters to play as.
Now, developer Ronimo Games has taken the time to expand upon their original release and bring an enhanced version to next-gen consoles in the form of Awesomenauts Assemble!, a PlayStation 4 re-release that brings a few new factors to the table, including a new map and several new characters to unlock and play as. The final result remains as fun as the original release, and inarguably a better deal at this point in comparison, but not quite enough that those who have already played the original version need to hurry and buy this immediately.
The base game is exactly the same, where two teams of three players decked out in the traditional opposing colors of red and blue start out on opposite sides of a 2D environment inside a base. From there, they can set out towards the opposing team’s base, first taking out several defensive turrets stopping them from getting in easily, then gradually chipping away at the base’s core, all while defending themselves from the opposing team trying to do the same.
The core game is fairly simple, but there are enough neat elements added to the mix to keep things interesting. The first is the inclusion of solar, the game’s main currency. While you earn solar automatically at a slow rate as well as during respawn sequences, the best way to earn big batches of it is to take out opposing players in battle.
Each character that you can choose from has both a default melee or projectile-based attack they always start out with, as well as two more powerful side abilities that can be purchased with solar, which offset their increased strength by requiring several seconds to recharge after each use. The developers do a good job of keeping these abilities unique and creative amongst the cast, and you’re bound to end up preferring certain characters over others because of them.
One of the big draws here is the inclusion of seven new characters in addition to the PS3 version’s original eight. The newcomers keep up the streak of fun designs and unique abilities, but at this point, I found it a little disappointing that the vast majority of characters were still locked behind milestones earned by levelling up with experience you earn at the end of each match. It’s true that if you’re good enough to win a match, you’ll earn quite a bit more experience than you would otherwise, but I do think it would have been a good idea to make the newcomers easier to access for veterans.
It’s worth noting that the game supports downloadable content. More new characters have been promised by Ronimo, but at the moment, DLC is currently limited to day-one skins for most of the cast. Purchasing a skin for a character you haven’t already unlocked will automatically do so for you, which feels like a mixture of convenience as well as an ill-advised grab for your hard-earned cash. Also, the fact that a good amount of skins in the in-game store just give you a “currently unavailable” message when you select them doesn’t help.
Ronimo has boasted of improved net code for Assemble!, and I could both see it and not see it at different points. A nice feature I noticed was the game’s ability to automatically detect players with high latency and lag-filled connections, boot them from the game, and replace them with an AI bot. On the other hand, I saw messages announcing host migrations far too often, with some even leading to premature match cancellation with no apparent experience gained. I’m not sure how much of that particular trend had to do with the actual players I ended up with, though, so it may just have been bad luck.
Awesomenauts Assemble! boasts a few enhancements over the original if you look them up, but I have a feeling that the new characters will be the only thing most people will notice. And from my point of view, while that combined with the simple fun of the base game makes me recommend it to newcomers who want the best console version of Awesomenauts there is, it’s not enough to make me tell people who own a previous version of the game that this is worth their time and money. That is, unless they’re still diehard fans of it nearly two years later.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us.
Awesomenauts Assemble! retains the simple-but-fast and fun gameplay of its last-gen predecessor, but there's not enough new content in this version to justify double-dipping unless you're a hardcore fan.