Deformers is an ambitious online arena game that seeks to make a name in a rapidly-crowding space: online only multiplayer games. With a variety of play modes, customization and replayability, it pains me to look and say that this idea isn’t just deformed: it’s half baked.
Out the gate, Deformers offers three modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch and, well, soccer. In both deathmatch modes, you go best of three to see who can frag (‘splode?) the most. You have a choice between a ranged weapon that’s some kind of potato gun (you shoot “Tribs”) and a melee attack, which is battering ram-style. You can turn into a bouncy cube to stop both Tribs and rams, and jump to navigate and try to neutralize either attack. There’s also a variety of timed power ups that turn off gravity, transform you into the Hulk, make a damaging gravity well and more. It certainly has a bit to it, at least on paper.
One of the first glaring flaws with Deformers is the lack of tutorial. There is a incredibly unhelpful YouTube video available within the game that leaves you more confused than anything, as it shows what you can do but, as a video, gives you no chance to test it out. It took me several games to master simple combat and movement, and even then I was left flummoxed on which to decide between, better targeting or a better experience. You see, the crosshairs of Deformers lead you to think that a keyboard and mouse setup will best assist you in accuracy and technique. This is somewhat true, but the buttons are mapped all over the place on the keyboard, creating some truly uncomfortable angles. The controller is definitely where it’s at, but you end up often missing both shots and charges, resulting in death from others and at your own hands.
The deathmatch modes are perfectly fine, albeit without a lot of variety to the levels. You end up in a twisted circus, a multi-leveled cave/island and…that’s really about it. The soccer level is more straight forward, but it feels like a bit of a reach and somewhere between an homage and outright copying. It’s clear Ready At Dawn saw the hilarious/enjoyable potential of what Rocket League created and figured it could work with their little blobby dudes. As someone who’s played both, Deformers’ soccer mode feels less technical and more “you shoot them, I shoot the ball.” I don’t blame the game itself for my crushing 15-0 loss, so maybe I just need to realize sports, even on a computer, are not for me.
Even if you aren’t part of the winning team when the matches conclude, the game still awards you experience based on various stats (deaths, world destruction, goals/goal assists). Leveling up and unlocking new things come to any player who is stubborn enough to just keep trying. The amount you get from being a champion, however, is significantly more, so getting a handle on the game will ensure a much faster rise to power.
It should also be noted that, for the PC, Deformers is surprisingly demanding. A minimum of 8GB of RAM and a GT 470 or higher are needed just to get the game off the ground, which is a hefty fine for new or casual PC gamers. I’m not savvy enough to know if it’s a matter of optimization, but you’ll need a serious rig to help this game chug along at anything higher than barebones settings.
Nothing wrong with anything set up here. For some reason, every game I play recently has a lot of accordion on the soundtrack, but I think it works given the inherently goofy nature of most of the game. There’s some great crackling sound effects when the power ups kick in, a satisfying sploosh when you get terminated, and even a decent “fwomp” when your Deformer lands in the arena. For everything else, they managed to nail the sound quality that’s needed for the game. I will say, however, I would have liked something a bit more driving when in the soccer arena. But that’s what your music library is for, isn’t it?
I do enjoy the look of Deformers quite a bit. The basic starter, the purple Form, is flat and reminds me of an emotionless Dragon Quest slime, but you can change that out almost immediately. Nothing is particularly realistic, as you can immediately become a stack of pancakes once you reach level two. There are a variety of great Forms, and I really enjoy my pig Form, Hamilton. In fact, the focus on aesthetics may actually be a certain amount of undoing for the game.
Let me explain: once you level up and such, you’re able to have access to a limited number of Forms, plus you have enough “Strands” to unlock one more low-mid tier choice. If you were to keep saving up every cent when you level up, you might be able to get a high level Form by level six or so. But the issue is that, apart from looking different, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of advantage to unlocking the other sprites. Additionally, things like hats, tags, emotes and taunts can all be unlocked for coins, and you can get coins from winning matches and converting Strands. And here’s the best part: if you want to get more Strands fast, you can simply pay out of your Steam wallet! In App Purchasing, woo! Before the protest of “you don’t have to buy anything” comes about, please pump your brakes. I’m saying that a vast amount of time and resources went into customization for a character that exists only in an online format for short term matches. At the time of this writing, there isn’t anything that gives me incentive to invest any amount of money into an already $30USD game. In fact, when you view that price tag, and then see the bare-bones amount of available items, it becomes, frankly, insulting. And yes, several lucky people got the game from Gamestop for free, but how does that justify a bulk of your game focused on things that ask for more money?
The core of Deformers is the multiplayer, which hinges entirely on the rest of the playerbase. At the current time, this important aspect is the weakest of a game that launched only two weeks ago. Matchmaking can take a seriously long time, and you may find several moments when the server can’t find a single player to come along for the ride. The first week of the game was plagued by crashes and timeouts that, unfortunately, resulted in a much lower player pool now that things have stabilized. Even still, the best case scenario is a one on all deathmatch, which I experienced at a max of six players (largest game can be eight). My ping time was lousy, but that’s my Internets fault, not the games. Team deathmatches can sometimes take a long time to resolve, as players are able to swap teams at will before the game starts, and no one wants to be on a team with low level players. Ergo, you will have a theoretically balanced number of Forms, but no one wants to be opposite the level 9 dude, so we just sit there, wasting time.
Additionally, there are already some whales in the game. Since there was a chance for beta players to play prior to launch, several high level people dominate when online, choosing to pair up together and execute merciless efficiency. There isn’t anything rude about it, it’s just the way of the game: new players have to find their footing inside the arena, not in any kind of player side test game. The best case scenario is teaming up with a few friends and making your own custom game with invites only, but that simply isn’t happening at the current time. As a result, you will have very strong players, brand new players, and layers of frustration that isn’t really any one persons fault.
Deformers has such potential that, unfortunately, was lost at launch. This game is overpriced, underwhelming and seems more interested in getting players to pay than play. Ready at Dawn has done their best to stabilize the servers and try to take critique from the community, but good intentions only go so far in such a fast moving industry. It stands to reason that, with some support from the Let’s Play community and a sizable price drop or content increase, Deformers could still stand a chance later on down the line. As it stands now, however, I couldn’t recommend the investment, not given what thirty dollars means in the digital download marketplace.