Ready at Dawn’s follow up to their massive PS4 action title “The Order: 1886” is an interesting direction for the developer. Previous Ready at Dawn efforts were mostly PSP action titles like God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Daxter. I have a ton of respect for the studio so naturally I was quite curious about their latest game “Deformers,” a competitive multiplayer title with squishy spherical creatures and a goofy sense of humor. While the game does take a lot of inspiration from titles like Super Smash Bros. and Rocket League, Deformers happens to be a fun diversion that’s unfortunately missing some crucial elements that prevent the game from reaching its peak potential.
Deformers is essentially two games in one; a deathmatch styled multiplayer brawler and a Rocket League styled soccer game. The core mechanics translate over to both modes very well but each contain a different set of goals. Let’s start by explaining how Deformers actually plays. Players control a squishy little creature called a Form that roll and jump around an arena similar to a ball. Forms can shift their bodies into multiple, you guessed it, forms that aid them in survival. These little guys resemble those Shopkins toys you find in a department store. A Form can compact themselves down into what resembles a puddle of goo in order to grab objects and opponents and throw them into oblivion. One useful ability can convert the Form into a cube shape that helps protect it from attacks and block projectiles. Also, by holding the right trigger, players can charge up their Form and unleash a ram attack that can damage enemies and knock them backwards. Lastly, Forms can collect little blobs within the arenas called Tribs and shoot them like a machine gun at opponents in order to damage them.
Deathmatch mode takes these Form abilities mentioned above and uses them in an all-out battle arena against eight other players. Team Deathmatch is also included where players can form two teams of four players and battle each other. These modes basically consist of players rolling around, shooting, and ramming each other on top of a floating arena in hopes of depleting their heath bars or knocking them off of the area into an endless abyss. Objects within the arena can be knocked down or smashed open to reveal collectibles and power-ups. Everything feels very similar to Super Smash Bros. without the verticality or percentage meters that dictate how far opponents are knocked back by how much damage they take.
Objects within the arenas can be destroyed and picked up to either earn power-ups, activate mutators that the game refers to as Disasters, gain heath back or obtain more ammo. Some of the disasters include players tilting the map, taking away gravity and spawning a giant ball of goo that kills everyone in its path. Power-ups include a magnet that attracts collectibles, bomb attacks and invisibility cloaks. Disasters and power-ups are what I noticed most players tend to utilize in order to sway the match in their favor; it reminds me of players running towards the most powerful weapons in arena-based shooters for a quick advantage. Slain opponents can also drop Gibs that help gain back health and Trib ammo. Just about everything the player does within the arena can contribute to an overall score and gain the player experience at the end of the match, but the name of the game here is mostly the kill count.
Deformers also includes a mode called Form Ball that’s basically Rocket League within this squishy animal universe. The arena shifts to a soccer stadium with two goals on each end. Players are split into two teams, one blue and one orange, and must use their abilities to help knock a giant ball into the opposing team’s goal. The power-ups and mutators found in the deathmatch modes are not included here, so players must rely on their Form abilities and shooting mechanics to help get an edge over the opposing team. Soccer is the only available gameplay type here and I only noticed one stadium map the entire time I played, which is unfortunate. I would have also liked to see some sort of mutators or advanced competitive modes here but I also feel like Form Ball is a side piece of content and not exactly the full intended experience of Deformers like in Rocket League.
Even though Form Ball takes its inspiration heavily from Rocket League, it has a few tricks up its sleeve that changes up the gameplay and makes things a little more interesting. For starters, players can use their grab ability to grab the ball and carry it around with them and toss it into the goal. Also, players can use the block ability to prevent an opponent from ramming the ball into the goal, allowing players to act as a goalie. Not to mention the shooting mechanics are in full effect here so players can shoot and kill opponents to lessen the odds a bit, but players are respawned and dropped into the arena instantly after being killed.
Five different classes are included in Deformers that alter the statistics of the player’s Form in order to suit their style of play. For example, the Ranger class is the basic well rounded character class, while the Marksman class focuses on strengths in shooting tribs, the Guardian class is essentially a damage absorbing tank, the Speedster class is agile and rolls around faster and the Striker class excels at dealing more damage with the ramming attack. Each class is rated by ease of use so most new players will probably gravitate towards the Ranger class and shift to something different once they determine what their preferred play style is. The problem with the class system is that I really didn’t find any of them particularly useful outside of the Form Ball mode since the differences in class didn’t really feel substantially beneficial when trying to kill other players since most of the time the player will be utilizing the power-ups and mutators to do most of their dirty work.
After spending several hours with the game, it quickly became apparent to me that the Form Ball mode, while very similar to Rocket League, is easily the most enjoyable mode in the game. Fans of Rocket League will certainly enjoy Deformers due to this mode but I highly doubt it’ll convert anyone over to playing this exclusively since Rocket League contains a LOT more content for the money (although it has been out for almost two years too). The deathmatch modes make for a fun party game but I personally lost interest in playing them after five or six matches and found myself back into Form Ball mode. The reasons why I feel I didn’t enjoy Deathmatch as much stem from the classes being rather useless to me and the action failed to really hold my attention too long since the game has the tools make matches a frantic experience but in turn everything just felt sluggish and boring.
One big flaw I noticed with Deformers is the lack of any tutorial modes, which is a staple to pretty much any modern video game. I jumped into Deformers feeling confused and had no idea what I was doing even though the game is fairly simplistic in nature; all I knew is that I was hitting buttons to do things without knowing what those actions actually accomplished. The game does include a custom game type mode that allow players to spawn dummy opponents in order to play around and practice the modes; although, custom games will not actually explain how the game is played in either mode. Ready at Dawn really needs to integrate some sort of tutorial system in order to prevent new players from being lost and giving up on the game entirely.
Possibly my favorite aspect of Deformers is the Workshop; a mode located on the main menu that allows players unlock new characters and customize them with cosmetic materials. While playing Deformers, players will earn coins by leveling up which can be spent to unlock the many goofy characters, like a round stack of pancakes, a pug dog and a hamburger. Players can also convert their coins into currency that unlock cosmetic items like hats, glasses, spray tags (similar to Counter-Strike and Overwatch), and emotes. I really enjoyed going into the workshop and making my character look as ridiculous as I possibly could and seeing that represented in-game. Deformers also includes micro-transactions that allow players to spend real money to purchase in-game currency to buy cosmetic items. Everything associated with the micro-transactions and in-game unlocks all include cosmetic, so nothing can be purchased that gives the player an edge over someone who isn’t spending any money, which is definitely the best approach for a game like this.
Graphically, Deformers is simple and cute with a lot of humor thrown in. Watching players roll around as a pig with a piece of pizza stuck to their rump while sporting a sombrero and a pair of Kanye West shades always brings a grin to my face. The color palette is sort of washed out, giving a CG animated sort of feel to everything. The music reminds me of something out of Ratatouille with an Italian vibe to the tracks, which I personally feel is out of place in a game like this. I would have much preferred some sort of wacky, Splatoon-styled music that would appropriately match the visual style. Controlling the Forms is pretty easy and smooth but I recommend reading documentation online that covers the control scheme since the game has no tutorial to speak of. The game includes both online and split screen gameplay but I found that the servers disconnect often and players on the losing team tend to leave in the middle of the match with little consequence. I noticed that finding a game in the deathmatch modes is much harder than in Form Ball mode. All of this can be chalked up to release week jitters and hopefully all of it will be ironed out soon.
Ready at Dawn has crafted a charming little multiplayer game that works as a companion piece to Rocket League but not so much as a deathmatch party game. Some players may find a lot of enjoyment out of every mode in Deformers but I personally found the deathmatch modes to feel a little slow and unexciting unlike the Form Ball mode that’s lacking in features compared to the former. The lack of a tutorial really hurts the overall package and may prevent younger players from easily picking up the control scheme and getting into the action. Unlocking and customizing new characters will keep those who enjoy the game playing for hours upon hours, but I don’t see that mode changing the minds of those who failed to click with this game. I did have some good fun with Deformers and I recommend Rocket League fans and families look into it, but it may be smart to wait and see how the game evolves before plopping down the cash for it.