Deformers is a physics-based arena brawler that was due to be released on 14th February 2017 but was delayed in favour of doing some server tests. These tests took the form of an Open Beta over the last weekend in which I was able to play several hours of the three competitive online modes.

The pug fat wobble is incredibly realistic The pug fat wobble is incredibly realistic

The basic premise is that you are a ‘form’ that can ram, shoot, and throw things at other forms in an attempt to kill them. Each form is beautifully animated with a wide range of fun characters to choose from including animals, monsters, and even foods. Your core attacks are ramming (in which you smack into your opponent in the hope of smashing them out of the arena) and shooting (which is much harder due to aiming and the requirement for ammo but is probably more effective) but you can also morph into a cube-shaped shield for a few seconds which will hurt anyone who tries to ram you. You are also able to pick up objects and throw them (which bypasses the shield move) or you can pick up other forms and try to throw them off the edge of the arena.

There were three different game modes available to try: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and form ball. The deathmatch games are where I spent most of my time and were notable for being comprised of 3 two-minute rounds with a break in-between each that allowed you to change your form and class if you wished. The aim in both is to get the most points which are awarded for kills, damage, destruction, and consumption of both ammo and the fallen globules of your enemies (eww) which help restore your health. Form ball is basically football with a 3 minute time limit to score as many goals as possible by either grabbing and jumping with the ball or ramming into it.

Several different classes are available with a simple difficulty rating Several different classes are available with a simple difficulty rating

There are five different classes that you can choose to play as at any point; these are Guardian, Striker, Ranger, Marksman, and Speedster. Each one has a five-point radar chart containing different mixes of agility, health, size, ramming power, and speed but there are also boosts for shooting, dashing, and shielding. Each one is clearly explained with a star rating to denote how difficult it is to play as each one (i.e. Marksman requires more skill than Ranger). I spent the majority of my playtime with the Striker class as I found I was quite good at smashing into people whereas my aim wasn’t quite good enough with a controller for shooting.

There are multiple powers that randomly appear as tokens throughout the deathmatch arenas. When picked up, these tokens confer a power to your form that may be single-use (such as the magnet which attracts blobs and ammo to you) or they may have multiple uses (such as the meteor which fires a powerful projectile). My personal favourite was aura which creates a temporary fixed beacon that will suck any forms towards it making it easy to ram into them.

In opposition to the powers are disasters, short random events that may occur once per round. These vary from things that affect the arena itself (i.e. tilting, spinning, loss of gravity) to more destructive events like “the glob”, a giant fiery ball that will kill anything it touches.

Those gold strips and silver coins look like IAP fodder to me Those gold strips and silver coins look like IAP fodder to me

After a few matches I noticed some players had custom forms and I assumed these would be unlocked as I levelled up. It turns out you have to go to the “workshop” (not to be confused with Steam Workshop which this game does not support) where you can spend the silver coins and gold strips you’ve earned from XP and levelling up to buy new forms and accessories.

I immediately wanted the pug form (obviously) but he had a steep price of 15 gold strips which took me around 2.5 hours to earn through levelling up. Silver coins come a bit more readily (matching your XP at the end of each match) and these can be spent on accessories like hats, glasses, or a pair of samurai swords on your back.

The Steam store page description lists “In-App Purchases” so I’m going to assume that there will be a way to buy the gold strips so you can instantly unlock whatever forms you want (the presence of a gold strip to silver coins conversion suggests that only the strips will be available for purchase). Whilst some people won’t like this, it seems preferable to having items in crates that you have to purchase keys for with only a random chance of getting the thing you want from them (looking at you Rocket League). It will really depend on how much they are charging for these strips and how quickly you can earn the currency in the game. I’d probably spend a few pounds to get my pug early and maybe buy the occasional form as new ones are released but I wouldn’t spend more than that.

Incredibly detailed editing controls for your game replays Incredibly detailed editing controls for your game replays

One of the most interesting features is the replay mode whilst you’re waiting in the lobby. Once a match finishes, you get a full replay of the game complete with multiple camera angles, free camera movement, and the ability to toggle the future path of each form on and off and even change the length of that path. I didn’t see an easy way to export these videos but I’m sure that there must be a way. The only negative is that it means a lot of people forget to press “x” to confirm they are ready in the lobby so there tends to be a minute or two gap between games.

In terms of system support, the game ran at a beautiful 100fps with full support for my 21:9 widescreen monitor. There are basic options for changing graphical fidelity, volumes, and keyboard bindings but there isn’t a way to turn your own microphone off which is a little odd. I don’t have a mic plugged in my default and I immediately muted any voice chat so it wasn’t an issue for me but it seems to be a recurring theme on the Deformer forums (the solution is that you need to mute your mic via Steam which doesn’t seem great). I didn’t experience any bugs, crashes, or frame-rate dips but then I wouldn’t expect to with a GTX 1080.

There are lots of stars, bars, and coins when completing a match... There are lots of stars, bars, and coins when completing a match…

As this was a technical beta, it was fair to expect that there would be some teething issues. I, along with many others, ran into frequent disconnects and “server unavailable” errors at the start of the beta on Saturday but these seemed to have disappeared entirely by Sunday evening when I played the most. It is a risk, however, that a game like this really relies on the servers as there didn’t seem to be any kind of offline play available; it may be that there is some form of offline AI play in the final version but the beta required an internet connection to do anything (which is understandable as a test for their servers).

The bigger potential problem is what I have come to call “the VIDEOBALL effect”. As John and I discussed on the last episode of Connecting to Host, an online competitive game is nothing if nobody is playing. It’s difficult for me to say Deformers is charging a high price at £23 when it is much cheaper than AAA online shooters on PC or something like Splatoon 2 on Switch; however, its closest real comparison is probably the Rocket League type PC games which are priced around the £15 mark and this is where I expected Deformers to land. Time will tell if this sticks or if a permanent price drop will occur but my feeling is that it would be better to price low and have more players (who you can monetise via the workshop) than to price higher than your closest competitors.

With all that said, I’ll definitely be buying Deformers regardless of price as I found it to be a ridiculously fun and fast-paced competitive game. My interest in Rocket League and Titanfall 2 has dwindled of late and so this seems like it may be the perfect replacement when I want a few competitive rounds of gameplay. The fact that I can play as a drooling pug wearing a captain’s hat and a pair of glasses is really just the icing on the cake.

UPDATE: the game launched on April 21st and unfortunately disappointed with server errors, a lack of players, and a price increase.