Review In Short

Ben says: "I hate giving a 1-star rating for a game like this as it is actually incredibly good; a fun brawler with cute blob shaped animals and foods. The problem is that developer greed (£30 plus microtransactions for a fairly shallow game worth £10-15) meant nobody bought it so there is nobody to play absolutely killing the game. Such a shame. I really hope it ends up in a Humble Monthly at some point so there will be enough people to play with as it was really good in the open betas."

Deformers is a game I raved about in my preview earlier this month. A simple physics-based brawler similar to one of the Mario Party minigames, it charmed me with its polished graphics, fun gameplay, and the unique rendering of Pug butts.

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I mentioned that the launch price was £23 and specifically said:

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.

Also, I predicted that In-App Purchases would be used for gold strips alone:

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).

The game launched last week and on all accounts appears to have utterly failed. I tried to play it for almost 2 hours over the 24 hour launch period and ended up with just under five matches of which four were with the same person.

Yes, person singular.

There was hardly anybody online to play the game and if you ended up with 2v2 (which is half the size it should be if there were more players) inevitably people would drop out leaving it as a 1v1 which is not a great experience. With nobody online, it was disturbing to have server issues and big lag warnings emerging on the left hand side especially when three open beta weekends and a two month launch delay should have ironed out those teething issues. This may have been a consequence of few people being online though as it was almost forcing me to user servers in Russia as they were the only ones with players available.

The launch price was £23 which was definitely too high and that coupled with In-App Purchases coming in at £2.34, £7.80, and £15.61 obviously spooked people who wondered what you could possibly be purchasing. I was correct that those purchases were for the gold strips (for purchasing forms) and that they could be used to convert to silver coins (for purchasing outfits and accessories). Unfortunately the purchases were using the typical psychological trick of an intermediate currency to disguise the price you are paying; for example, the pug form costs 15 strips which means either earning 5 and paying for 10 or buying 40 strips for more money and having change. A better strategy would have been to have all the forms unlocked and then monetise by buying unique forms separately (without an intermediate currency) in a similar way to Rocket League’s car packs.

After constant server issues and bad 1v1 matches, I decided that as I’d played for just shy of 2 hours I’d request a refund from Steam as £22.99 is above my threshold for “wait and see if this improves”. The refund was granted pretty quickly and will likely go towards something in the next inevitable Steam sale.

Inexplicably, the developers increased the price to £30 just a few hours after the launch. I can only imagine this is to maintain parity with the Xbox One and PS4 versions but it seems a ridiculous price for what is actually a very shallow game. It is very easy for me to say “it should be half the price” as it isn’t my money; however, one has to imagine there would be much better reviews and more players online had they gone with a lower price. Instead there are server issues and no players leading to what can only be described as a massively disappointing launch, at least on PC. The Steam Store page is awash with negative reviews mainly around pricing and server issues although the lack of a tutorial system (aside from some YouTube videos) is also called out.

I can honestly say that this has been the most disappointing launch for me as a gamer. I loved the game during the preview period and was prepared to pay the original asking price as I wanted to support the developers for what seemed a very polished brawler. The online issues and lack of players caused that opinion to change but the price increase means it isn’t something I’d even try again in the future. I really don’t want to see Deformers fail but something is going to have to give; either they need to drop the price (which will outrage those that paid in full) or they are going to be doomed to the VIDEOBALL effect. Perhaps they’ll find enough players to sustain it from a free release on Humble Monthly; that will likely be the only way I’ll pick it up again.

UPDATE: SteamSpy is showing that the peak number of concurrent users is around 17 per day and that the number of copies sold is going down as more people request refunds. It seems to be doing slightly better on Xbox One and PS4 although this is an absolute disaster on the PC.