Ready At Dawn, the developer behind the visually stunning The Order 1886 (opens in new tab), has made a drastic shift from its man-eating werewolves and Knights of the Round Table protagonists with its new game. There are monsters, but they're the cute and cuddly kind. In Deformers, you play as squishy monsters that bash, toss, and shoot each other to oblivion in physics-based eight-player arena battles. Like Rocket League, the mechanics are easy to grasp but also allow for skilled players to wreck opponents with sophisticated tricks and tactics.
Deformers is exclusively a multiplayer game. Outside a quick tutorial you can play on your own, the rest of the game consists of online matchmade team or free-for-all battles. Deformers was in an early beta state when I had a chance to play it, so I only got to see a few of the arenas. They are free-floating desert and mountainous themed open platforms (giving you the chance to throw your opponents into bottomless pits) that range from generally plain and flat to multilayered maps for added verticality.
You choose between a variety of cute, squishy monsters like a three-eyed, green, pig-frog hybrid, or a rainbow colored tentacle monster. Each creature is more or less round in shape (tails and random horns notwithstanding) allowing them to roll around the battlefield at high speeds, so at first the matches feel like a game of Twisted Metal. In my demo, only the imaginative monsters were available to select, but the developers will be bringing more recognisable animals like rotund cows and chubby pigs to the finished game. The creatures all play the same at the moment, but differing speed and agility attributes will be added to the characters to make each feel unique and cater to specific playstyles.
The matches start with players simultaneously dropping from the sky onto the arena platform, from there all hell breaks loose. Players are able to perform dash attacks, block, grab, throw, and shoot enemies with orange colored goo called trids from the third-person point-of-view. While you try to bash your opponents with charged dashes, there are a few things to keep in mind: There are trids on the ground for any player to pick up, causing their monster to increase in size like a snowball rolling down a hill. This increases your attack power and bolsters your ranged attack ammo capacity. Also, players have the ability to assume a block position (shapeshifting into a cube) which will stun you if come in contact with them.
It all sounds pretty basic, and it is. But when you put the controller in the hands of an experienced player, like Ready At Dawn's QA team, all of the advanced moves and countermoves come to light. While most combatants roll around on the ground, skilled players can use the physics-based moveset to perform some impressive aerial feats. You could roll up the side of a wall while charging a dash, dash to a new wall, stick to it with the block move, and continue doing that to stay above the competition. Or when you get grabbed and thrown off the stage, you can counter it by charging a dash, whipping you camera around to the platform, and mid-air boost back to the edge. One dev was even able to recover from an off-stage throw, grab the monster who threw him, jump off the edge again, toss his foe to their death, then return back to the platform.
It may not look like it, but Deformers is a game about skill. The world looks cute and the gameplay appears to be simple when you first pick it up, but once you drop in the match the chaos is truly exhilarating, especially when you start experimenting with the moveset and begin to pull off clutch saves and intricate kills.