EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
Literal Dungeon Crawling
The main gimmick of MetaMorph is that it gives you the power to switch between three different avatars, a rabbit, a fire elemental and an ogre. Each one comes with its own set of strengths and weakness, as well as some special moves. Utilizing all three forms effectively is the key to success. In theory, this is great. In theory, this should provide diverse encounters and plenty of tactical opportunity. In practice, though, MetaMorph isn’t currently a particularly fun game to play, and it’s going to need some major, fundamental adjustments to its experience to meet the heights of its potential promise.
The main problem that most of the game’s other issues largely stem from is that everything moves in borderline slow-motion. Rabbit form, the most agile, is fine, but both of the other two crawl across the screen. Enemies, for the most part, walk at the player at a snail’s pace as well, messing with the whole vibe of the experience in a way that actively detracts from the heavy action. It’s difficult (and not in a satisfying way) to avoid traps with the way speed, movement and collision work. Dungeons with a completion timer become maddening when the game’s mechanics de-emphasize speed. A few of the enemies have ranged attacks that “charge” as they show their projection vector, with the obvious intention of having you move out of the way. No matter how hard I try, I just couldn’t maneuver a dodge. Rabbit form has a shot, but anything besides that is toast, and there isn’t enough time to switch to rabbit once the attack starts to charge. Yes, some of the abilities aid in mobility, but it isn’t enough. To be completely honest, half of me wonders if there’s something wrong with the way the EA demo is performing, because clips on the game’s Steam page appear to have the action flowing much more quickly and smoothly- the way it should work.
Hack’n’Slash or Tactical?
In a great case of irony, MetaMorph currently suffers from a massive identity crisis. The game’s general setup - dungeons filled with tons of baddies that need to be smashed in the face - isn’t dissimilar to beat-em-up classics like Gauntlet, but the game’s marketing suggests something more strategic. Those opportunities for strategy rarely manifest, however, beyond switching between your three avatar forms. Moving with intention is hampered by the absolutely glacial pace of movement, so strategic positioning largely goes out the window. This might sound strange, but I just don’t know what the game wants me to have fun doing. There isn’t enough depth to allow for tactical flourish, and the game flows far too slowly for mindless smasher fun. The final product exists in a no man's land that, in its current state, plays out the worst of both worlds.
Right now MetaMorph only supports keyboard and mouse controls, and I constantly struggled with controlling the action on-screen. Both movement and basic attacks are carried out with a left click, and specials are initiated with Q and E. WASD movement or gamepads are not supported. I really, really don’t like it when movement and attacks are mapped to the same button without the option to switch, but, as usual with this set-up in a hectic slasher, I’d frequently attack when I wanted to move, and, less frequently, move when I wanted to attack. The game needs the mobility of WASD or joystick movement, and although it would mean re-working how basic attacks work, it makes a lot more sense for this kind of game.
Potential to be realised
The concept of MetaMorph is a strong one, but right now it’s buried under a lot that simply isn’t fun. The game has potential, but there are a lot of changes I’d need to see before jumping back in, starting with an increase in movement speed by at least a factor of two or three and both gamepad and WASD movement support. There are some high points with the game, even if they’re largely overshadowed by the pitfalls. The only real strategy comes from switching between avatars as you manage multiple sets of cooldown timers, and most of the dungeons require a bit of trial and error to work out when each one works best. It feels good to find a functioning rotation, and I hope the final game amplifies this interaction with more quality special moves and avatars. The hack-and-slash genre is a crowded one and right now there are just too many finished, polished and high-quality games to make this a title worth jumping into at the Early Access stage. Here’s to hoping this ugly duckling can manage to become a beautiful swan and not just an ugly duck.
It pains us to say this, but we don't see how this game will mesh. At the current stage of development the game should be much farther ahead than it is.