Going into Firefly Studios’ Metamorph: Dungeon Creatures, I was expecting a fun little Gauntlet-style dungeon crawler. I got that, to a degree, but the game needs a considerable amount of balancing and a much wider slate of options before it gets out of early access. What exists here has promise, but it is currently a touch too generic to really grab me.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Metamorph is a retro-style dungeon crawler, split up into distinct levels with a set number of enemies in each. You begin the game playing as the Rabbit, a nimble class of character armed with dual-wielded swords. Within a couple levels you unlock the Ogre, the tank class of the game who hits hard but also moves incredibly slowly. A while later you get the third and final class, the Nymph, a fire spirit who deals damage with flaming projectiles and area-of-effect attacks. You can switch back and forth between these three classes at will, creating a basic rock-paper-scissors element of strategy.
Each class has a fairly extensive upgrade tree. You can spend skill points and in-game money on basic attributes and each class’s base level, and swap out special attacks and abilities once you unlock their corresponding cards. These cards can also be leveled, but until you progress farther into the game you only have two empty card slots per class. It’s a bit stilted because you get a half-dozen cards out of chests between levels, but you can spend cards to level abilities and it does encourage experimentation. Unfortunately this experimentation is mostly trial-and-error; you can beat your head against a level until you find the right combination of special abilities and tactics.
This all sounds like a fairly stable foundation for a good dungeon crawler, and indeed it is; the problem lies almost entirely with the game’s controls. So far Metamorph only supports one control scheme, mouse and keyboard, but the problem is the unorthodox setup. You don’t move and strafe with WASD and turn and attack with the mouse—instead, WASD and the number keys are used for swapping classes and using specials, and you move your character by clicking and dragging with the mouse. This makes the game feel a bit clumsy and floaty.
It’s cumbersome enough fending off enemies as they swarm you from all sides, but once you run into levels with traps like clusters of bombs and sawblades flying through the air, it gets downright frustrating. Avoiding these fast-moving traps feels sluggish and unfair, as even the speedy Rabbit doesn’t react fast enough to dragging a mouse cursor around. You can hop over those sawblades, but only as the Rabbit and at the expense of mana, as jumping is a special move that takes up one of those card slots. So if you want to dodge a lot of traps, you must constantly swap back to the Rabbit, and if you’re out of mana you’re out of luck.
It’s annoying because Metamorph is a solid little hack n’ slash with fun action, decent dungeon design and a fairly deep level of strategy and RPG mechanics. Its base control scheme just makes it feel like a mobile game. Strangely enough however Metamorph is only available on Steam right now, at least as far as I could determine. I would probably play a lot more of Metamorph, probably as a way to unwind after a long day at work, if only the controls were more conventional. It’s a good enough little game; it’s only $10 in early access, the visuals are pleasant and the action would be tight and satisfying, but click-and-drag movement really kills it for me. Metamorph has a gratifying difficulty curve, but I know it’s time to stop when I’m constantly thinking, “I could be kicking so much butt right now if the controls weren’t so backward.” Again it reminds me of a mobile game, or those early DS and Wii games that shoehorned in touch and motion controls just for the sake of it.
For that reason, I really hope the game’s controls get diversified before release. Gamepad support would be great, but simple, traditional mouse and keyboard would get the job done just as well. Please Firefly Studios, I implore you! You’ve got a great little dungeon crawler here, it just needs to be more intuitive and engaging to play.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Sean Colleli has been gaming off and on since he was about two, although there have been considerable gaps in the time since. He cut his gaming teeth on the “one stick, one button” pad of the Atari 800, taking it to the pirates in Star Raiders before space shooter games were cool. Sean’s Doom addiction came around the same time as fourth grade, but scared him too much to become a serious player until at least sixth grade. It was then that GoldenEye 007 and the N64 swept him off his feet, and he’s been hardcore ever since.
Currently Sean enjoys a good shooter, but is far more interested in solid adventure titles like The Legend of Zelda or the beautiful Prince of Persia trilogy, and he holds the Metroid series as a personal favorite. Sean prefers deep, profound characters like Deus Ex’s JC Denton, or ones that break clichés like Samus Aran, over one dimensional heroes such as the vacuous Master Chief. Sean will game on any platform but he has a fondness for Nintendo, Sega and their franchises. He has also become a portable buff in recent years. Sean’s other hobbies include classic science fiction such as Asimov and P.K. Dick, and Sean regularly writes down his own fiction and aimless ramblings. He practices Aikido and has a BA in English from the Ohio State University. He is in his mid twenties. View Profile