Arcade shooters have been around since the earliest days of gaming. The genre has also done very well in the indie scene, with games such as Nex Machina, Resogun, and Graceful Explosion Machine. What draws me to these games is their aesthetic—the visual presentation that the game is going for. It’s usually not until I get my hands on these arcade shooters that I learn whether I’m really going to enjoy it or not. I personally look for things like how the movement and shooting feel, and also what unique features the game holds that make it different from the others. Deployment makes a huge attempt at changing up the format by making a competitive arcade shooter.
Deployment is a competitive arcade shooter with what might be considered mild or fantasy violence. The game takes place in the world of cyberspace. The backdrop is that governments and mega corporations are battling over control of cyberspace in order to achieve all of the information within it. Players take control of drone-like robots that use machine guns, lasers, rockets, and flame throwers to take each other out. Players explode upon death and some weapons do tear through the environment. If there were an ESRB rating, it would likely be E or E 10+
As mentioned in the content guide, Deployment depicts a battle over the control of cyberspace. None of that is actually reflected inside the game. All a player needs to know is how to play the game, and there is a tutorial that does well in teaching the basics. After that, players should be ready to do battle against opponents and fight to control territories within the map. Sounds like a cool idea right? Well, it doesn’t end up that way. Before I explain why, I’d rather go over the things I did enjoy and admire about Deployment.
First of all, there are five different classes to pick from out of these “Infosoldiers” as they are referred to, but let’s call them drones for short. Most of their names are fairly explanatory: Gunner, Pyro, Sniper, Cyclops, and Rocketeer. The Cyclops fills the support role and fires a huge laser that steals health from enemies upon impact. My personal favorite to play as was the Rocketeer; I was not very good, but I enjoyed watching the floor of the environment shatter and destroy under the rockets as they were traveling towards my enemies. Like most games do these days, all of these classes have “ultimate” abilities that can be activated during battle too.
Each of these classes have loadouts that players can customize; these loadouts mainly involve a different shot type and perks that can be equipped. The devs made the decision to have players actually complete challenges for the perks they wanted, rather than having an XP system like many other games feature these days. Going for those perks means you also have your own personal goals rather than just winning a match. These challenges usually involve killing a certain number of enemies, picking up a number of boosts, or winning matches.
Instead of having a set number of maps for players to pick apart, the procedurally generated route was taken and seems to fit the cyberspace setting. The maps are very Tron-like, and contain zones for players to capture for addition points and a tactical advantage. There are a variety of powerups laying around that can give things like a health boost, temporary cloaking, or increases armor. In addition to those powerups, a gameplay element known as “systems” can be captured to greatly aid a player or team in battle. Healing Stations, turrets, and smaller support bots are examples of these systems that players will want to take advantage of if they want to win.
All of those features are virtually nothing without gameplay, and it’s safe to say that the controls feel pretty good. My time playing Deployment was spent with a mouse and keyboard, though it does offer controller support. The keyboard is used for movement, ability activation, and reloading. The mouse does well in aiming, shooting, and interacting with the environment. Movement is solid enough to get me out of some tight binds and get me some kills while on the brink of defeat. The action is fast paced enough that it spawned me right back in whenever I died, and the short matches add to the intensity of the action.
Now here is where the tragedy begins and ends it all. I started playing around a week after release, and the servers were already totally dead. It only takes a minute or two for matchmaking to decide its going to put me up against bots. I have looked in the Steam discussions board and there is no activity. So, I gave Deployment a fair shot and played some bot matches, and it got old very fast. The only match types are Free For All and Team Deathmatch. Such little variety did not help the fact that I already had nobody to play with. The game should also apparently hold eight players in a match(4v4), but I only got a max of four. It’s very possible that the game can’t load that many bots.
I would love nothing more than to play and review Deployment as the game it was meant to be. Unfortunately, with no player agency I have to call things as they are. To be fair, I really like the idea and concept of it all. It could be fun to get a few friends together and play a few matches, but the simple fact is that nobody just wants to play this game. Steam says this game has 200 mostly positive reviews from the first three days this game was released; they are so generic that I don’t believe they are legitimate. This is a sad sight to see from what could have been potentially something good.
Review copy kindly provided by Whale Rock Games
The Bottom Line
Deployment is unique in that it blends arcade style shooters with competitive elements. Procedurally generated levels and power ups are a fun addition to the action as well. Unfortunately, there was no online community to be found when this game was deployed onto Steam.