19/05/2017

☆ Review: The Deer God - “Like running through a Bob Ross painting” ☆

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Deer God - PC Version Reviewed

The Deer God is a tough one for me to review. During my three to four hours with the game, I went from disliking it, to loving it, back to hating it and finally to accepting it as just an okay title. While definitely a very pretty, serene and thoughtful side-scrolling platformer, there are some questionable gameplay flaws that ultimately let The Deer God down.

The game begins with the death of a hunter who is soon given another chance by an ancient race of elder deer spirits when he is reborn as a young fawn. Players must guide this young fawn across the beautiful wilderness fighting predators, eating food and completing quests, all with the aim of redeeming the hunter’s past crimes against nature.


The fawn does not stay a fawn for long however and remaining alive for long enough will see your deer ageing up through several stages before finally becoming a full grown stag. Each age level comes with increased speed, damage and jumping ability and dying will see you returned to a young fawn as you are reborn at the nearest checkpoint. Extra lives can be picked up that will see you respawn at your current age, but for the most part, the process of ageing up again after death can be a rather tedious one. The game also offers a hardcore permadeath mode and a co-op multiplayer mode, but I didn’t have a chance to try either of them out.


My initial reaction to The Deer God was one of confusion as I felt as though I was playing a game that hadn’t actually been fully developed. I was pretty confused for at least the first half and was never sure of exactly what it was supposed to be doing or how the mechanics of the game actually work. This is all eventually explained, however, but I felt like it took a bit too long to do so.


For the most part, you spend your time running along the procedurally generated landscapes, jumping between platforms, solving basic puzzles and fighting enemies. A lot of the game is incredibly repetitive however and you’ll often find yourself running past the same landscapes and enemies, again and again, trying to figure out where you’re supposed to be going.


Enemies are fought by use of an attack dash that is slowly upgraded over time to include more moves such as a downward slam and the ability to break blocks. There are also a number of special powers that can be found by completing puzzles, such as shooting fireballs or teleporting over long distances. Items can also be picked up along the way that grants special abilities like calling in a swarm of bees to fight for you or just good old fashioned healing. The items are however not really necessary to complete the game and I found that I just ended up hoarding most of them. It didn’t help that the inventory screen was quite clunky to navigate and actually using the items from your quick slot belt was equally frustrating.



There is also a karma system that tends towards the light or dark depending on your actions towards the good and bad creatures of the forest, but if this has any affect on the game at all I have no idea what it is.


In addition to the completing a number of very basic quests, there are also a few boss battles thrown into the mix of the game. These aren’t really as exciting as they should be however and mostly involve just biding your time waiting for your stats to recharge before attacking and cowering away again.


Probably the most appealing feature of The Deer God is the game’s visuals. The world is presented in a beautiful pixel art style that makes use of great 3D depth in the backgrounds and foregrounds. This coupled with the tranquil music gives the game a very dreamlike feel as you gallivant across the world as a majestic woodland deer. One could almost overlook the rest of the game's flaws as you spend hours just staring lovingly at the beautiful scenery as it passes by.


Summary:
As a vegetarian and nature lover, I get where The Deer God is coming from. The game is trying to come across as an ode to the natural world and the impact that humankind has upon it. Sadly this ideal is not always the best setting for a game, at least not without some drawbacks.

I would recommend The Deer God - albeit when it’s on sale - as a fun graphical experience and a brave attempt at an experimental game concept that’s never been tried before. The game’s great graphical style and tranquil feel remind me a lot of Fez and the desire to explore the game’s beautiful world is very tempting indeed. Overall the repetitive and clunky gameplay does let the experience down somewhat. But hey, at least the developers were willing to try something new.



Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: Crescent Moon


Review By Alex Gaillard from Bitz n Bytz