The Deer God (PC) - ReviewVGChartz Staff , posted on 27 February 2015 / 4,629 Views
Playing The Deer God is a surreal experience; one that is definitely capable of leaving a strong impression on anyone who plays it. Its stylistic graphics and strange, procedurally generated world make for an experience like no other, albeit one that feels hollow and content-light.
The Deer God starts out with a little cutscene where a hunter and his friend in the forest are hunting deer. Upon shooting a calf and subsequently being eaten by wolves, the hunter is taken to another realm. Here, a huge Deer God tells him that he must repent for the sins he has committed, and will now live his life as a deer. A few seconds later, you're reincarnated as a fawn, and set out on an epic adventure.
The abruptness of the introduction works in The Deer Gods’ favour, as it allows you to set out into the beautifully crafted 2.5D pixelated world as quickly as possible. Trees, the surrounding land, and even individual objects all have a sense of depth to them, despite being pixelated, giving “layers” to the game. This 2.5D style takes a little getting used to, with layers closer to the camera looking traversable when you first start playing, but although confusing at first it gives a great sense of wonder to the world, differentiating it from typical 2D pixel games of recent years.
It’s hard to explain the genius of how The Deer God unfolds before you. It’s a simple side-scroller, but one which is also partially procedurally generated, giving you random terrains to conquer before coming to any set pieces that progress the story. You’ll traverse mountains, plains, graveyards, caves, and all manner of other locations on your journey through this weird and wonderful world.
Strange as it may sound, it's actually a refreshing change to traverse a number of different areas without much happening as it makes you feel like you've actually gone on a journey across an epic landscape, rather than simply progressed through a small confined area. Objectives/quests are accomplished throughout your journey, but most of these are solved by simply progressing from left to right, with next to no puzzle-solving or adventuring required. It means The Deer God is fairly linear, which is a shame considering the game's procedural land generation.
Whilst you’re exploring this world and all of its set pieces you’ll age, growing from fawn to deer in a matter of minutes. Once you’re a deer, you’ll be able to hold more abilities (gained at set points throughout the game), deal more damage, and jump to greater heights. On your travels you’ll encounter many enemies and pits, which will either hamper your ability to progress or will kill you outright.
When killed, your character will respawn as a new fawn, albeit quite a way back because of the game's somewhat strict checkpoint system. Unless you pick up collectible skulls - which can be used as extra lives - you'll be sent back to the last time you had a child with another deer. This offspring can follow you around, but can also be controlled to stay at a certain location should you wish to effectively save your progress after a while. It’s actually a clever save system, but one that can also prove frustrating if you die some time after leaving your offspring behind.
You will gain items on your travels, but I found that on my first play through there was really no need to use any of them. Granted, it might useful to be able to use a mushroom to jump higher at times, but given that you naturally unlock abilities as you progress through the game that allow you to do even more impressive things (such as setting enemies on fire), none of them are particularly necessary.
There is also a moral system in The Deer God, but again I struggled to find an actual use for it. For every bad enemy you kill you get some points towards your 'good' bar, and vice versa for killing good animals. As much as I felt bad when killing good animals due to their inability to retaliate, my sympathies seem to have been misplaced, as these morality bars have no discernible effect on the game. Which, again, is a shame, because it could potentially have played an important and interesting role.
I had mixed feelings whilst playing The Deer God. It's certainly worth playing - if only for the epic sense of journey that comes from crossing multiple procedurally environments - but the gameplay is sorely lacking, feeling like a hollow shell of a true gameplay system. Overall, The Deer God is a great game to experience for a short while, but is unlikely to be one that you’ll continue to return to.
This review is based on a digital copy of The Deer God for the PC, provided by the publisher.
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