The Deer God is a strange beast. No pun intended.
Combining elements of endless runners, puzzle-platformers and roguelikes, The Deer God mostly works; at first. Being procedurally generated and trying to be too many things at once ultimately cause the wheels to fall off. It’s not without its charm, but it never quite hits the mark.
The premise sees two buddies on a hunting trip, trying to bag a majestic stag. An accident causes the hunters’ deaths with one being confronted by the titular deer god.
The hunter is reincarnted as a deer and given the chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the deer god. If he’s able, he may just make his way back to his human body and life.
It’s an odd premise.
Frankly My Deer
From the outset, there’s little explanationon how things work and it never really improves. Playing is mostly trial and error, but the random nature of the levels compunds the issue. The only way to learn how to play The Deer God is to keep playing it, but it quickly becomes a bore, then a chore.
It’s not without its fun, but it fades far more quickly than it should. As a deer you are fairly vulnerable to the other, vicious creatures of the forest. You’re able to headbutt and take them out, but you’ll need to run and hide more often than stand and fight. You’re able to stomp the life out of innocent creatures, but doing so awards you negative karma.
Not that I know what the karma really does. Negative karma will see you reincarnated as something mildly worthless, like a rabbit, but positive karma seems to have no impact. As far as I can tell.
Aside from enemies, as a deer, you’ll need to avoid pits, spikes, fire and other obstacles in your quest to redeem yourself. You’ll also have fend off hunger by eating and stay alive long enough so that you can mature. Eventually becoming a full grown stag.
Eventually, you’ll have to complete quests, though they mostly seem arbitrary. More often than not they’re a fetch quest, which is difficult when the levels are random. Even more so when much of the landscape appears similar or even identical to that which you’ve already seen.
The same goes for the power-ups you can find. Some give you amazing powers, like being able to shoot fireballs from your antlers. But more often than not, they’re so hard to find, you only will by accident. If you do manage to survivie long enough to find the power-ups and become a full grown stag, you’ll be able to mate and produce offspring. The baby deer serve as extra lives, letting you continue on even after you’re dead.
It’s unfortunate that The Deer God isn’t as good as it should be. It looks great. The pixellated art style is gorgeous and the parallax scrolling, coupled with the 2.5D viewpoint jumps from the screen and really draws you into the universe. The music is soothing and relaxing and really suits the vibe that the developers are trying to create.
I could spend ages listening to the music and looking at the artwork, but unfortunately not playing. There’s just not enough to keep it interesting for long enough. It’s too repetitve and too similar for too long.
The Deer God is a good exmaple of good intentions not coming to fruition. The elements never quite gel and things never really work. It’s nice to look at and listen to, but that’s about it.
The Deer God was reviewed on PS4 using a digital promotional code provided to PowerUp! by the publisher.
Game Title: The Deer God
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