The buck stops here.
I had zero idea what to expect when I booted up The Deer God. When the initial plot rolled its way past my screen, I was even more confused. Indie games are great. They give developers a chance to release unique and quirky titles that are outside the norm. The Deer God exemplifies this with a pixelated adventure that borrows from a lot of various genres.
The story, as I mentioned, is definitely unique. It starts off with a hunter who ends up killing a baby deer, and then succumbs to his own death with a wolf encounter. The hunter is then reincarnated as the baby fawn he just killed. It is all about learning to atone for the mistakes he made, as well as learning to live the life of a deer. It is weird, and having the almighty Deer God explain things is even more peculiar.
Platforms: XB1, PC
Price I’d Pay: 9.99
On the game play side of things, The Deer God is a basic side-scrolling adventure mixed with some rogue-like elements and penalties for death. Players start off with basic moves such as a jump and dash attack, but the longer they stay alive, the more powers they obtain. The deer can even eventually gain the ability to throw a fireball. Yeah, like I said, it is a weird game.
There are three things to manage at all times in The Deer God. Health, hunger, and energy have to be maintained at all times, and it never really explains how this works. So, like everything else in the game, it is trial by fire. Health and hunger go hand in hand, as long as the deer is full, it will heal. Energy on the other hand can be the difference between life and death, and like everything else in this game, dying is a huge setback.
As the deer, players will wander aimlessly at first. There is no really good explanation of how things work, and instead players are left to their own discovery. This is both good and bad. I liked figuring out how things worked in the world, but at the same time there is a sense of randomness that really drags down the mission design. Some quests required me to find specific objects, and they never appeared in the same place twice. So I spent countless time rummaging through areas hoping to find where the item had spawned.
Combine that with the setback of dying, and it drags down an otherwise unique experience. There are highlights though. The boss fights are really interesting and outlandish. There is one against a giant snake, and again it is all about learning the mechanics of the game. The challenge is great, but the randomness of some of the quests really drag it down in between.
I do love the way the game looks. At first it appeared as just another pixelated platformer, but the variety of areas really stood out. Boss designs are interesting, and it all just has its own unique style. I have grown tired of the classic-but-modern style a lot of games have lately, but this one really does it well.
The Deer God mostly stumbles over its random nature and lack of explanation. It is the kind of game that is best enjoyed with a FAQ explaining all the systems and how to progress. Still, even with that the random nature really drags down some of the quests. Xbox One owners get to try it for free this month if they have a Gold subscription so definitely check it out, but just be prepared for the many issues the game will present along the way.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.