Friday, July 15, 2016

The Deer God Review (XONE)

The Deer God is a truly magical 2D platformer experience where you get to be a deer and explore a gorgeous world.  It plays fantastically well, looks and sounds amazing, and tasks you with doing some pretty incredible things that will leave you in awe.  It doesn’t give you strict goals or objectives, which some people might find boring, but we love it just for the simple experience of being a deer and exploring nature.  Our full review of The Deer God has all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Crescent Moon Games
  • Developer: Crescent Moon Games, Cinopt Studios
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: 2D Platformer
  • Pros: Looks gorgeous, sounds awesome, being a deer is magical; fun exploration
  • Cons: No clear objective might bore some people
  • MSRP: $15

Originally released for free as part of Xbox Games With Gold, which is how I originally played it, The Deer God will now set you back $15 if you want to play it.  It is such a stunningly beautiful and well put together and memorable experience, however, that I really do think it is worth the money. 

In The Deer God you play as a hunter who dies and is reincarnated as a fawn.  By exploring and earning XP, your fawn grows up into a powerful buck.  You can actually sire children (by just standing by a doe …) and you are reincarnated into your kids if you die.  Your powers and abilities are dictated by how old your character is and how big their horns are, so dying and starting over as a younger animal means you have to level them up all over again to reach full power again.  It is a very neat system overall.

What kind of “powers” do I mean?  Well, some pretty crazy stuff, actually.  You can speed dash and double jump, but also control elements like fire, light, and lightning or growing plants to use as platforms and you can even summon other friendly animals to help you.  As your deer grows it gets faster and stronger and more powerful, which gives you access to new areas of the world. 

The world itself is made up of a number of different biomes from forests to jungles to mountains to swamps and frozen snowy areas.  You eventually wrap back around to the start of the world if you run to the right long enough, but that is all just part of the experience.  You’ll have new powers and abilities every time you wrap back around, so running through the same levels is different every time because your character should be more powerful and able to do different things and solve puzzles they weren’t able to before. 

There are quests to complete – usually fetching something and returning it – as well as boss battles against giant animals tucked away in hidden corners of the world.  There are also simple puzzles to solve all over the place.  The game also does have an overall story and goal, which is to get fully powered-up and accomplish some specific tasks which opens up a final boss fight that, upon completion, gives you an interesting question – do you want to remain as a deer or turn back into a man?

For the most part, though, The Deer God just has you running around sort of randomly.  Some people might not like this and find it boring, but I loved every second of it.  Maybe it is because I’m from Idaho and can actually appreciate nature, but I found The Deer God to be absolutely beautiful.  The controls are wonderful and being a deer is surprisingly awesome.  Interacting with other animals and the environment just feels right, and stopping to actually look at how great everything looks, despite being made of blocky voxel graphics, really makes you appreciate it all.  There are also some rather clever achievements that ask you to think outside of the box and do less obvious things in the game, which force you to explore more thoroughly and get even deeper into the world that I really enjoyed as well.

The Deer God was met with surprising apathy and even hate when it was first released on Xbox One for being too boring or simple (people didn’t even give it a chance even though it was free!), but I fell in love with it immediately.  It is a remarkably soothing and relaxing experience to just go out and be in nature, and The Deer God captures that extremely well.  The visuals are outstanding and the soundtrack is absolutely perfect, too.  Combine all that with the satisfying feeling of controlling a deer as it runs and jumps, and The Deer God is pretty special if you let it get its hooks into you.  I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re impatient or get bored with games that don’t hold your hand and tell you exactly what to do at all times, but if you want a unique experience and have the patience to sit back and smell the roses, The Deer God is worth a purchase.