‘The Deer God’ Review: Karmic Disaster

The Deer God is a 2015 mobile game that was later brought to consoles and PC. Now on PlayStation 4, it seems this little Kickstarter indie game is officially everywhere. With gorgeous pixel-art style graphics and one of the most interesting game ideas I have ever encountered, players take the role of a hunter who has recently died and been reincarnated by the “Deer God” as, of course, a deer. Follow the 2D side-scrolling path, starting as a fawn and eventually growing to a full size buck, if you can stay alive long enough that is. Karma is a bitch.

The Deer God was originally released for PC two years ago. Since then it has made it’s way to iOS, Android, Xbox One, Wii U, and now PlayStation 4. With distinct and beautiful pixel art graphics and creative concept, The Deer God manages to look fantastic and I definitely started it with a good vibe. The story begins with some hunters out doing what hunters do: killing deer. This particular hunter ends up angering the Deer God himself and is forced to be reborn as a deer. The goal being to teach him an appreciation for all the lives he took. The Deer God was already unlike anything I had ever played.

Players start at birth as a fawn and as they progress, the longer they stay alive, the more they grow until they become a mighty stag. The trouble is staying alive long enough. The survival aspect of The Deer God requires players to constantly forage for food, pressing the eat button and hoping the plant has food, as it can be difficult to tell at times. If you go too long, your little deer will starve to death, it’s an aspect of realism that hurt my enjoyment. The Deer God also has a moral system; as you encounter other animals and humans, the choices to help or attack them affect this meter. And yes, your deer can attack; this just feels wrong and against the overwhelming message of The Deer God, that all life is sacred.

The Deer God isn’t just attacking, jumping, and eating; there is more, all to its detriment. Quests will become available, and most of them are “find this or move this block” basic tasks. Unfortunately, with the constant flow of in-game time, I found it hard to find the quest giver if they, say, only appear at night. At other times, I had no inclination of what direction to be going to complete an objective. Frustrating. All of these aspects could of been left out and a pacifist-based, infinite runner game would have been perfect in my opinion. These choices sadly take away from what is otherwise a really unique idea.

The Deer God isn’t all bad though, it does have beautiful graphics with some very cool layering to give it a 3D effect. The music is fitting and another high point, an ethereal mix of synth and electronica. The real problems with The Deer God are its creator’s overly ambitious need to include so many different gameplay components. It’s part platformer, part RPG, part infinite runner, and part survival game, and it doesn’t do any of them well. I have seen it before, when too many ideas are crammed into a game to the point of over-complicating it. While I started out excited to play it, The Deer God ended up being a frustrating disappointment. 

The Deer God is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam, iOS and Android. This review is based on PS4 copy provided for that purpose.

out of 5

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