You aim down the sights, prey in sight. You fire and yet have no time to celebrate before you’re set on by a pack of savage wolves, seemingly ending your life just as quickly as your singular shot had previously done. You’re revived moments later, albeit in the form of a fawn, due to the Deer God wanting you to use this opportunity to learn from your mistakes and atone for the sins you committed in your previous life.
From there, I had no idea where the game was about to take me, but I was excited. The potential, the well-trodden story of redemption laid before me; this time, I was seeing it from my prey’s eyes. How they viewed the world. How they lived, being scared of people like me. More importantly, how they survived. How wrong I was to be excited.
In the words of A Flock of Seagulls, I ran. I didn’t run so far away, but just to the right, which doesn’t sound as good when sang along to that riff. With no goal, no objective, I made my way from left to right, occasionally eating and jumping over hurdles. Boredom reared it’s dull face quicker than any game in recent memory has managed, and it never goes away.
Temporary objectives are given to you by NPCs, but these mostly consist of the typical fetch quests that are present in countless different genres and show a true lack of understanding in what could have made this game truly special. Use the unique spin that the story barely weaves to make your story one worth remembering, as opposed to letting the opportunity fly by.
Mechanics are equally as disappointing, with jumping and charging being your main forms of interaction with the world. Charging into predators is your primary form of dealing damage, with other options opening themselves up to you further down the line. Charging takes stamina, however, and enemies soon have such large health pools that it’s just far too much effort to deal a few points of damage, wait for your stamina to return, deal a few more, and so forth.
There’s little incentive to attack, too; Good karma is rewarded for killing predators that would take both you and your fellow deer-folk down, and when enough karma is collected your fawn will age, albeit slightly, to a young deer, and again so forth. Dying will have you respawn as a younger deer, and so the cycle continues. Granted, I never found myself dying to sloppy controls, but instead to my insistence that I can make one more attack before retreating. More often than not, I was wrong.
Having initially released on the 27th of February, 2015, the game made little to no splash, and content updates have been somewhere between sparse and non-existent. This recent Switch release, then, can often feel like a simple port, bordering on an easy cash-grab to those that are so inclined to see things with a slightly pessimistic light. A simplistic voxel-based graphics style is implemented adequately throughout the time spent with Crescent Moon Games’ offering, but it lacks the oomph that the other platforms were able to offer the title, volumetric lighting included. I’m a sucker for volumetric lighting.
Where titles such as Mantis Burn Racing thrive on the portable powerhouse, The Deer God seems to be content with being below average and makes no effort to convince you it’s worth any of your time beyond the first 30 minutes or so. It’s not often that I find myself so bewildered and utterly confused by a game, especially one with such a seemingly simple premise, but that’s exactly how it had me feeling throughout my time in its beautiful, albeit empty, world.
What’s more saddening is that I truly wanted to not even love, but just enjoy this game. I gave it more time than I would normally allow other titles to sink their claws, or antlers in this case, and yet I still trotted away from it feeling ever so disappointed. Whilst I would usually implore you to try a game for yourself before judging, I can’t even recommend that.
This copy of The Deer God was provided by the Publisher. Nick still hasn’t stopped humming ‘I Ran’.