Thursday, December 21, 2017

Review: The Deer God [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

There are sometimes games that work at a conceptual level, you can appreciate what they’re going for, but then in terms of execution something just gets lost along the way. The Deer God falls into this trap for me, opening with a deer hunter dying and being connected with a great deer spirit. In order to redeem your acts in life you’ll be tested by taking the form of the deer to understand their plight… or something like that.

Ultimately a lot of the gameplay boils down to exploring a bit, jumping over pits of spikes, trying to either avoid or ram into hostile creatures (but not killing good ones), completing very simple tasks as quests to progress, and occasionally knocking up a fawn to create yourself a respawn point. The thing is, as great as the visuals look it all begins to repeat all too quickly. If you aren’t quite doing the right thing you’ll begin to feel like you’re in an endless loop. There’s a karma system that concerns itself over what animals you’re killing and whether they’re good or bad. There are pretty minor puzzles in the landscape for you to complete by pushing blocks around or performing a task that grant you powers of limited use. You can find or gain items by doing your little mini quests but they’re generally not something I used much. You generally want and need to eat to replenish your 3 bars but food is sometimes overly plentiful but other times quite scarce. As a whole the game has a lot of systems and even attempts at messages going on but they don’t feel like they gel or get fully realized and I think it all would have ended up better by cutting it all in half and focusing more on making it all cohesive and fun rather than so muddled.

In the end The Deer God plays out as an odd collection of concepts that just aren’t working together in harmony. Blend this with a spiritual theme that generally seems to be discarded quickly aside from things like when you die with bad karma you can come back as something like a porcupine and it is hard to really put a finger on what the design goals and final messages for the game are. Perhaps it is meant to be profound and leave you to ponder the question yourself further? For me I just decided to move onto something else.

Score: 4.5

  • Generally looks great
  • Some individual components of the game seem to work well enough
  • There is a sense of discovery and exploration at times that is engaging

  • Overall feels like there’s too much meandering around without a real sense of purpose
  • Most of the game systems come across as half-baked and overall the game isn’t very cohesive
  • While it starts out seeming to want to impart a message (even if possibly a bit preachy) it fails to do much to reinforce whatever they were shooting for