Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Deer God Review (PlayStation 4)

Written By: James Nicolay

Title: The Deer God
Developer: Crescent Moon Games , Cinopt Studios
Publisher: Crescent Moon Games
Genre: Adventure, 2D Platformer, 3D Pixel Art
Rating: T
Release Date: April 25, 2017 (PS4)
Also Available On: Android, iOS, PC, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox One

The Deer God was a kickstarter project in 2014 that promised to deliver a "breathtaking 3D pixel art game that will challenge your religion and your platforming skills," as originally mentioned on the kickstarter website. The game ultimately raised about half of its projected budget, but nonetheless, the game released on many of its intended platforms. Sad to say, despite the promise of a challenging platforming game and a pseudo-religious experience, playing The Deer God on PS4 felt like doing a messy chore without any real payoff except testing one's patience as to what the point of game really is all about.

Researching on this game, which supposedly promises a challenge will test my faith, I was hoping to experience something akin to thatgamecompany's extremely successful game, Journey. However, playing the game in the first hour, I was left to question my faith whether I would want to continue with this game as I didn't have the drive to go on with it.

Concept-wise, The Deer God is interesting: you are a hunter resurrected as a fawn--you are given a chance to experience the world through the eyes of the very animal you hunt. This premise reminded me of the mythology tale of the hunter Actaeon and the Roman goddess of the hunt Diana, where the goddess punished the hunter by transforming him into a stag, thereby he was ravished by the very dogs he used for hunting as punishment for hunting the goddess when she was in her doe form.

First few minutes of the game was captivating as you experience the beautiful artwork and the mesmerizing background music. You are given a few buttons to master as the game seems to be set as initially a platformer--you can do a dash (to defeat enemies) and you can jump and do a double jump. Further on, you meet an old man that tells you that you have to meet him at his hut.

This should've been an interesting premise for a game, but after meeting the old man at his hut and returning his monocle, the game just throws you to explore the world with very little instructions as to what you should do.

Normally I get games that do not have a lot of instructions, except that I would need at least a kind of a goal to reach for myself. And what would keep me interested is the gameplay or the environment of the game. For additional thirty minutes, I was running along the beautiful landscape and slowly the environment grew menacing, without any real interesting area for me to explore. Heck, even the music got duller at one point, and I was trying to figure out what to do next.

Naturally, I was stomped and I had to resort to where gamers usually go to when we are stuck in any game: a website that we googled for a walkthrough. And this is where it got sadder: reading the walkthrough made me aware of the small elements in the game that should've been explained well at least in the game. It was only then I found out about what the three-colored bar at the top of the screen actually meant. And it seemed that the reason I was stuck was because I was supposed to solve an area that never got a prompt that it was meant to be solved.

So for a game that supposedly challenges one's faith in religion, the game made me question my faith in indie games. Why the lack of clear instructions? Why the underpowered character and confusing power-ups and items? Why the barely legible texts for instructions? Why the annoying boom-sounding bass in the background music each time a character dies? Why a buggy game experience that amassed money from a 3 year old kickstarter project despite having enough time to patch it for the PS4 version?

The game supposedly invites exploration in its absence of tutorial, but the environment is rife with spikes, hollow areas, and unreachable platforms. The game also changes its landscape every time you start a new game and so it's confusing how the exploration is going to be fun as other games that do this, roguelike games, have enough features to make the gamer keep coming back for more challenge.

Ultimately, The Deer God, oh dear, is a disappointing gaming experience that could have been better if the developer is clearer in its implementation of gameplay instructions and maybe mechanics that could've made the game more fun to play. As it is, it's a messy game that quickly kills the interest of the gamer almost as fast as how it kills the hunter at the start of the game.

Rating: 2/5