Dear God, we’ve met our maker, and it’s The Deer God! That’s what happened to our pixelated hillbilly hunter, anyway. He has been found guilty, by said deer deity, of killing countless animals and has been punished accordingly. For his crimes he has been born anew as that which he once hunted, and will have to redeem himself if he is to become human again.
The Deer God is an interesting mix of side-scrolling platformer and infinite runner. In it you’ll be playing as a hunter-turned deer, and you’ll overcome enemies, solve puzzles and maybe even get up to some mischief, too. No matter which path you take though, the Deer Elders will be watching you.
You’ll start off life as a newborn and, as you progress, reach maturity, growing big and strong. But caution is well-advised, the world is full of predators and it isn’t just humans who want to eat you for their dinner! As you travel across the beautifully rendered 2.5D blocky landscape, you’ll encounter all manner of friends and foes. Bunnies, cows and otters litter the landscape and pose you no harm, but foxes bears and eagles are all out to get you. You’ll be all alone in the big bad world, fending for yourself. So, in essence, it’s kind of like Bambi, but with Bambi’s mother’s killer being reincarnated. instead of feasting on her carcass.
As a newborn you start off fairly weak, but your trusty headbutt can protect you from enemies and destroy obstacles. Killing an enemy makes them evaporate in a beam of blue light, giving you “brownie points” in the eyes of your lord and saviour. Similar to Mass Effect’s Renegade and Messiah points, The Deer God rewards you for good deeds, and punishes you for being evil. Killing carnivorous enemies and helping animals or people all count as good deeds, giving you a nice warm feeling inside and casting you in a good light. On the other hand, bad deeds, like killing cuddly animals, will not reflect well on you, and you could be punished.
The procedurally generated landscape has a number of alters and puzzles, all imbued with the powers of the Deer God. Unlocking each power will make you stronger and more able to fight off the more powerful animals in the world, after all, who would want to fight the guy with the flamethrowers coming out of his antlers? Depending on how the terrain has been generated, you might come across alters fairly quickly, but it’s potluck due to the random nature of the terrain generation. When you aren’t hunting for new skills, you can feast on an apple or two, or perform fetch quests for people. For instance, in an old thatched cottage you’ll find an elderly man who has lost his glasses and cannot see without them. Mistaking you for a young boy, he sends you off on a quest to find them for him, only to be shocked, upon your return, to see that you are a deer.
The game’s gorgeous, lovingly crafted 2.5D landscape and twinkly soundtrack could fool you into believing The Deer God‘s action is a bit of a walk in the park, but don’t be fooled, it’s actually quite difficult. The land is overflowing with different types of enemies, traps and pitfalls that can kill you instantly, and once you’re dead it’s all over. But your God is a forgiving one, and has taken a novel approach towards perma-death. If you manage to reach maturity you can procreate with a sexy doe and father some offspring tp act as a vessel for your soul, if you end up dead. Your God might also see it fit to punish or reward you upon reincarnation, depending on your actions. They seem to have a bit of a sense of humour too as I found myself reincarnated as a porcupine more than once, for being a complete bastard to the friendly wildlife.
For an initial alpha release everything feels very polished, but it’s evident that there’s some way to go yet before it is a finished product. Terrain generation is erratic and needs some tweaking before all of the game’s biomes flow into one another. We’d also like to see substantial documentation of the game’s controls, pickups and abilities too, because, at the moment, you’ll have to figure it all out own your own.
It’s almost the end of 2014 and we’ve played some marvellous games this past year, but none quite as compelling as The Deer God. With its beutiful presentation, pretty sound production, and unique concept it has all of the elements for it to make a big impact in 2015.
The Deer God is available on Steam.