This month’s Xbox LIVE freebie is the cel-shaded platform RPG The Deer God. The game started out as a Kickstarter project last year, and has finally made it onto the Xbox Live Marketplace, bringing along its unique blend of side-scrolling and RPG gameplay around a Minecraft-esque graphical look. The player is introduced into this pixelated world as a human huntsman, but after being ambushed and killed by wolves while out on a hunt, he is then reincarnated as a fawn, after a divine intercession from the titular “Deer God” himself, as punishment for past karma. The player must now trek forward to seek a way to return to human form while encountering numerous enemies, obstacles, and quests along the way.
The environment is presented in a 2.5D world, where movement is similar to typical side-scrolling games, but is laid over a world with depth. Graphically, the game is similar to Minecraft, and it’s commendable how more and more developers nowadays are adapting a unique approach to graphical styling in their games. The Deer God is no exception. Light and shadow effects in the game are praiseworthy, it gives the 2D look a sense of depth, highlights different terrain nuances, and brings out the overall colorfulness of the game, though the pixelly look can get on your nerves, especially at the beginning. Everything – even in-game text and commands – are written in a pixellated form. your Deer can look borderline scary as the pixels can mix with one another leaving a mosaic look on your character, not to mention the game’s camera angles can get confusing at times even if the game is played in 2D – there are no camera controls, meaning the camera remains in a static position. This is principally bothersome when there are numerous enemies on screen and at different heights or when jumping from one platform to another is crucial and potentially life-threatening – there will be times where the camera will not cooperate with you. One faultless attribute of the game is the soundtrack. The Zen-like music will leave you in a relaxed, dreamy state at most times, and is perfect for the game world you journey through. Combine these with the unique level design and one can picture The Deer God as some sort of folk tale-based animation.
The Deer God has an active day/night cycle which can loosely be read as chapters, as your deer grows throughout the course of the journey. Level design is wonderfully crafted, and is challenging enough for even long-time platform gamers. Enemies come in the form of wild animals which are scattered throughout the stages. These foes will attack you on sight and will do a significant amount of damage. Do take heed as not all of the wildlife are hostile – some like fellow deer are on your side and attacking such “friendly” creatures will affect your character’s karma, altering what abilities you can learn and affecting overall gameplay. As the game is based on survival, the player has three health bars to manage: health (red bar), stamina (green), and a sort of MP bar (blue). Health is easily replenished by consuming various fruits found in the game, and the other two are replenished automatically over time. Despite having been released for about a year now, the game does have occasional glitches that can cause frustration – one such glitch enables you to jump off the world and into a state of limbo, moving towards nothing but an endless colorful gradient of pixels. Now combine that with not passing your last checkpoint and you’re sure to have wasted 30 minutes of tedious progression.
Overall, The Deer God can be labeled as one of those ” what could’ve been” games. The game offers a pleasingly different graphic style that is sure to entice players, combine this with an equally unique twist on traditional platform gameplay, and you’ve got a game that ought to rake in fans by the thousands. Unfortunately its quirky camera angles hinder the game’s fun factor, and numerous game glitches can be irritating especially since these come out without any warning and at any point in the game. Looking beyond all of that though, The Deer God is a worthy enough download and a worthwhile game to spend time on, particularly for fans of the platforming genre.