Thursday, December 11, 2014

Early Access Preview - The Deer God

The Deer God

Now Available on Steam Early Access

Developed by Crescent Moon Games

The Deer God is a relaxing and sometimes puzzling survival platformer with an emphasis on exploring bountiful natural landscapes presented in a most beautiful and crisp pixel style, a combination reminiscent of beloved indie gems like Fez or Sword and Sworcery. Guiding you through each of the different seasons and themed areas is the warm synth, moody piano and nostalgic blips of their respective soundscapes shifting and evolving with each subtle change of the environment around you.

It's an already a gorgeous game by the time the title screen appears, the serene and peaceful imagery eases your vision yet the ominous teetering of the strange hymn that plays tells you not everything is as peaceful as it seems. It is a story of the hunter and the hunted of natural order and balance of life, but who is there to put mankind in our place when we attempt to throw that balance off and cause unnecessary death?

The game starts you off assuming the role of a small and feeble baby deer in a lush world of natural wonder and danger, your health and attack power in this infantile state are minimum so you begin your survival by scouring the land ahead for food and nourishment while avoiding the dangers of the wild.

On top of the elements of survival and growing your deer through the gathering of resources, the game plays like a roguelite. This means the level layout is randomized with each playthrough and when you die, you die for good. Fortunately in a continued effort to emulate life in the wild you can mate with does to produce offspring, which act as very crucial checkpoints becoming the new host for your soul if you perish.

The wilderness around you is shrouded in mystery, the deeper you travel into this meditative setting of seasonal meadows and swamps the stranger the entities you'll come across; An old hermit greets me in an isolated hut giving a small task. Groups of brutish hunters hang around cabins awaiting their prize shot and threatening the surrounding wildlife.

Various wise and elder deer appear before me periodically throughout the journey to bestow knowledge and sometimes new powers to help clear the path ahead as well as hidden paths that were previously untraversable in an almost metroidvania-like fashion. Ancient statues appear after tasks have been completed and task you with a block puzzle. Fitting the relics to their correct places grants you with the story advancing skills you need.

Players must use the scavenged items of your surroundings wisely in order to help the various struggling souls of the wild and repay their debt to mother nature. In the end traveling far and wide becomes more than rewarding when you're dashing through the deepest of caves crushing rocks with your hooves and hurling balls of fire from your antlers.

A whole lot of heart and soul have clearly been put into The Deer God, it's a game for people who love and respect the animal kingdom and even if you don't it could be the game that makes you care. It's a story about honoring all life around you, and seeking to mend the hardship-filled lives of other creatures we share the planet with.

This is an experience of many sights, sounds, and colorful characters and one I feel should be experienced by all, even if just for the message. With fantastically detailed pixel art and a challenging permadeath adventure of heavy natural exploration, The Deer God is one of those rare breeds in the indie scene that stands not only a work of art but a really damn fun and addictive game.

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