I love walking simulators but Deer Journey is a galloping simulator as you take control of an albino deer, outcast by its family. Over a short trot, you’ll experience all kinds of trials and tribulations as your faun tries to make it to adulthood on their own terms. The problem is, the player experiences more trials and tribulations trying to navigate the various game breaking bugs and issues with the game design too.
My first ten seconds with Deer Journey saw the camera get stuck in long grass and I couldn’t get the game to work. A second restart saw my camera stuck inside the deer itself which was somewhat harrowing and amusing. It wasn’t until the fifth time of asking that the game loaded properly and I could play but these unusual and often non-repeating camera bugs plagued my journey as I walked and pounced around as a beautiful deer. When the deer is in full gallop motion, it looks lovely and some of the backdrops in the game sell the beauty of nature too. The lakes and hills especially look lovely as do night fireflies.
These are but brief fleeting moments of greatness though because no sooner do you enjoy your experience, the game screeches to a halt. If its not crashing with camera issues, its the level design. The level area sees you rammed repeatedly but every other animal. The exit is not clear, not is the reason why anything is happening – you just die repeatedly. You can’t move in water until the game decides you can and then its a goat simulator level of jank to swim across a fast stream of water and avoid the rocks. Elsewhere what looks like a platforming area is actually just working out which hill or tree area allows you to progress onwards with the game. As there is no narrative and areas often lack a visual clue for an exit, Deer Journey feels a bit aimless in its wandering. There is almost zero story too as you trudge through awkwardly laid out forest areas marching forward with no real reward.
Then suddenly, in an underground cave, the story springs to life with some beautiful music, great visuals and some interesting visual ideas for a couple of minutes before you then have to ram another deer to death and then the game ends. It was just over 40 minutes in length and I felt like I’d suffered countless glitches and issues for a cutscene and a comically ill toned headbutt battle. It left me wondering about how much some additional story elements would have done to elevate the game and remove the monotony of just moving forward. It isn’t enough to have a nice deer animation if there’s nothing there to care about or contextualise it.
I may have been quite harsh with Deer Journey, I’m sure it means well. It’s just the entire experience was an empty one and I had to wrestle the game into submission for it to run properly too. I think there are some nice ideas and hopefully the developer can work on implementing something that’s less lopsided in the future. In the meantime games like Shelter and The First Tree are easy alternatives to recommend instead.
Review copy provided by developer.
Flashes of decent promise are undermined with some very clunky gameplay, technical bugs and level design that doesn't allow you to appreciate the good parts of the experience.
The gallop looks very cute.
Some of the environment and music works well.
Level design lacks intuition meaning you are left wondering what the goal is.
A lot of the time you are forced to rush or jank your way through obstacles, meaning you don't enjoy being a deer.
Story is non existent until the final five minutes.
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