Video game worlds keep getting bigger and bigger. It seems like more games become open world games by the minute – not a bad thing in my book, by the way! – and the worlds are 3 times bigger, 5 times bigger, and/or even bigger than every other game in the series combined! So it was a bit refreshing that Deiland is a game that tasks you with your own planet that’s so small you can run all the way around it in (estimated) around a minute. Not only will you be caring for your own planet and helping it thrive, you’ll be thriving through money earned from farming, fishing, crafting the occasional fight and even quests with visitors. But is Deiland a planet you’ll want to help grow, or should it just go die in the cold, quiet depths of space?
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by developer
Interface: DualShock 4 controller
Available on PS4, iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), Google Play, coming August 9th, 2018 to Steam
A long time ago, when the universe was young, children were sent to Minor Planets. Their mission was to awaken the magic of the Crystals kept within the planet’s interior. This is the story of Arco, the youngest of these children who lives on the smallest planet, Deiland. The tiniest of them all.
I love games where I can build something. Whether it’s building a stronger character with better skills in an RPG, crafting weapons and armor, building a home or even just building up income through better and better money-making projects, I’m a sucker for it all! Sadly, SO MANY games like this come out on a yearly basis lately and they’re either so convoluted that I can’t get into them or so basic that I’m bored 5 minutes into ’em. Deiland walked a fine line by hedging some risky bets – the land you’re given is almost microscopic in comparison to even the original console versions of Minecraft, but it’s just big enough to have plenty of space for farming, building things and having space for interplanetary visitors. It also includes quests for each of these visitors, so while you’re casually mining and farming you’ll always have a specific goal (often more than one) to work toward as well.
The game begins simply enough with you on a planet called Deiland, trying to find out who you are, what Deiland is and what’s so special about both of you. Deiland is YOUR planet, yours to do with as you please (to some extent), and your connection to the planet goes much deeper than just being in charge of it. When it rains, you can rotate the planet and the clouds themselves to make it rain where you want and make sure lightning doesn’t strike anything too flammable (or you!). You have no map, but you can zoom out and rotate Deiland at will to get a quick look anywhere. Even meteorites are manageable since you’re warned about them coming and automatically brought to the zoomed-out view, and you can rotate it so that they’ll land somewhere safe. Furthermore, all of the visitors to the planet are quick to accept you, a young child, as the one in charge of Deiland.
The rotation of the planet is one of the coolest things about Deiland, as was the balance of freedom vs always having at least one sort of goal. Deiland is full of ways to get new items, from buying them from visitors to even getting crops from other planets through the meteorites that occasionally strike the planet. Pretty much everything about the game is a balanced, viable way to earn money. Heck, I even discovered that one of the visitors sold some items that, when crafted into different items and sold back, would end up making money. Each time he came by I’d buy those items up, go craft with them as quickly as possible, and then sell them back. This isn’t a cheat by any means; visitors only come every so often and even then it’s not up to you which one visits, so it would take hours or even days of real-world time to use this tactic to unbalance anything. Farming is as simple as planting one item and getting more of them back once enough time has passed to harvest, which is made even cooler through the use of water. Rain or pouring water onto one of your 3 (at max, once unlocked and purchased) farming spots will massively speed up growth time for a short time, and you can build as many wells as you’d like (which are refilled via rainfall). This means that someone who’s especially interested in farming can set things up to farm a great deal of product within a very short period of time whenever it rains – you can rotate the clouds to make it rain all over your wells and farmland, then once it’s stopped raining you can walk buckets of water over and over until the wells run dry. The same goes for the trees and bushes you plant!
Every other thing you do is just as well-balanced. You can cook once you upgrade your home and get recipes, and cooked items are great for giving you health, fighting your hunger and selling. Mining is something you can do anytime without any cost (your tools don’t degrade like in games like Minecraft), but it exhausts you faster so you’ll need to sleep more often and it doesn’t earn money quite as quickly. Fishing requires larva as bait which are only reliably found from traders that don’t visit all too often, but always turns a quick profit. Eventually you’re even able to visit another planet, which allows for fighting enemies on a regular basis if you feel the urge (they attack Deiland quite rarely).
I also loved the way that the upgrades you can do and the quests you’re given not only gave you reasons to play, they work as a sort of extended tutorial to unlock more and more options for what you can do. Sadly, with that said, the game’s actual tutorial is rather lacking. In fact, after playing so much of it I can’t even remember the, I just remember making a big note that the tutorial was very lacking. Many things in the game confused me until I messed around with the game for an extended period of time. For example, I didn’t know that the icon on the fishing minigame bounced back and forth until 10+ hours into the game, I just assumed that if it got all the way to the other end it was an automatic fail! I also didn’t know that your hunger meter could fill all the way around in a circle until I was halfway through the game, and was wondering for the longest time why I’d take damage at random times until I found out that you start taking damage from hunger before the meter fully runs out. I ended up reaching out to the developers about one of the things later in the game to figure out how it worked, although if I was patient I would’ve eventually figured it out in-game. It’s also worth mentioning that whoever runs the Chibig twitter account did a terrific job of helping me out without spoiling anything!
In addition to the lackluster tutorial, the game had some spotty hit detection. I’d laid down fences the best I could around my farms but would frequently get hung up on them as I tried to walk through. I also got caught terribly on the wells I placed between the farmland and my home pretty much every single time, which was more frustrating than detrimental to anything in the game. These issues are easy to avoid for new players, just make sure you keep a path free, and I could’ve fixed it by demolishing the wells but was lazy. The fighting could also have been better – you basically just use a tool and repeatedly attack in their direction until they die, and if they get close enough you take damage too. It’s functional, but certainly not one of the brightest spots in the game, and luckily you won’t be doing a bunch of it.
Deiland was a huge surprise to me with just how well it balanced things, and how it truly made me feel like this was MY planet. Not only did it feel like my planet, it felt like a planet in space that wasn’t by itself since the meteorite would bring new food from time to time and there were so many visitors, each with their own stories to tell and that helped flesh out your own character’s story. I ended up with several full days worth of gameplay and even then I didn’t quite finish all of the sidequests, but it was a breath of fresh air playing a game like this that actually had an ending. Chibig also refers to the “Deiland saga” on their website, so I’m very much hoping for more games and stories in this world and adding them to my wishlist the moment I hear about them!