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Deiland Review: Big Heart, Little Life

If you’ve ever wanted your own tiny little planet to manage, than Arco’s journey might be for you.

At its core, Deiland is a resource gathering farming/crafting simulator. It has  elements of adventure, RPG and action, but these feel more like add-ons and don’t really feel like natural parts of the game. You play as Arco, a small child who is the sole inhabitant of the smallest planet in the system: Deiland. You must serve your purpose as the defender of Deiland by assisting those who visit you, helping grow the planets resources, and protecting the Crystal heart of your little planet.

There’s a lot of heart and soul in this game, but it appears much more in theory than in practice. The tedious, random, and slow progression of the game rarely picks up even when you’re fighting enemies. That being said, there’s a lot of little charming pieces to Arco’s magical journey.

The story of Deiland unfolds rather slowly, but you interact with a diverse group of characters along the way. I do appreciate how the NPCs are not just quest givers but they all (except one) function as merchants as well. You will also learn how to craft certain materials and gear from them. However, the random cycles by which they arrive on your planet makes for a lot of slow, boring downtime. There’s also the fact that some quests require items that only enemies or other NPCs have, and there’s no telling when they’ll show up! Most of your time is spent hammering away at rocks, or chopping down trees to make your house bigger and better. The crafting and resource gathering is a calming and enjoyable experience, but at times it seems more like filler between the actual story.

Deiland is full of colour and charm, though. Arco, Mûn and the handful of others you meet are fun, lively, and interesting characters. The art design in every aspect of the game is wonderful. The scope and feel of your little planet is also a fantastic selling point. I love how much you can cram into this tiny space; it really makes the planet feel much bigger, much more alive. Arco is a strong, determined lead. Mûn is a vibrant, intrepid explorer with a heart of gold. The characters and world building in Deiland are not what fall short; it’s the framework around them that feels like it’s just a patchwork left incomplete. There is always the pressing issue of quests, but they can’t quite be completed at your own pace, so the game becomes a test of patience more than anything else after a while.

I cannot stress enough how much the randomness and moments of emptiness really kill the overall calming experience of playing Deiland. Farming for rare materials like ore and metal is beyond tedious and repetitive, even for a resource gathering sim. If you need 50 metal for a project, even after crafting the Mine for easier metal gathering, you’ll still have to hammer through at least a few hundred stones before getting even close. The enemies, which harbour trading/crafting materials needed for quests, never seem to be around when you want them. The majority of time is spent waiting while you hammer the same rock, or cut down a tree and replant it. Deiland would benefit massively from a sandbox mode that doesn’t dangle the story or quests over your head. The passivity and relaxed nature of the planet maintenance is great, it’s just overshadowed and dragged down.

Measured against others of its ilk, Deiland offers little in terms of speciality. At first, I genuinely enjoyed the quests and the hunt for materials. But it so quickly becomes a monotonous, crawling effort that you lose sight of what made it fun to begin with. The pieces are there for an enjoyable experience, it just isn’t balanced. Given the incredibly small world they offer you, and the fact that other planets you visit can’t be harvested or worked on, there is little room for you to spread your wings. Even with the levelling system that allows you to increase your Intelligence, Strength, Stamina and Agility, it never feels like a true RPG. Most of the pieces attached to Deiland feel incomplete, which makes the game as a whole feel a bit tiresome.

For what it’s worth, Deiland does offer an incredibly methodic and strangely calming gaming experience. As I said before, managing that tiny planet and watching it become what you envision is accomplished through easy, yet time consuming steps. The rewards don’t seem to match the effort, though, and it’s easy to feel like you spend your whole day doing one thing. I love the art style, the characters, and the story. I just wish they meshed in a more pleasing, enjoyable way. If you want a slow-moving, brick-by-brick resource gathering sim, then this might be yours. But if you’re looking for something with deep complexity, endless creative options and rich world-building, you should probably look elsewhere.

Deiland is available on PS4 and will be coming to PC later this year. We reviewed the PS4 version.

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