When you were a child, did you ever sit and wish you lived on your own little planet, free from the tyranny of parents? You did? Fair enough. Did that dream scenario also include daily visits from three strange adults who set you chores, such as building fences or catching fish? If yes, then you were probably as strange a child as I was. You’d also probably quite enjoy Deiland.
The game begins with no more than a short cutscene in which our child protagonist, Arco, seemingly hatches from a meteor and lands on the titular mini-planet, and that’s where the exposition ends.
The art style and the gentle soundtrack grabbed me from the moment I launched. They set the game’s tone brilliantly, and within 30 minutes I’m relaxed and enjoying the rural planet-life that Arco is channeling. I had, obviously, many questions. I just tried my best to push them backward in my mind. Why was this child born from a space-rock and dropped onto this tiny world to be its sole caretaker? How does he breathe? From where does he possess the knowledge and skill to construct entire buildings from just logs and rocks?
I can immediately sniff out what I’d confidently say is Deiland’s main inspiration. The novella ‘The Little Prince’ by French writer and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry tells the tale of a young boy from a miniscule homeworld, with only a talking rose for company. The Little Prince tends to his own world but eventually explores the universe, meeting a series of unpleasant and unreasonable adults. Praised for its ability to show the viewpoint of a child whilst also philosophically examining human nature, the book was very successful. Deiland captures that same childlike wonder, and makes you realise that none of your questions matter. You are on this planet, it needs taking care of, and that’s all there is for you to know.
The game’s mechanics are simple and intuitive, reminiscent of old Facebook games like Farmville. You slowly progress through the story, interacting with various characters who come to visit now and then. Mún is a member of the Interstellar Patrol, whatever that is, and is on a quest to explore the galaxy. She’s your guide and mentor, but is strangely okay with letting a little boy run an entire planet by himself despite being the only one with authority here. Locke is a magician who sells you potions from his magnificent hot-air-balloon-spaceship. Brram is a reptilian chef who lands on your planet and teaches you how to fish. Don’t worry if you can’t complete their tasks right away. They always come back.
Gathering resources is just a mouse click or spacebar press away. The same goes for planting crops, construction and crafting. With only a few different materials, there’s a limit on what you can really build. Wells to fertilise nearby land, fences to protect the farm plots, that sort of thing. It all looks very nice and quaint, even with the dizzying camera following around the surface of the tiny Deiland. Crops and trees both have timers for how long they take to grow, so you’d best remember to plant some seeds when you’ve finished chopping or harvesting. It’s more or less one button for everything, so it’s not too hard to navigate.
I’m not going to mention the combat too extensively, because thus far it’s comprised only 5% of the game. Every few days, a pair of slime monsters appear and you need to click them to death with your axe in hand. I’m not playing this for action, so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. They’re so passive that if it wasn’t for the tasty slime they dropped being a valuable flavouring I could probably co-exist with them. The only issue is that the planet’s so small, I’d bump into them every time I ran past to harvest my carrots.
Progression comes in the form of experience. Every rock smashed, every cabbage planted and every slime stomped gives Arco a few little stars. Enough stars and you’ll earn a level up. You’ve the choice of two random stats each level-up which increase things like your movement speed, health and sale prices. Like the crafting, the stat development system is simple, easy and limited. Coming from a tiny spanish indie team, I’m not surprised as it’s their first non-mobile title. It also happens to be pleasant experience, so I’m hardly going to bash it for lacking a little depth.
Rest assured, I’m going back to Deiland very shortly. I promised the local magician some new cloth for his balloon, and I’m a ten year old boy of my word. I’m also getting closer to figuring out exactly what the planet is, and what I’m doing there. At this rate, I ought to be able to uncover the mysteries of the universe by Sunday. Take that, Galileo.