There are so many games available now that involve crafting, cooking and survival that it's extremely difficult for an another game to come into this crowded genre and stand out in some way. Chibig's Deiland, however, has managed to do that and more. On the surface, it appears to be just another game involving collecting wood, rocks and seeds while progressing through a technology tree. There are, however, at least a few stand-out elements that make Deiland a unique experience.
In Deiland you play as Arco, a young boy who has an entire planet to himself. A planet may sound like a huge domain, but here it's surprisingly small. Tiny, in fact. So small, that your initial reaction to the game may be one of disappointment. For most crafting and survival games, exploration is a major gameplay element, but it's not included in Deiland. There are no hidden nooks and crannies to stumble onto, nor is there an abundance of secrets to find or valuable resources to discover. Instead, Deiland is a game that focuses almost entirely on its base building and crafting aspects, and it excels at them. And, as a bonus, it throws in a clever and useful planet rotation mechanic.
The small world size drastically reduces what is usually the least fun aspect of the genre - time spent on walking. The game appears to have been built upon the notion that the most fun parts are base building and management, so you might as well focus on them and cut out the other stuff. In Deiland you're almost always doing something productive at your base, whether it's planting new crops, harvesting your resources, cooking new foods, or defending your planet from the occasional invader. When the entire world is your backyard, you can get anywhere in less than a minute. Gone are the long, tedious journeys from your base to a remote resource and back. Once you get past the initial disappointment of realizing that you won't be going on any resource-hunting expeditions, your routines become a surprisingly addictive affair.
Deiland also invests heavily in its story and characters, which are more fleshed out than usual in base-building games. Soon after you get your home up and running, friendly visitors begin landing on the planet, giving you quests and bits of story as they arrive. These characters are also merchants, and they usually reward you for completing a quest with some useful goods or a new recipe. Before long, you start to get bizarre messages in your sleep from a foreboding presence. At about the halfway point, a second planet opens up, which allows you access to a few more quest givers and resources. By the end, you learn who you are, what your purpose is, and what makes your little planet so special. It's not a revolutionary story by any stretch, but it's good enough to provide the needed motivation to complete your quests. Unfortunately, the story suffers from a rushed ending which sees the credits suddenly roll before the game feels complete.
The story creates the sense that you and the planet are one and the same, a feeling reinforced by both the planet's small size and its rotation mechanic. Most of the game is spent in a typical third-person view, but at any time, you can tap a button to zoom out to planet view. There, you can rotate the planet to clear up a landing spot for a friendly ship or keep meteors from hitting your base. You can also quickly find a mushroom or a monster if one pops up, and you can even rotate the planet to place your farms directly under the clouds when it rains. This little twist in the gameplay comes handy quite often.
The rest of of the gameplay is standard fare for the genre, but usually with just enough of a twist to give it a little bit of flavor. You use your resources to build tools and then upgrade them periodically. You plant seeds to grow trees for wood or crops for food and other crafting materials. You use a hammer to break rocks and collect stone and precious minerals. When enemies show up, you kill them and collect their drops. With everything that you compile, you upgrade your base with improved facilities, like a kitchen and a laboratory. Deiland makes up for its lack of conceptual originality with sheer volume and variety. There are at least a dozen different crops to grow, along with a variety of trees and bushes that produce their own crafting components. There are dozens of craftable items and consumables, which get gradually unlocked to keep moving forward instead of getting stale. In the ten or fifteen hours that it takes you to experience all that the game has to offer, you will make everything in your kitchen from cheese to cupcakes and pizzas.
Accompanying Deiland's crafting variety is an equal amount of visual variety - an underrated aspect in this type of game. It's not cutting edge from a technological standpoint, but it more than compensates for it with playful and colorful art style. By the time you reach the end of the game, your base will be teeming with beauty - crimson cherry trees and bushes, a bright orange pumpkin patch, a sunflower harvest, an impressive looking water tower. They all make your base feel like home. The NPCs that you meet, despite not having any animated conversation, show off a lot of personality in how they look in their portraits. The day/night and weather cycles make for some very attractive views as well. Overall, the graphics are an asset to the experience, which is not always the case for a relatively low-budget, Kickstarter-assisted game such as this one.
Besides its routine of collecting resources for crafting and building, Deiland does a few other things, although some of them not so well. The weakest aspect is the combat, which has no depth whatsoever to it. All enemies, with the exception of the final boss, can be dispatched by simply bashing them with your default melee attack as they approach you. Enemies have a very low aggro radius, which gives you the chance to get in the first hit in on them every time. And, if for some reason you miss a couple of times and take some damage, you can easily retreat a short distance and eat a few consumables to restore your health. For the most part, Deiland is a very easy game, which doesn't ruin the experience, but at some point you may find yourself wishing that it would offer you more of a challenge. Deiland has also been advertised as an RPG of sorts, but those elements are very light. When you gain a level, you choose to put one attribute point into one of four basic traits (strength, stamina, intelligence, and agility). This doesn't detract from the experience, but the lack of difficulty means that you don't need those attribute points very badly.
If Deiland does suffer from any major shortcomings, it's that many quests and story points have rather arbitrary triggers, and it can be hard to find them or to complete certain quests. Sometimes, the instructions to complete quests are vague and you may find yourself going through long periods of time with no story progress. There is, for example, an early quest that involves you growing a magic giant pumpkin in your farm instead of the normal-sized ones. The game gives you instructions on how to make these pumpkins appear, but they are rather vague and the solution to this problem is not one that you would normally guess or stumble onto. There are at least a few of these hang-up points that interrupt the fun in what is otherwise a fairly addictive game.
Deiland is not the world's most ambitious game, nor is it a revolutionary step forward when it comes to crafting and survival. However, it sharply focuses on the things that it does well, and stands out just enough from the rest of the crowd to entice a veteran gamer. In between charming art design, polished farming mechanics, and a huge array of quests and craftables, there's a lot to enjoy. There's no shortage of games available that involve chopping down trees and harvesting carrots, but Deiland is still one that fans of the genre will want to add to their collection.