This game was reviewed on a PS4. It is also available on the Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One. A code was provided by David Wehle for review purposes.
In The First Tree tells you a story of finding oneself. From the trials and tribulations as being a child, teen, young adult and the emotions connected to that. Also how those emotions affect one’s relationship with the people that matter most in life, especially your dad. You play as a fox in the narrators dream state searching for your lost children. While the fox is searching for her missing kids the narrator is telling the story about connecting with his father and the pain and questions one has after being estranged from him.
The story will take place with you controlling a fox looking for her young. As you are on the journey playing as the fox the story is being told to you in narration. Very soon you start to realize that the fox looking for her young is a metaphor for the narrator reconnecting with his estranged father in Alaska. As the story unfolds with the fox, you will be finding your three young pups have died. This plays well withing the narration as you can feel the sense of loss and love that is felt within the words spoken. The narration is told within more depth as you come across “collectibles”, I put that in parenthesis as they aren’t something you have to pickup but rather something you will come across through your travels to dig up while playing as the fox. Each item you dig up you’ll get a more personal and in depth look in to the mind of the narrator and how that story relates back to you as a fox. I’ve not seen a story told this heartfelt and this well connected within narration and the metaphorical fox and cubs from anyone without a huge financial backing from a large corporation. This is a one man team and his own personal journey as well. A story and work of art that can only be told and delivered by the truest of talented developers. This gentlemen is one of those people.
The gameplay in this game is very simplistic. A walking simulator if you will. However, this is the exact gameplay you want with this style of game. A story so needing to be told and one needing to be heard that shooting and running from things would only get in the way. As playing as the fox you are able to click the button to run at a pretty steady pace. You are going to want to explore the terrain in your view to find places to dig where you can get more of the story told to you. You will also have a double jump, used to get you on top of some hard to reach spaces. There is also some butterflies along the way that are used to help you reach even higher than before with your double jump. All of these things together fit the games story telling perfectly. Don’t let the term “walking simulator” steer you away from this game. It will be a choice you soon will regret as the story is one everyone should hear.
This is the part of the game that made me reach out to David Wehle in the first place. I am a complete sucker for these types of games with this animation and artwork. It almost appears as if its not only hand drawn but also hand painted. From my experience most games with this art style have a particular story to tell. One that almost longs to be heard and experienced. Games like Journey, Firewatch, Last Day of June among many others. This is one question, one email, one interaction with a developer I will never forget. It’s moments like these that really make me reflect on how lucky we are to be able to have a medium like gaming with the storytelling abilities and artistic approaches that can really touch one’s life.
The sounds present in the game are of a soft tone in nature. The music will escalate as the more important parts or climatic points of the story are being told. It isn’t so ramped up it drowns out the narration either. This is one game that you won’t have to adjust any of the settings to play unless you need to for disability reason. These are located in the settings menu where, if needed, you can turn on commentary mode and subtitles. Just another all out reason to love this game with its accessibility options. While not one with a disability to sound, I do have a disability; so it’s always nice to see the small caveats like this placed in a game.
While this game is a treat to play. It is even more of a therapeutic experience for the player. During the time playing this, I personally lost someone and laid them to rest which brought the story home tenfold. The game’s usage of visual metaphors from the narration to the game going full circle and placing the player as the narrator at the end of the game. It was a clever end to a deeply personal story. One that I will not soon forget. This is one of those games that you can play today and write the review 10 years later and still have the details so vividly in your mind. I can tell you right now that David Wehle is going to go places. It’s not a question of if, but when. Do yourself a favor that you will not likely forget, click the link below and experience this masterpiece for yourself.Follow Us On Social Media