The First Tree PC Review

The First Tree tells a gripping story but could have used more polish in its other departments.

By Woozie, Posted 15 Sep 2017

Attempting to tell two parallel stories, one of a couple, another of a fox, The First Tree joins the roster of narrative-driven, exploration-based titles on Steam. Players take control of said fox and must explore a handful of levels, while looking for white gleams which mark items that can be dug up. The items have significance for the couple’s tale, triggering bits of dialogue. Where, normally, games of this type have players simply walking around, in this case, there is some platforming involved both in the collection of light orbs scattered throughout the levels and in the actual progression. The fox has the ability to double jump, however, figuring the exact moment when you’re at the edge of a platform can be tricky. There were a good number of times when the fox just ran forward, despite my pressing of the jump button or got caught on the edge of a platform, only to slowly slide back down. These segments aren’t particularly complex and collecting the light orbs isn’t mandatory, however, they do play a slight role at the end.

The First Tree, PC, Review, Screenshot

At the same time, The First Tree sets you loose in these open areas that do require a bit of running in order to get through. Things, however, can end up looking the same as it becomes evident that similar assets are used and re-used. In the more expansive areas (particularly levels one and three), there is potential to find oneself running around either missing the way you’re supposed to go, or not knowing where you really are. Furthermore, the fox does have a tendency to get stuck in certain positions on terrain as if glue was smeared over random rocks or slopes.

The First Tree makes use of stylized visuals in presenting its world. The first area doesn’t come off as impressive, while the third one, with its dark green tone, dense forests, dark rocks and spots of purple or lilac vegetation is considerably better looking. Simply put, the further I progressed, the more the game moved from looking less-than-impressive to some truly beautiful visuals. I did notice some pop-in, although, it wasn’t particularly obvious and some areas can end up feeling distinctly empty as you move through them. Whether or not this was intended, I was left wishing there’d be more to see at times. Sure, you can find various objects mentioned in the dialogues here and there alongside the occasional flock of birds, rabbit or butterflies, but they don’t do much.

The First Tree, PC, Screenshot, Review

The story in The First Tree follows two parallel threads: one where a man retraces his relationship with his father from a young age, through dialogue with his significant other, while the other focuses on the fox players control through almost the entire game. I found the couple’s story to be relatable and told in a very warm and intimate manner. The writing is approached in a down to earth fashion, leaving abstractions aside for a more grounded take on things which, ultimately, transmit a genuine personal experience that I could connect with. The ending sequence had me tearing up, a sign that at least on the story side, The First Tree does a good job of approaching events that while personal and rooted in another’s experience, can have universal appeal.  On the fox’s side, we’re dealing with a bit more simplicity. The fox’s story felt a bit too telegraphic, ultimately seeming to be there solely to add a visual representation to a certain idea that the couple’s story tries to suggest.  As for themes, we’re dealing with childhood, family, life and death. The very last bit beautifully ties all loose ends together, however, departing from the stylized aesthetic that grew more and more beautiful to something that, to my eye, looked fairly ugly was a very uninspired move.

The First Tree’s soundtrack features some really nice piano work but only seems to play once or twice per level, leaving a little too much space for the often underwhelming ambient sounds. There’s some decent voice work going into the dialogues, however, the one or two attempts at dramatic narration of the fox’s story don’t quite hit all the marks. The game also lacks sound sliders of any description. While I didn’t have any issues with the sound levels myself, it’s a pretty strange omission.

The First Tree, PC, Review, Screenshot

The First Tree is a one-man indie project, so, perhaps some lack of polish is to be expected. However, looking at it as a full package, it does have enough areas that could well benefit from improvement. The fox’s movement and tendency to get stuck on certain surfaces, the areas feeling a little too empty, the occasional loss of sense of direction; I found myself bumping into these things a little too often. The visuals are of variable quality throughout, while outside of the moments when the soundtrack actually plays, the atmosphere isn’t particularly engulfing either. As far as the story told goes, it’s emotional, relatable and ultimately effective and, to enthusiasts of the genre, that might as well be enough. The entire package, however, while reasonably priced, has its fair numbers of missteps.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
Facebook | Twitter

comments powered by Disqus


General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): David Wehle
Developer(s): David Wehle
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Indie
Release Date: 2017-09-14

View All

Popular Articles