- Developer: David Wehle
- Publisher: David Wehle, LLC
- Release Date: 30/11/2018
- Price: £8.99 / $9.99
- Title purchased for review as part of the #DiscoverIndies movement
You’re the first, the last, my everything
The First Tree is the kind of title that just maybe, passed you by. This was certainly the case for myself, and were it not for the efforts of the enigmatic Indie Gamer Chick and her tireless crusade for Indie games to receive the same exposure as AAA games, perhaps this truly spellbinding title would have been lost on me to the dredges of the Nintendo eshop.
Reflecting on this is a poignant, albeit fleeting thought, which is kind of the point why the #DiscoverIndies movement is so important and certainly the reason I’ve become an advocate for this most noble of causes.
The premise is simple. On the first Friday of every month in 2019, peruse the store of your gaming machine of choice; be it Steam, the PlayStation Store, Xbox Live or the Nintendo Eshop, search for a title that you know absolutely nothing about – a title that has eluded you entirely, buy the game for whatever the asking price and once you’re downloaded, installed and rocking out with the best of them, share your impressions on your social media platform of choice throughout the entirety of your time spent with the game.
So that’s the setup, enough foreplay, it’s dinner time!
Fox in a box
From the moment The First Tree begins it’s immediately evident what kind of experience this frabjous frolic is. Essentially it’s a walking simulator in which you take the mantle of a fox mother who must scale the mountain to be reunited with her cub at the titular First Tree. The game is all about the ride, and the enjoyment that you take from this two hour adventure stems from how much you are willing to immerse yourself in this stylised cel shaded world.
The musical direction, provided for the most part by the ostentatiously talented Josh Kramer, adds ambience in abundance which is nuanced by the narrative running parallel to the fox mother’s own adventure. As well as the theme of separation that is portrayed by our protagonist, there is tale of regret, frustration and loss that adds even more emotion to this already supercharged saga.
As you explore this gorgeous world, uncovering secrets at every turn, Jacob and Rachel will open up and more and more, reminiscing on events from their misspent youths and reflecting upon the troubled relationships that they had with their own loved ones. The further you scale the mountain the more of the narrative is divulged which at times is uncomfortable, unseasonable and run ragged with truly genuine emotion.
Colour me impressed
The aesthetic of The First Tree is just perpetually awe inspiring and, whilst not the most refined of graphics, despite the art style that has been selected, the lighting is continually incandescent and along with the impressive vistas and peaks that adorn the scenery of the game world, everything pops off of the screen very nicely indeed, both when played in handheld or when the system is docked.
The controls are tight if unspectacular. The occasional platforming aspects of this title were all perfectly acceptable and never felt unwelcome and the only time I ever really noticed I was playing a game was during the moments where I was simply holding forward on the Joy Stick and waiting for the loading screen to appear.
A thirst for knowledge
The First Tree is the love child of David Wehle a self labelled creative professional whose skills include video editing, game creation and design work to boot. Everything from the conception to the assets was handled internally and famously David Wehle is said to have created The First Tree without any prior knowledge of coding, an impressive feat however you look at it.
What David Wehle has achieved is a near perfect experience that grabs you right from the very beginning and refuses to remove its claws until tears have been shed at its devastatingly brutal conclusion.
Aside from the odd instance of textures popping, or assets loading, more than likely in part due to the Nintendo Switch’s capabilities, The First Tree is a smooth and incredibly satisfying ride that will take even the most hardened of personalities on a roller coaster ride of emotion.