This review contains mild spoilers for the 3D exploration video game, The First Tree.
The best video games that do not get enough love from gamers are games where your protagonist is an animal.
Sure, people are excited about the upcoming game, Stray, where you play as a cat in a world full of robots to make your way back home.
However, there is another animal-centric game that is just as beautiful to look at with fantastic narration.
The First Tree is a 3D exploration game developed and published by David Wehle.
The website describes the story as "centered around two parallel stories: a fox trying to find her missing family and a young couple dealing with a tragedy in theirs."
Even though you're controlling the fox, you're listening to protagonist Joseph tell his partner about his relationship with his dad, who recently passed away. While you explore the fox's world around you, you can find items to dig up that center around Joseph's story.
Along the way, you and the fox will collect little stars that help show you the paths you need to take.
The controls work exactly like a fox would move. You can jump and do a classic fox double jump. You also dig like a fox who is looking for prey.
"The first tree" in this game references a large tree you have to reach that you see at the end of the game, but your fox's entire journey leads up to the moment you see it and walk up its roots. It makes one think about perhaps the Tree of Life archetype or Yggdrasil of Norse mythology.
At one point in the story--and possibly my favorite segment of the game--is when your fox walks around on the water at nighttime, and Joseph's partner tells the story about a loss she experienced. It's a nice side story and gives the game player a break from Joseph's main narration.
Their tales are emotionally heavy, and finding the kits adds an element of urgency.
The voice acting and narration between the two narrators show profound chemistry. Their dialogue feels natural, and they sell being in love and caring for one another during these dark times.
I recommend this game to anyone who loves exploration games. If you're looking into trying out exploration games, this is great for a first-timer. Even if you love foxes or have always wanted to play a game as one, I recommend it for you too.
A great game to play while we await an official release date for Stray (which is set for "early 2022" at the time of this review's publishing), have some care when you give your message to the First Tree.
It's gorgeous, and the stories--though all three are different--don't feel disconnected from one another.
I played the game on PC with a PlayStation 4 DualShock controller, but a controller is not a requirement to play.
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