App Army Assemble: The First Tree - Is this story-led adventure game a poignant experience?

We ask the App Army

App Army Assemble: The First Tree - Is this story-led adventure game a poignant experience?

The First Tree is a narrative-driven exploration game set in the Alaskan wilderness. It follows two parrellel stories, one about a fox trying to find her missing family while the other follows a son trying to reconnect with their estranged father. We sent the App Army in to see how gripping the narrative was. 

Here's what they thought:

Rohit Bhatia

I thought it would be a cool, calm experience like Alto's Adventure but in the third person with beautiful visuals but I was disappointed by it as there was nothing to do with it. The Story was very close to the dev and I respect that but that alone doesn't make this a game. It's just an audiobook that I was listening and I was bored within 30-45 minutes. The controls are responsive and the music can captivate you. I will give it a pass, though if anyone likes narrative then you should get it.

Jim Linford

It's a shame as I really like the art style and the "story" by narration. but the game is let down by the fetch quest for power-ups that have a one-time use (when you jump you lose them) but then sometimes the level is designed in such a way you may have to jump over an obstacle, so you then have to repeat the search for the power-up. find another and another route around.

The items you are looking for are not near each other neither is the path you have to clear so if you accidentally jump, back to square one. to my mind, it looks like the creator of the game is too familiar so knew what to do but hasn't designed it in such a way as to make new players aware

Mark Abukoff

This is a lovely looking game that I started with enthusiasm. That, I’m sorry to say, didn’t last long. I listened to a background conversation going on that took a long time to show any relevancy. I wandered a lot. I got the poor fox halfway up a hill and watched it start to slide down and eventually I just thought.... let it. This game does have a very bare-bones tutorial to it, but to my mind, it needed more.

The very nice scenery and graphics and sound simply didn’t take me past the frustration wall of trying and trying, and when I finally found the method of getting up to and past obstacles by reading other reviews of it, I made it past the first big test... only to find very little reward and very little reason to go any further. This could be a very good experience but it needs work. It needs a better tutorial as well as not quite as steep a difficulty climb. Sorry. There’s “Pathless”, and then there’s pathless. I have to pass on this one.

Massimo Saraconi

I’ve played it for some hours and I like the art style and sound fx, but the gameplay bored me a little, too bucolic for my tastes. Moreover, it doesn't propose anything I haven’t already seen in all my gamer life... anyway, overall it’s a really good work.

Isaiah Stuart

Visuals: While the graphics are somewhat lacking, the world is beautifully created. It looks great.
Sound: Everything from the beautiful soundtrack to the sounds of the wildlife and the wilderness, the sound design creates an absorbing and atmospheric game.
Controls: The controls are fine.
Gameplay: There honestly isn't much. The game consists of running about collecting memories. There is no challenge, no obstacles or anything. The only thing that stands between you and your objective is space and time. It is like listening to an audiobook while watching a video of a fox running around. If you like the story enough, it might be worth continuing to play, but the gameplay alone is hardly worth sticking around for. This honestly put me off quite a bit. I'm not sure I can honestly call this a game.

Michael Purdy

This game attempts to be a simple platformer that is driven by the story told in voice-over. You play as a fox running and jumping through mountains and forests. The controls work well enough, but I don’t find the gameplay all that engaging. And it’s not entirely clear how it connects to the story being told. Voice acting is good but not all that interesting. May get better as you go.

Bruno Ramalho

Great voice acting, really enjoyed that and the “story” they are telling. Graphics department, no complaints there, very beautiful game. And I have to wonder what a great game it could have been done. But I didn’t find that game. After two hours of “aimlessly” running around with my fox, I got really really bored with the gameplay. If we can really call it gameplay.

I think this game could be changed to be more engaging, but as it is right now, I think it’s just an experience about life, memories, loss. But a very boring one. And it didn’t help that I suddenly lost my way and got my self wandering to parts of the scenery I’ve been to before, or going a long way to get to a star, fall of a cliff, and needed to get there again and again. That really put me off.

Oksana Ryan

This was a strange game. The graphics were gorgeous and I immediately wanted to immerse myself in the gameplay. However, it was very disappointing. I understood that it was a Zen-type game, that was supposed to take me on a journey and that there would be no enemies to combat or battles to be won. But, that said, there seemed little to make me want to move forward.

The main focus, the fox, was entertaining for a while, but nothing seemed to make sense or have any purpose. There was background prose between a man and a woman, but for the time I played at least, there seemed to be no connection to the fox and it left me wondering if I was missing something.

The background music was soothing at first but quickly became repetitive and annoying. The fox wandered around digging up items, jumping over boulders with the help of butterflies, which helped it jump higher, but seemed to disappear as soon as he leapt. It all seemed a little aimless. I just feel there was a great experience to be had but it was never delivered.

Naail Zahid

So ok the game looks gorgeous. That's something that should be mentioned everywhere. And I guess story-wise it's a slow-burning story that advances as you keep running towards objects that are lit up, giving you pieces of the story (or the narrator's dream).

However, and this is what kills it for me - the actual gameplay is a bore-fest. It's basically going from point a to point b with occasional jumping sections. I mean the whole game could have just been a video and it would have made just as much sense. Walking around as a fox did nothing for me. On top of that, at least for me, the controls weren't as responsive due to lag.

About halfway through a trek through the gigantic snow-filled land I just gave up as the narrative only continues as we reach our destination, and in between all we see is a fox running around. Perhaps I'm not the target audience, maybe I want more from my games than just go here and go there? It looks great. But what's the point of it being a game at all? Might as well just release this as an audiobook or podcast

Raul Figueiredo

The game has an intriguing concept since the fox's journey seems to be a metaphor for the man's own life story. Sound design is cool (even if I found a minor inconsistency between landing in grass and rock), graphics are serviceable and the gameplay is relaxing, but it grows old really quick. The game tries to change things a bit from level to level, but ends up feeling like a chore in the process - true puzzles would be welcome, instead of "finding 3 similar objects".

I played for almost 2 hours, taking my time and enjoying every level, but the slow pacing and lack of interesting gimmicks/overall mechanics really aren't for everyone. I got stuck on a particular level without any indication about where I was supposed to go. Since the game was failing to hold my interest, I gave up, unfortunately.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.