Among Trees is set in a beautifully colorful and vast wilderness crafted inside an inviting survival sandbox.
It’s not lost on me that I’m choosing to play a survival game when right outside my own doorstep, humankind is also fighting the same battle. Thankfully, Among Trees isn’t a complete disaster and an all-around hellfire as our planet is, and stepping into its world is truly a breath of fresh air that allowed me to switch off and tune into nature. It’s the perfect game to get away from the unstable and unpredictability that many of us have found ourselves in this year and allows you to if only for a few hours, soak in the beauty of a carefree, relaxing, and peaceful world that almost seems forgotten right now.
Survival games, as a whole, usually revolve around the constant stress of enduring the elements and whatever else is thrown your way. Among Trees incorporates a more tranquil approach to this but also has a few surprises that will pop you out of your meditative state. Before we get into that, let’s discuss what you’ll see and do from the beginning of the game.
Among Trees starts you off in the middle of a lush and wonderfully illuminated forest with gorgeous beams of sunshine finding their way through the fingers of branches that act as the canopy to this world. With no plot, no context, or NPCs to interact with, you’re very much alone to your own thoughts and devices. Depending on what you’re looking for, Among Trees gives you two modes of which to play from – Standard and Zen. Choosing Standard offers you a few dangerous animals whilst choosing Zen will eliminate all of these and will just allow you to stroll around at your leisure. Coupled with these choices are easy, normal, and hard modes.
Your main objective from the get-go is to collect fir planks and sticks found close along the forest bed to turn your decrepit cabin into a functioning home. Once you have built your basic but cozy cabin, you then can then get to the job at hand of extending it into quarters where you can craft, cook, or use it for storage. With this being a survival game, nothing is directly handed to you so you need to make your way out into the woods to find the items you need to turn your pad into a constructive and livable dwelling. For me, this was the best part of Among Trees. As you head out into the unknown, tranquil music plays in the background as colorful birds flap and sing overhead. The environment is especially beautiful when it starts to rain as you hear the droplets of water brush upon the leaves and fall onto the mossy forest floor.
Not only do you need to find things like driftwood, wire, and nails to craft these essential rooms in your cabin, you also need to find food or you’ll see yourself in a spot of trouble. Thankfully, there are lots of mushrooms and berries to pick up along the way, but not all can be eaten raw. Some can even be poisonous and kill you instantly so being mindful is key. You can check out more information regarding this by pulling up your backpack where you’ll store all of the items you collect and drop things when you become too encumbered. Luckily, it isn’t too hard to find traces of old camps where you can find bits and pieces of the things you’ll need but there are some crates that require you to pick the lock or use an ax to open. Blueprints for these tools can also be found among the ramble at sites throughout the deep woods but you’ll need to build your crafting room first.
Something else you’ll find close to sites are bears, and they’re pretty pissed off bears at that. Dramatic music will play when you’re close to one of the grizzlies so you have a fair warning before you have to duck beneath some high grass to keep out of harm’s way – or so I thought. In one instance, I was laying low and wondering how I could get some of that sweet loot that the bear was parading around and the next thing I knew, out of nowhere, the big hulk of fur bolted straight for me killing me instantly even though I was well hidden.
With this being an early access game, I anticipated some bugs and weird things happening, but this particular incident sure as heck sprung me out of my zen-like state. Other events that can come at you like a ton of bricks is when your sleep meter is low and you’re far from your home, you’ll have to gallop like a jockey on race day all the way home to throw yourself into bed or you’ll die right there on the forest floor, which will happen more times than not.
This brings me to another subject that is bothersome within Among Trees: the game’s saves. You’re only allowed to save at the cabin, nowhere else, and the game does not allow multiple saves. For instance, if you’re out and about happily collecting items, picking plants, and absorbing the stunning scenery and you die for whatever reason, if you haven’t saved in quite some time you will be brought back to a point where you did save or to the very start. It was quite frustrating to me that a modern game in this day and age didn’t have multiple save slots implemented so you could choose to go back to a previous spot, but I’m hoping as this game develops, these features will be added. This could be argued that Among Trees is fundamentally a survival game at heart and this feature could add to the intensity of prevailing within the game, but I’d disagree with this, mostly because the game also offers, as previously said, a zen mode and an easy mode that’s less about surviving and more about enjoying your surroundings. Even in these modes, the save issues still remain.
The development team at FJRD Interactive has laid out a comprehensive roadmap stating what they are going to improve on within Among Trees. Some of what they hope to implement in the near future are things like bug fixes, improved environment variation, a brewery extension to the cabin, more wildlife, improved loot areas, and more, but currently nothing about improved game saves. I’d love to see this in a future update and also some more variations of wildlife to really bring this charming and stunning ecosystem to its full potential. If you loved the aesthetics of Firewatch, you’ll fall in love with Among Trees.