The walking simulator genre has given birth to a number of big names. Firewatch, The Stanley Parable, Gone Home and, of course, What Remains of Edith Finch have all lead their development teams to become highly respected. The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna stands next to these titles, and while there’s not much hype for the game, it certainly deserves your interest.
All of the titles mentioned above have interesting ways to tell their stories. The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is no different.
The game begins without instruction. Playing in first-person (though third-person is also an option), you are not told how to walk, run or look around. As you move, dialogue occurs offering exposition of your character. This sets the scene perfectly for a game that doesn’t believe in handholding; you’ll never be told what to do or how to do it. There are no checkpoint markers or destination icons. In fact, there are no mission objectives. All there is, is you and the few feet of terrain in front of you.
Within that lies the journey. The game is centred around the idea of progressing through a story by progressing through the landscape. You have a starting point and an end, but it’s the path you take between that is important. Along the way you’ll receive insight into the unfolding story through ghostly figures, and the greatest challenge you’ll face is that of finding your way.
This goes hand-in-hand with the game’s puzzles, of which there are but a few. And very simplistic at that. A few switches need to be flicked, a box opened to find a key, a branch pushed to make a path. These and one very oddly placed leap of faith are all you will encounter. The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is a game that’s meant to be played from start-to-finish. It’s not a game that’s trying to trip you up or put dexterity hurdles in your way.
The visual quality of The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is highly commendable. The varied environments and different vistas in the game are frequently a wonder to behold. Some unfortunate issues, such as texture pop-in, do occur and slightly mar the experience. But on the whole the game is never less than pleasant to look at.
The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is an interesting addition to a genre that already has a number of stars. There’s no denying it will struggle against the biggest hitters, but for fans a new addition is certainly welcome. The short span of the game won’t bother genre aficionados – and indeed, will undoubtedly please Achievement/Trophy hunters with an easy 100% completion – and the interesting delivery of its story through environments will certainly result in a peaceful evening’s entertainment.