Survival games are, by nature, pretty intense. Among Trees, which entered early access on the Epic Games Store last week, is a bit more zen, thanks in part to its gorgeous visuals and dense soundscapes. In my first few hours with the game I even found myself enamoured with the elaborate animations, particularly when gathering resources.
Picking up items in games tends to be a mindless endeavour. You mash the appropriate button while running over piles of gold and crafting ingredients while keeping an eye on enemies or hunger meters. But Among Trees puts a special emphasis on these moments. Collecting most items initiates a short animation of your character crouching down, grabbing them, and stowing them away.
These moments are a second long at most, but help to immerse you in the game’s all-encompassing woods. Every item you pick up, from a simple stick to a hunger-reducing mushroom, enjoys the same careful attention to detail.
My favourite part is probably the little puffs of dirt that accompany items like beets and leaves.
It’s easy to grab these resources as you walk by, but the simple crouching animation is enough to give me pause every time.
Too often, survival games are rooted in an attitude of colonialism. You’re embarking on an “unsettled” area and turning it toward “civilisation.” Among Trees hasn’t done anything explicit to set itself apart from these concerns during my few hours with it, but the game does make sure you stop and appreciate everything you gather, even if only superficially.
Gathering certain resources isn’t animated yet, most likely due to the early access nature of the game. It’s a bummer! I hope the developers plan to add them at some point.
But back to the good stuff. Just take a look at this exquisite ladling soup animation. Clearly, you should build the kitchen as soon as possible.
Among Trees is a very calm experience so far. It keeps my natural tendency to rush and multi-task in check with its soothing surroundings. And thanks to the animations like those above, I’ve found myself cherishing everything I gather. If I’m to survive, I’ll need to have a degree of reverence for every mushroom, flower, and plank. These woods and the resources they nurture are too beautiful to take for granted.