If you’ve ever found yourself browsing for a walking simulator to play on Steam (I know I have), you’ve likely crossed paths with a game created by developer Tonguç Bodur.
Bodur’s amassed a sizable catalogue on the platform, with more than a dozen different walking simulator experiences available for purchase and recently, his titles have also begun making the transition to console, with The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna the latest title to be ported across to PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.
Feeling a sudden urge for a first-person exploration experience, I quickly dove in to see what it had to offer.
The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna begins with a recent University graduate returning to his childhood village of Ranchiuna. The village he once called home is unusually desolate and eerie, with not a single person in town. Even more ominous is that the titular dead tree of Ranchiuna stands prominently in the village with a skeleton hung from its branches by a noose. Exploring the village and its picturesque forest and mountain surroundings will unveil visions of an incident that ultimately led to the current state of Ranchiuna.
The premise is intriguing for sure, but the way in which the narrative unravels throughout is unfortunately anything but. The visions are presented with coloured smoke silhouettes resembling different characters, which work well enough, but their impact is severely hampered by mediocre at best voice acting, and poor writing.
The issues with writing can also be seen in the player character, who constantly babbles philosophically about subjects such as privacy, life, and relationships. They often are out of place amongst the experience, and sometimes feel like a hodge-podge of words that don’t impact as much as Bodur was likely expecting them to.
The narrative at large as a result is largely uninteresting, which is a big issue in a genre in which story is paramount over gameplay. The ending is also wildly silly to the point of hilarity, leaving me completely dumbfounded that the story was ended in such a manner.
When it comes to gameplay, The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is as close to a “walking simulator” as they come, with not much in the way of interactivity within the large explorable environment. Your goal is to simply walk through Ranchiuna and experience the visions that highlight the happenings in the town prior to your return.
This would be totally fine if the narrative was entertaining, but the fact that it isn’t makes the roughly 2-hour journey sluggish and boring. The visuals and soundtrack do their best to uplift the experience, and they both do a great job despite the graphics being a bit dated by modern standards, but they can’t fix what is ultimately a slow and frustrating slog.
I say frustrating because The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna somehow even manages to fumble the execution of its movement mechanics. Despite being situated in mountainous terrain where one can fall into cracks, there is no jump button to allow for you to safely escape such scenarios. Multiple times in my playthrough I found myself stuck and unable to proceed, leaving me at the mercy of the game’s seemingly sporadic autosave system, which would often result in the loss of a few minutes of progression. Even more annoying is the snail’s pace in which you walk, an issue that is only slightly alleviated by the run which still isn’t fast enough. The cherry on top is that it’s easy to get lost while exploring despite the largely linear design, which only makes the aforementioned frustrations more apparent.
The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is without a doubt one of the worst games I’ve ever played.
I found its narrative to be silly and let down by mediocre voice acting and shoddy writing, and the lack of direction and things to interact with in its environments made for a very bland and dull journey.
The dense forest and mountains of Ranchiuna are visually appealing despite the dated graphics, and the soundtrack is excellent, but these few positives can’t fix the overwhelming amount of problems that make The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna a game to forget.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron