I’ve admitted before that I’m often behind the times, reviewing games. The Forest is not some new game that just hit or even just got added to Early Access. It’s been almost two years since launching into Early Access and most people I should think are familiar with it. And yet, I hadn’t played it and I figured when I did, it wouldn’t be relevant any more. How wrong I was.
So The Forest, if you had no clue, is an open world survival horror game set in a Forest. Survival games, specifically open world ones, aren’t anything new. I played and loved Ark but even Minecraft set down a lot of rules that we still use in these games today. What makes the forest different is character: most of those games are randomly generated (not Ark, but most other open world survival games) while the Forest is hand crafted. There are random elements (where and when enemies show up, where you’ll find resources… that sort of thing). Story wise, you were in a plane crash with your Son and are trying to find him and (presumably) get off the island.
What makes the game shine for me is that every aspect of the game has been passed over multiple times to ensure it adds to either the fun of the game or the difficulty. Games like Ark rely on grinding and team work to get anything done while The Forest gives us a cleaner line of progression. Everything is laid out in a manual you access in the game by pressing ‘B’, meaning from the get go you can see where you are and where you want to be. Enemies will attack you and your base and unlike any other game where I usually question if I want to continue or not, the understanding of resources and how they balance out never makes me feel like my fun has been ruined. Even the storyline is written down in your manual, reminding you what you’re currently focused on and giving you just enough instruction so you’ll never really be without something to do.
The game itself is quite beautiful (with each patch doing graphics and sound passes). Something that strikes me over all the other open world survival games I’ve played, the world is noisy. Wind whips in your ears, fire crackles and pops, the ocean sounds like an ocean and the wet ground sloshes as you walk around in the rain. The developers have spent as much time on audio as they have the graphics. Speaking of which, the game runs on Unity which is funny because it looks so much more ‘Next Gen’ than most Unity games.
The Mutants, which you’ll see plenty of, are always perplexing. In most video games, you learn the cycles an enemy goes through. Their ai states, animation poses and sound cues. In the Forest, they always feel like there’s unpredictability to them. You’ve seen them move around a hundred times and you know they’re going to be rolling around and chasing you but it’s never in a way you can see it coming. The terrifying screams of war parties, the unsettling texture of their skin and hatred in their faces and the way they stare at you. It’s all unsettling in the best of ways.
Multiplayer isn’t something the game is balanced towards, which is great. I highly recommend this game as a c0-op game more than a single player one. While Ark, Seven Days to Die and other games are content with having you mindlessly grind as many materials as possible, making it inhuman for anyone to play those games solo, The Forest is very well suited for the single player experience. Adding a second player to that doesn’t mean the game becomes twice as easy, it becomes twice as immersive. Two players, sitting on the edge of their seats and waiting for the next horrific tower of limbs to come crashing through their walls makes for an intense feeling. The contagious emotions of fear and relief are more palpable with someone else on the other end to share this with.
The game isn’t perfect (although what game in Early Access is?). The crafting system is neat, allowing almost free-forming of pretty much any structure you can think of, but placement is tricky. The crafting UI is always floating a few feet infront of you, so if you build with your back to a cliffside like we did, you’ll end up having to think creatively about how you’re going to position things. There could be better UI in terms of crafting (tell you the ingredients needed for inventory crafting, since we’re already told ingredient counts outside the inventory crafting). There are a few physics issues (logs don’t really accumulate that much momentum when rolling, suitcases fly 50′ into the air when they first spawn in, etc) and graphically the sky looks nice until you realize there are only 2-3 different static skies that just gently rotate (nothing is generated, so these skies always look exactly the same).
Overall I’d highly recommend this game that most people already know is pretty neat. Judging from Twitch, Youtube and Steam streamers the game has gently faded from memory but bi-weekly updates and a friend playing along will keep me coming back to this terrifying vacation spot.