The Forest is an open world survival game that has become somewhat of an addiction for me and a friend since we were made redundant in October. Since then I have put nearly 100 hours into the game rather than into looking for a new job or doing anything productive whatsoever.
Nevertheless I feel rather obligated to review this game because even though it is a refuge from reality, I have had a LOT of fun playing it. When we first began we had no idea what to expect. The trailer from Endnight Games Ltd suggests fast paced horror and panic that would have frightened me away had I not had a buddy to brave the darkness with. The concept of the game is: You are in a ‘Lost’ style plane crash on an island. When you wake up from the crash you see a blood-covered savage-looking bald guy standing over your unconscious son. He picks him up and takes him away, therefore giving you some sense of purpose on this island rather than trying to stay the heck away from all the dangerous stuff. Now you have a good ol’ trope to go save. You are able to scavenge a good amount of food and a fairly decent axe from the wreckage so you have no excuse for dying, not just yet anyway.
The crafting system takes a little while to get used to. You are given a survival manual which contains all the structures you can build within the game. In addition to these blueprints you can also combine items in your inventory to make new useful things. There is no guide for this, however. I am reminded of point-and-click adventure games where you end up combining completely incomprehensible objects into something you had no idea you actually needed. Which is how (unless you cheat and read the wiki) you might miss out on some very useful items early on in the game, such as the bow. A bow is not as impressive as an explosive device or katana but definitely the most effective weapon in the game. I don’t dare venture into a cave without a flaming arrow equipped (makes a great light source as well as a deadly weapon).
Surviving the first few nights is the hardest, especially if you are being slow to construct areas of safety. You can build little shelters which allow you to save your progress and sleep in single-player. But these offer little protection when the cannibals come looking for you, which they will… Even the small cabin, while enclosed, is a risk as sometimes cannibals can get through the door or simply smack you through the window. Besides, the last thing you want is to be surrounded by enemies with no escape route. I recommend you go up into the trees. Tree platforms aren’t costly on resources to build and you are mostly safe up there if you get overwhelmed. Also, if you never want to get close to a cannibal again you can build connecting tree platforms from place to place meaning you never have to set foot on the ground again!
Once you start making an impact on the environment by chopping down lots of trees and setting up bonfires, the cannibals will start to get pissed off. They will send raiding parties in greater and greater numbers and they have more tactics hidden up their metaphorical sleeves (they’re naked) than you would expect. But don’t worry, you have some tricks too. As well as kick ass weapons to find on the island, you can also build traps. These are hilarious and devastating to your enemies. You are by no means defenceless.
Combat comes down to your equipment and your recklessness. Cannibals can approach on their own or in large groups of 5-6. They blend in really well with the environment and can move wicked fast so it’s not always easy to judge the degree of danger you are getting yourself into. If you decide to attack you need to be relentless. These enemies hit hard so you should never let them get a hit in, instead you should be slicing them into ribbons and displaying their torn limbs on effigies to show them who is boss (so far I have found this causes more aggro rather than scaring anything off). You also need to know when to run. Sometimes you can pick off a pack one by one but if you get surrounded or overwhelmed you are done for, unless back up is nearby. Even with full armour equipped, I don’t try to take on groups of more than 2 on my own. You are best off climbing up to a vantage point and raining down fire until the volume of adversaries is at a more manageable level.
So what makes this game more than just another hack and slash survival crafting game that we have seen so much of recently? Well, this game has the horror aspect down. Even after weeks of playing I still get ‘The Fear’. I have not dared to go into all of the caves yet but that was mainly due to my own cowardice and a connection issue which made the whole thing rather dangerous. You can play either single player or co-op up to 8 players. There is no deliberate PVP (you can harm other players but there is not reason to, so don’t be a dick). As the game is still in alpha, the developers are really keeping us on our toes in regards to new features and content. The infamous v0.28 update saw the introduction of DYNAMITE CANNIBALS which have since been removed because they exploded everything. Updates are coming in thick and fast approximately every 2 weeks. However, there is no hint as to when the game will be finished yet. It has huge potential for additional story content as well as exciting hints for future possibilities for carnage (such as flaming tennis!). It is worth keeping in mind that you should always manage your expectations when buying into a game which is still in alpha. There will be bugs, and lots of them. But if you get a weird sense of entitlement when you pay for a game that it should work perfectly all the time even though you agreed upon purchase that you were paying for something which is not finished yet, then maybe you should hold off until full release. If you do decide to buy early (it is currently on sale!) don’t complain if you randomly get thrown hundreds of feet into the air for no reason or get your head bitten off by a floating alligator. Just submit your bug report and get back in the game!