Imagine crashing down onto a mysterious island with next to no resources at hand, but also realising that your son (who also seems to have survived the crash) is missing. Now imagine having to survive on this island by hunting its wildlife, gathering resources, and making your own little shelters as you look to find your son. Now imagine that the island is full of deadly cannibals who want to kill and eat you. That right there is the whole concept of The Forest and, despite being utterly disturbing at times, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play.
At its core, The Forest is a survival game, meaning you’ve got to monitor your thirst, hunger and health in order to survive through the perilous ordeal you find yourself in. Interestingly, you’ve also got to keep an eye on your sanity, which isn’t the sort of thing you’d typically do in a survival game – the fact that The Forest leans into horror territory so heavily ensures that you’ll have plenty of things to see and do that’ll affect just how sane you are, though.
Balancing everything out can be tough, especially with resources scarce and plenty of ‘dilemmas’ to consider that could affect you in various ways. Do you eat those berries to fill your hunger when you don’t know if they’re poisonous? Do you drink that water to replenish your thirst even if it’s dirty? Or do you eat that corpse because you’re SO hungry, all whilst knowing that it’ll have an adverse effect on your sanity? Yeah, that last one is pretty grim, but it’s the sort of situation you can expect to find yourself in during your time playing The Forest.
That being said, I actually found that having low sanity in-game actually made the whole thing a lot better. It opens up more options to the player (some of which could certainly be considered unconventional) and it actually gives you more of a fighting chance against the cannibals. Of course, whether it gives you a bad ending or not I’m not sure, but it certainly added an additional unique and appreciated touch to The Forest’s take on the survival genre.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a survival game without crafting, and The Forest has that too. It’s your standard run-of-the-mill crafting system, with players finding the items they need around the island and then putting them to use. You’ll start off with basic things, but eventually you’ll be putting together little bases with plenty of buildings and defensive obstacles to ensure you’re kept safe. There’s a real sense of progression to seeing your options improve as days go on in the game, and it’s equally satisfying to see yourself move up from sleeping rough to actually having four walls around you.
The only real flaw I found with crafting was that it was a little difficult to tell which structures were better than others. There are plenty of options in place for you regarding what you build, but there weren’t stats on show to see if it was worth building one thing over another. It’s a petty complaint, but one I hope to see the development team improve upon in future updates for the game.
You’ll be crafting your little bases to protect yourself from the deadly threat looming across the island, and that threat is the aforementioned cannibals. They make their presence known sharply (as if the corpses and heads on pikes don’t give it away), though you won’t be able to help but get frightened the first time you encounter them. They come from seemingly nowhere and are pretty agile, and no, you can’t climb a tree to hide from them because they just so happen to be good climbers too. Damn.
The way you actually encounter them can be truly chilling though and emphasises the horror element of The Forest. There were occasions where I would think I was safe as I gathered resources without a care in the world, only to see something lurking in the distance. It didn’t take long to realise it was one of the cannibals just staring at me, getting ready to make its move. By the time I figured out what was going on it was on the pursuit, and as I ran I slowly realised there were more and more cannibals surrounding me. Honestly, it’s so terrifying but also so exciting when it actually happens in-game – especially when you actually manage to escape their grasp. Just know that no matter how safe you might think you are in The Forest, there’s almost always a cannibal stalking you in the distance.
Fortunately, you’ll eventually find yourself in a situation where you can take the fight to the cannibals and take them down yourself. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of time as the prey during the initial hours with the game as you look to find your bearings on the island, but eventually you’ll put together a good armoury of weapons and be able to take down anything in your way as you look to find your son. Heading into their territory can be terrifying though thanks to the dark corpse-filled caves that you have to explore, but as you discover clues to your son’s whereabouts and uncover the stories of other explorers of the island it’s hard not to feel totally engrossed by it all.
The combat itself is decent enough, albeit a little clunky. I never felt unsatisfied by the combat mechanics but I did notice I didn’t always have the accuracy I felt I should and that some weapons could feel a little too weighty. Fortunately, you can set traps to take down the cannibals if you prefer or even incite them to fight each other (there are multiple tribes of cannibals around, you know) so there is always more than one way to take each one down. Just be warned – the cannibals are smart and will always come back for more with bigger numbers. It makes for a clever and unpredictable experience, so you’ll always have to be on your toes.
Those who would prefer to take down the cannibals with friends will be glad to see there’s support for up to four players in online co-op. Admittedly, I haven’t really spent a lot of time in the game’s online modes yet, but what I have played was a lot of fun. The gameplay mechanics of The Forest lend themselves to multiplayer perfectly, whether it’s working together to set up the defences required to take down the cannibals, finding the resources you need to survive, exploring the deadly caves that home your foes, or simply playing around and uncovering all the fun things you can do on the island. I’m looking forward to spending more hours in the game with friends and I think it could actually be the best way to experience The Forest.
Developer: Endnight Games
Publisher: Endnight Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC