Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take part in a Bear Grylls' led show? Surviving on a tropical island, sourcing food each day, protecting yourself against wild animals and insects. If that's the case, then The Forest might be something for you. At least in part, as Endnight's survival horror also offers cannibals and mutants, and that's probably going to be a bit too much for some to stomach. And so, after spending the last four years in Steam Early Access, this adventurous survival game has finally reached version 1.0 and full release.
The Forest begins with your character on a plane and, initially at least, all is well. You're sitting next to your son, doing whatever it is you do on a plane, but then suddenly all hell breaks loose. Thirty seconds of complete chaos ensues as the plane tumbles to the ground, and all goes black. As you wake up a creature dressed in blood takes your son, and soon thereafter you finally find yourself on the floor of the crash plane. This is where the game kicks off proper, and while it may seem like a decent start to a deep story, that's actually most of the narrative you'll experience in The Forest. A bit of a shame as it gets off to a good start. Survival is the main focus here, and the story serves more as background and context to get you going.
Basically, you're looking for your son. You're also tasked with exploring various parts of the island, building certain things needed for survival, and so the narrative becomes your own rather than anything that's been written for you. We found a tent on the beach where we spent our first night on the island. The next day we came across some weird ape-like creatures running around on all fours grunting and making noises. Creepy. On the day that followed we decided to try and discover where these creatures came from, so we packed up some food and went out to explore. Before long we came across a primitive village populated by these creatures. We kept our distance but found ourselves under attack. We hit the ground and next thing we knew we were hanging upside down in a cave.
We cut ourselves loose and used our lighter to illuminate the surroundings. The cave was narrow and gloomy, the ground was littered with bags from the plane, and some less fortunate passengers from the plane were hanging from the ceiling. We managed to find our way out of the cave and back to our camp, realising the importance of building a sound defence. It was an awesome experience, but sadly experiences like the one described are few and far between in The Forest. This episode was designed to exist as an extension of the freedom offered by the game, but it's a fine balance, and there's simply nothing like it elsewhere in the game.
The emphasis here is instead firmly on the mechanics, on the concept of existing, surviving and, not least, the fight against the other inhabitants of the island. Once out of the cave you'll need to focus on survival, on finding resources to build the various items you'll need, from small houses to traps. You carry a survival handbook that works as a menu for the various things you can craft. Basically, you place a transparent 3D blueprint in an empty spot and then you pick up the resources need for the build. The most important one is wood, and you start the game with a shiny axe capable of chopping away at trees. The trees don't grow back, so you're forced to venture further and further away from your camp in order to get the wood needed for construction. This is a neat feature that can be turned off, with trees regenerating for those who want a less challenging experience.
As mentioned you're not alone, and you won't just build things because it's fun, you'll do so in order to survive. The aforementioned cannibals quickly grow aggressive and will go after you quite frequently, which forces you to think of defence first. This gives The Forest an edge over other survival games, and it works well. The problem is that there simply isn't a great deal more to it. During our playthrough, we only came across three creatures, and they quickly grow predictable. There isn't dangerous wildlife to consider, it's just cannibals, and while they can come frequently if you place your camp poorly, you meet them very seldom, if at all, if you place your camp cleverly. If that's the case then it's purely about crafting and surviving, and there's plenty of food sources and wild animals. The lack of cannibal attacks ends up making things feel a bit dull. Therefore, we started to explore the rest of the island.