The Forest

The Forest

Endnight Games' ambitious survival title finally exits Early Access...

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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.

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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 Forest
The ForestThe ForestThe ForestThe Forest

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.

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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.

One issue we had with the game was the lack of a map from the start. Thankfully, you can always see your base, as shown by a house icon wherever you go, but everything else you'll have to commit to memory. We'd pretty much given up hope of a map when we fell down a slope and died. In the previously mentioned cave where we respawned there was a compass and a map waiting for us. But do we really have to die to find something as essential as a map? It's an odd design choice, and if you manage to play the game without dying you may never come across it. The addition of a map makes the experience more enjoyable, but you have to be careful as a second death means game over. You are able to save your progress at your house though, so there's a risk/reward element to exploration. If you manage to survive long enough to explore the many caves you may perhaps find out what happened to the other passengers, and perhaps even find your son again. This island is a place of beauty and if you wander north you'll find snow and mountains; overall there were several types of environments.

The Forest makes use of the Unity engine, and looks pretty decent, surprisingly good in fact. The landscape is well crafted and the atmosphere that Endnight manages to establish is fantastic. We experienced a number of stunning sunrises that rendered us speechless throughout our time with the game. The few creatures in the game look decent, if a bit primitive and stiff, but they certainly do the job. Generally speaking, the game is easy on the eyes, but if you look closely you'll notice its low budget roots, which isn't purely a negative as it has its own charm. It's not without flaws and a poor texture here and there, but overall we were impressed. There's not a great deal of music, instead, we're treated to the ambient sounds of nature. An island like this isn't exactly a quiet place, and it sounds just as you'd expect. That peaceful soundscape is, naturally, interrupted by the feral screams of cannibals.

The Forest
The ForestThe ForestThe ForestThe Forest

You can play the game in co-op and this certainly makes for a more enjoyable experience as it's more fun to build a base with a buddy. This is clearly the true strength of the game and we'd recommend that you play the whole thing with a fellow survivor and, while there are no specific co-op features here, the adventure as a whole just lends itself very well to cooperative play.

All things considered, getting acquainted with The Forest proved to be rather enjoyable at times thanks to some exciting ideas, but it didn't fully click with us in the long-run. This horror-tinged survival adventure simply lacks the content needed to hold our interest over an extended period of time, but if you find some decent players to join up with, new possibilities open up and it's worth closer consideration.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
Great open-world, Beautiful visuals, Lots of building options, Solid multiplayer experience.
Some odd design choices, Understated and forgettable narrative, Not enough variation and content.
overall score
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