Fighting Mutants and Spelunking
“Not what you want to wake up to after a crash.”
When I first walked out of my crashed passenger jet, it was a sunny day, beautiful even, if you don’t stop to consider the blood covering my body, the dead flight attendant I just took an axe out of, and the knowledge that some mysterious tribal people had taken my son somewhere. I opened my survival guide and made a quick shelter by the plane, and spent several minutes chasing down lizards for dinner. I ran into some locals and, raged by the capture of my son, attacked them with an axe. My clumsy chase led me to many more locals who beat me up and dragged me to their underground buffet of dead airline passengers.
With the plethora of survival/crafting games that have been popping up since the first Minecraft craze, it’s hard to really stand out among the masses of titles. The Forest offers many similar qualities with most of these titles: using the environment to get supplies to make shelter, get food, and fuel some creativity. It lacks the near-total artistic freedom of other games, but with it’s the environment, or rather, those who dwell in it, that really make The Forest stand out enough for Sony to nab the rights for an exclusive PS4 port in 2014 that will release later this year. The mutant cannibals come in different shapes and sizes, from the gangly scrappers that dodge roll away from your slower axe strikes, tall muscle-bound mutants that can take quite a few hits, to the true monsters that mostly hide in the shadows of caves underground. The inhabitants of The Forest are sporadic in their appearances and numbers, but they tend to show up in greater force the more developed you make an area: cut down a ton of trees, make a log mansion and some bonfires, expect some company. It’s also not rare to come back to your camp to find a head on a stake, reminding you that this isn’t really your home.
“Going into caves is always a risk. Don’t think these fellas made it”
When crafting your main base (or bases if you want to have multiple places to call home), there’s a number of options for shelter: you can get some sticks and leaves for something temporary to last the night, commit the lives of several trees to a tree house, or even create your own custom home. Set up catapults, spiked walls, and other devious traps to keep the locals away, then mount animal heads on walls, make an armor rack, storage shelves, and even mix plants to get some paint on your walls.
The crafting feels enjoyable and rewarding, but every moment of quiet also feels tense: you never know when mutants might strike next. I always make small tasks to prepare first for visitors, second for stockpiling for my next cave exploration. Cut down trees for logs and saps, wack down bushes for sticks and leaves, kill animals for their skins/shells (turtle shell as a rain collector saves lives) and visit slaughter camps and crash sites to find items such as rope, cloth, booze, batteries, and motherboards. The rarest items, however, are found in high number down in the dark homes of the strongest mutants: dynamite, gun parts, flares, not to mention, that’s the most likely place to find your son.
“You can lose and gain muscle-mass depending on your daily actions. The more you swing an axe, the stronger you get. The more you run, the slower your stamina will deplete. Food also has a calorie count, with factors in with your daily activity to determine how your body is changing”
Speaking of exploration, The Forest does a good job of having both large areas to explore, and variety in locations. The majority is in a leafy forest, this is true, but from a huge sinkhole you need climbing equipment to descend, caves, and a snowy mountainside you need animal skins to keep warm while exploring, there’s more than enough to keep me interested in finding new areas.
Despite being an early access game for four years, it really is amazing to see how much Endnight Games has improved the game since I first started playing. For a studio of only four people, this is a huge feat. Bugs I’ve experienced in the current state are rare and few in number, though I do notice felled trees occasionally falling through cliff sides. They’ve added and stabilized co-op to share the experience with some friends, custom crafting, tons of new recipes and items, a storyline, new mutant types, and that’s just a sample of what they’re been adding every patch, and in between they regularly patch issues the community tells them about.
“Hey buddy, got any rope?”
The Forest does a good job at whetting my crafting desires, while also pitting me against threatening enemies that keep me on my toes, while making it hit home that I’m in a world that is not my own. The Forest hits PS4 later this year, and is currently on Steam at the end of its early access stage of development. If you don’t mind a few quirks here and there, I highly recommend checking it out at a discounted price before the full release.