We’re gonna be french fries! Human french fries!”
Hailing from Canadian indie developer: Endnight Games is The Forest; an open-world first-person survival horror title with a plethora of gameplay mechanics similar in scope to the likes of Ark: Survival Evolved and Conan Exiles. The Forest takes the standardized survival platform and applies it to a narrative driven, single-player experience which is dripping with tension and atmosphere from beginning to end. The game came out of early access and into full release for Microsoft Windows on 30th April 2018 with the PlayStation 4 version of the game following just over six months later on November 6th. As usual, I’ll be covering the PS4 version, detailing the pros and cons of the title, ultimately discussing whether it’s worth the current price of £13.99 (EU PSN Store).

Survival sims being what they are, the genre is slowly but surely beginning to follow a similar path to that of the Zombie, being heavily oversaturated to the point where you have numerous video games doing the exact same thing, refusing to break away from the same old formula (innovation be damned). While there are artistic and thematic differences between the titles, the gameplay formula found within survival sims usually boils down to the same old thing: playing within PvE servers until you know the game inside and out, only to get your shit absolutely handed to you the second you step into PvP (getting your base Giga-stomped in Ark: Survival Evolved loses its charm after the 10th or so time). The Forest from Endnight Games does a lot to move away from these tropes, acting as one of the first survival sims to successfully blend it’s open-world survival mechanics with the narrative and atmosphere of a horror game resulting in an interesting hybridisation of genres, creating an experience that is wholeheartedly unique (the lack of PvP is a bonus). The Forest places you in the shoes of Eric Leblanc, an everyman taking a trip on a plane with his young boy Timmy, only for the aircraft to crash on a heavily forested peninsula, leaving both of them stranded and without help. Soon after awakening, Timmy is kidnapped by an unknown figure decked out in tribal war paint, leaving Eric isolated and alone, soon to discover that the peninsula is inhabited by a tribe of bloodthirsty, nocturnal cannibals who aren’t all too fond of sharing their home.

The narrative takes Eric across the peninsula, eventually leading him to a massive crater known in-game as the ‘Sinkhole’ which eventually leads Eric to explore a number of subterranean caves in an effort to find his son. The narrative structure is similar to that of the Dark Souls series, requiring the player to piece together the history of the island, with it being fleshed out further by a number of VHS tapes and cassettes that give some level of background as to the origins of the island’s cannibalistic tribe. While the game does come to a natural (and informed) conclusion, the sporadic nature of the game’s narrative is something that works perfectly in tandem with the survival mechanics at the game’s foundation, requiring some level of exploration and crafting to be in an adequate position to tackle the narratives end. In addition to its interesting narrative design, The Forest has been very much designed with atmosphere in mind, especially so with the unpredictable and intelligent nature of the cannibal’s AI, which will make them behave with the pack mentality in mind; hiding behind and up trees, keeping a safe distance if spotted by the player, attempting to flank, sending larger patrols out at night etc. giving you a sense that you’re constantly being watched which is genuinely unnerving for the vast majority of the game. The overall gameplay design itself is something that is also grounded in horror, as cult horror movies such as The Descent (2006) and the controversial Italian gore-fest: Cannibal Holocaust (1980) were both cited by the developers as inspirations during the game’s production, which definitely shows in some of the game’s more heart-pounding areas such as the subterranean caves, which are downright terrifying nearly every time you descend down into them.

Game Hype - The Forest

The Descent: After exploring for some time, you’ll eventually come across the ‘Sinkhole’ which becomes Eric’s primary focus in locating his missing son.

In terms of its core gameplay The Forest plays very similar to its peers, being first and foremost a survival simulator. As such the game requires you to eat, drink, sleep as well as craft weapons and shelter in order to stand any chance of surviving for longer than a day. The level of difficulty can be chosen at the beginning of the game, with the inclusion of a ‘peaceful’ difficulty which allows you to experience the gameplay and story without the inclusion of enemies, which definitely dulls down the experience significantly (go hard or go home brah). While the mechanics are pretty much what you will have come to expect from such a game, the four or so years the game has spent in early access has added some much needed quality of life improvements that games of a similar ilk could definitely learn from. Firstly, building in The Forest isn’t a chore like it is within its peers, and allows you to lay the outline of what you plan to build before you have the raw materials by placing down a semi-transparent blueprint, giving you a much-needed sense of scope opposed to chopping down trees for hours on end without purpose. While the crafting recipes could be seen as basic compared to games like Ark: Survival Evolved (wooden and stone structures only) most of the schematics are based on setting up temporary shelters, with a strong emphasis on defence and booby traps as the game’s enemies will eventually attempt to attack and destroy any foundations you have made. The same bleeds into the game’s hunting and fighting mechanics, which relies heavily on melee combat, utilizing both crafted and found weapons such as clubs, axes, the katana and the ol’ reliable itself: the chainsaw to hack and saw your adversaries to pieces (groovy).

As aforementioned, the standout feature of The Forest is the unpredictable nature of enemy AI, which makes traversing the peninsula (especially at night) absolutely terrifying. Initially, the cannibals will keep their distance, observing you and trying to work out your motives; when you eventually get around to killing one or two of them however they will change tactics, and begin to try and outsmart you, forcing you to adapt or end up being captured. One particular instance was when I was trying to fight off starvation by chasing a rabbit for nearly twenty minutes with a stone axe, stopping to catch a breather and noticed a female cannibal up in a tree staring down at me. Not long after, she let out a blood-curdled scream and within moments I was surrounded by numerous mutants, who had me beaten, subdued and dragged off to a cave full of corpses which caught me off guard entirely. The caves beneath the island are absolutely dripping with atmosphere; from the hollow sound of water dripping in a distant cavern, the manic, breathless laughs of the ‘blue-skins’ (nocturnal cannibals that live deep underground) to the thick quilt of darkness that envelops most of the subsystems en masse, all culminates together in an experience that can’t be diluted by turning the lights on (who knew a BIC lighter could produce that much light?).

Game Hype - The Forest

The Subterranean Chainsaw Massacre: The subterranean caves in The Forest are one of the most atmospheric locations I’ve experienced in a horror game to date, just be sure to keep your boomstick *cough* chainsaw on hand (pun most definitely intended).

In terms of performance, The Forest plays much better than most of its ilk at launch, coming in at 1080p and 30fps across the board on a PS4 Pro which is generally pretty stable for the most part; this is primarily due to the game not including dedicated servers that can host numerous players, opting instead for the single player mode or the game’s P2P co-op mode (similar to 7 Days to Die) that can be played with up to 8 people. The PS4 Pro version also comes with numerous graphical enhancements over the base version, as well as the inclusion of a ‘camera performance’ mode, that essentially uncaps the framerate; while this feature is a nice one to have on PC, it makes the game perform generally worse when switched on, frequently causing the game to break out in both graphical glitches and screen-tearing, making this a somewhat useless feature for the PS4 Pro.

Overall The Forest is in a very polished state for a survival sim, as they’re usually laden with bugs on launch even after months/years of being in early access, making this one the diamond in the rough. Considering the game is currently £13.99 on the EU PSN store (as of 04/01/19) there are very few reasons not to pick this one up, doubly so if you’ve got a group of friends to play it with.

A review code was provided by Endnight Game.


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