Have you ever had ‘that game’ that is simply so addictive it consumes actual days of your life? ‘That game’ that makes half past nine at night blink forward to three in the morning in the bat of an eye? Ladies and gentlegeeks, welcome….to the forest.
The forest is a first person survival horror game developed by Canadian company Endnight games, which you can play online with 3 friends at a time. The premise of the forest without giving too much away is simple. You are involved in a plane crash at the start of the game. Waking bloody and dazed, you see an unknown figure pick up your unconscious son from the wreckage of the plane and take him away. Your job, is to survive long enough to find him and escape the island together. This is a task that is easier said than done!
Retrieving an emergency axe from the plane, you will have to chop trees and gather sticks and rocks to help you create other rudimentary tools and shelters to aid in your survival. There are meters for hunger, thirst, health and sanity of which all need to be kept an eye on and maintained through consumables and you also need to be aware of your stamina draining if you become cold and wet. Best not to get caught outside at night in the rain with no fire or shelter! You can scavenge from suitcases strewn across the island presumably taken from the downed airplane or farm and create items from the more natural resources available to the island. My first day or so revolved mainly around spear-fishing and hunting for deer, crafting a water skin to hold water and chopping down trees to build grand blueprints of structures I wanted to create. When I say chopping down trees I mean A LOT OF TREES! Did I mention this was a lumberjack simulator?
There are various things that can be built from prefab rooms, cabins, treehouses and houseboats or you can elect to design your own building using the various custom walls and flooring options available. You can build log sleds to carry resources and zip wires and cranes to move about the terrain. You can spend hours placing down the blueprints of different things that you want to build and then twice as long gathering all the logs, sticks, stones and other materials to make your creations come to life.
The inventory system is great and feels quite intuitive compared to other games. Gone is a checked grid or list of items with a weight and encumbrance limit attached. When you open your inventory in the forest, the screen will show a blue mat with all the items laid out like a bizarre picnic and a centre white square which works as your crafting area allowing you to combine various items. You can only carry 5 rocks for example (unless you craft a bag to hold 10 instead) and you will physically see a pile of 5 rocks on the blue mat if that is how many you have. It really feels like every time you go into your inventory screen that you are unfurling this blue mat of odds and ends tied into it like a twisted version of a hobo sack.
Now, this may all sound great if you are into crafting sims, however I may have forgotten to mention that you are not alone on this island! Something strange is going on and you will find that the island is home to tribes of cannibals. These cannibals are not automatically aggressive and will come and check out what you are doing if you are chopping down lots of trees or starting camp fires. This adds a brilliant creepy element to the game in that a cannibal will not automatically attack you, they simply might come and watch you, just standing there growling ominously in their feral way. The AI is something I love in that if a cannibal is on their own and you approach them axe in hand, they may actually run away from you! This can be a problem if you starting chasing a cannibal through the undergrowth at night, then find yourself drawn into a bigger group of them waiting to make you their next meal. To make matters worse, monstrous mutants also roam the island and the last thing you want to see approaching the walls of your camp at night is one of these beasts. Mutants are tough, but can be taken down with the right tools, tactics and a little help from your friends.
The forest can be played single-player, but personally have found it far funnier playing with friends in a group. Banding together for survival, we placed little outposts all across the island. As we gathered more gear and with it confidence to tackle everything the island had to throw at us, we branched out and started building our own mini-bases. This resulted in numerous occasions that one of us would shout in the party chat for help and the others would come rushing to their aid. At one point I had a “vision” of a megalithic structure that I wanted to create and had to bribe my fellow players to down tools on their own constructions and come build for me. Payment for logging and gathering what they could was 3 dried fish per day cycle for each worker. I personally was the butt of much laughter when we realised that if you too “go cannibal” by chopping the limbs of dead cannibals and eating them it lowers your sanity level. Due to my insatiable appetite in-game and indifference to eating digital longpig, my sanity had dropped to 11% before I had even realised while my friends remained in the healthy 80-85% region. Meh, I never wanted to be normal anyways! They weren’t laughing when they realised there was an achievement for chopping so many limbs off of the dead bodies and eating them! See how quickly they turned and went full-cannibal!
I’m not going to give tips and tricks on how to survive the forest, you can enjoy to enjoy discovering it for yourself. If you are looking for a helping hand though, I’d recommend the excellent Farket on YouTube. He has a great selection of videos and tutorials to cover anything you might want to know.
The game was released on Windows after a 3 year long beta phase in April 2018 and released on PlayStation 4 in November 2018. One of the developers from Endnight games, Anna Tererkhova has stated that they would love to bring the game to Xbox which seems to suggest that it would only be a PS4 console exclusive for a limited time, however there are no actual plans to implement a port to Xbox as of yet. Fingers crossed Endnight bring this wood gathering, limb chopping extravaganza to Xbox soon so they too can know the joy that comes with going native in the forest.