‘The Forest’ Early Access Impressions

Please note that The Forest is in its earliest stages of Early Access, so content is viable for change and additions are going to be seen implemented down the track. Also note that this is not a review as the product isn’t complete, this is just an impressions piece of the games current state.

The Forest has been on a lot of gamer’s tongues ever since it was revealed. On paper, it had everything a gamer could really want, an open-world survival horror which is legitimately an open-world survival horror experience.The game starts with your character and his son on a flight as the child sleeps on your shoulder. After a couple of bumps and shakes, the plane is ripped in half and you crash on an isolated island – well almost isolated. When you wake up, you look up to see one of the native cannibals pick up your son and take him away. It is the only cut-scene before it sets you free to roam the island and build a base.

Shortly after the crash a mob of cannibals come to inspect the wreckage, so it’s best to either stock up on Molotovs’ via the crafting options and set them alight (don’t bother trying to kill them with your axe, save yourself the hassle of dying) or to simply run away unnoticed, if possible. I typically built a base around the plane because from what I could see, they couldn’t actually get into the plane so it’s essentially the safest place in the game. Also each time you start a new game the crash will be in a different location which, until the save hotfix was added recently, was every time you opened the game. It definitely makes the game a lot more worthwhile now that you can actually save your base because it became a bit tedious rebuilding every session. The save hotfix is still bugged, because you lose everything in your inventory as well but at least you can save your base.

Now obviously being able to protect yourself is essential when you are on an island with cannibals who outnumber you 1000 to 1. So far the best solution to kill them is by the use of fire, whether it be by throwing cocktail Molotov’s at them or simply hit them into any open fires you have nearby. If you only have to fight one or two, you can usually manoeuvre yourself around to kill them with your axe but it takes roughly 8-10 hits plus an additional final blow while they are on the ground to actually kill them. I hope that with more weapons implemented it will only take 5-6 hits to take them down – it would make it a bit fairer.

However, fighting them is only one solution to protect yourself. You can build your own base with defensive walls and doors (although it’s more of an open doorway since there isn’t an actual door). I haven’t had the time to fully test it out because I would die before I had the chance, but it looks like you can make multi-storey houses with the custom building options. You can craft stairs and platforms and build them on top of each other, but I would love it even more if you could actually put the walls on the platforms higher up for complete protection (the natives jump pretty damn high). Once you have your own base, there are a few different traps you can set up around your perimeter or inside your base. You can set up traps to hang the cannibals, drop a spiky log onto them or release a square of spikes to kill them. At the moment, you can’t reset them which does suck because even rabbits set them off. I hope they allow you to either reset them or make it so small animals don’t affect them because it really is frustrating.

Despite all the graphical bugs, this game really does look awesome. The lighting effects are really well done, the sunrays look good through the rows of trees and your camp looks cool from afar with your open fires. The AI, although only vary between four or five character models, are made quite well. There is nothing scarier than seeing a group of them watching you from a hill, or jumping between trees before charging at you. One of the monsters I have not encountered yet are the behemoth creatures which possess lots of arms and devastate everything in their path.

The survival elements are crafted decently, although they still need a bit of tweaking in terms of the mechanics. Fires which you can cook your food on, or provide warmth repeatedly become useless after a short period of time so your camp ends up being littered with campfires. For some reason you can’t cook on a fire more than once either, the option never comes up to signify the food is cooked. Obviously though, these are the type of bugs that the developers will be keen on fixing as soon as they can, whether it happens through the next patch or even quick updates.

You can scavenge the woods for berries, or kill iguanas for their skin to provide armour and use them for food. I’d like to see some more animals implemented, because I have only seen rabbits, iguanas, turtles and a billion birds. Adding some predator species would definitely add a whole new threat to the island so it will be interesting to see what direction they take it in.
Be prepared to spend most of your time cutting trees down to build your bases and traps. Hopefully down the track there are options to craft some tools which will make short work of the trees, it can get a bit tedious! To help aid in your bid for survival, you are equipped with a survival guide book which shows nearly everything you can craft. Obviously being Early Access there are a lot of options missing, but the idea is really well done. Say if you wanted to build your base, you open up the tab, click on the defensive wall option and it allows you to place the wall where you want with the ability to rotate the wall. It allows for a huge amount of customization to build the base you want.

The most annoying option for building, simply because of how many logs it took to make, was the cabin option. At the moment the cabin is the only option which will put a roof over your head, but it takes a staggering 82 logs to make (You only get four or five logs per tree). So it can take up to 20 trees to build just the one object, and add that to all the walls, traps and minor details, it can take a really long time to build a fortified base. The book initially says it only costs 32 logs to build, with the addition of two other materials to build which aren’t in the game as of yet, so we may see the number decrease.

Now because of how many cannibals and bugs there are, you are prone to dying quite a lot. Whether it be chopping up a dead cannibal to build an effigy to ward off monsters and getting exploded into the sky, or simply being outnumbered by cannibals. You essentially have two lives; the first time you “die” you wake up in the depths of one of their caverns. Armed with only a lighter to barely illuminate the caverns and an axe, you have to hope you can find the right path out. They have crafted it quite well so you know where to go as light reflections off the water generally point you in the right direction, but there is always a chance you can take the wrong turn. It is absolutely terrifying hearing the bound to be iconic music tone which alerts of the cannibal’s presence.

Out of the six times I ended up in the caverns I luckily only encountered one cannibal who dropped from the roof right in front of me. There is nothing worse than seeing a silhouette fall from the roof and hearing his footsteps right behind you. It becomes such a relief to break down the wooden wall into the sunlit forest. It is moments like these which will really make this game stand out when the full product is complete.

At the moment there is not really much to do in terms of story (yes there is a story, click here to check out what the developer told us about it) so it really comes down to what you want to do. It plays exactly how Ben Falcone intended it to be, a lone man trying to survive after falling from the sky on an island filled with cannibals. You can do whatever you want whenever you want without being pushed into finding things. You can take the game as slow or as fast as you like, with a plethora of options for you to take advantage of.

As for the crafting system, there is not really much available to experiment with yet. The only things I could make were Molotov’s through combining cloth and alcohol, a stone club by combining a stick and a stone and a few other small things. The tabs are not open to show what is available, but I will let you know in the next feature.

The Forest is the closest we will ever get to experiencing a similar world to Richard Matheson’s masterpiece, of I am Legend. You are up against creatures who are in their own battle for survival. They will do whatever they can to survive, and if you stand in their way, be prepared to fight. Although, the enemy AI aren’t too smart in terms of combat at the moment so you can usually win unless you become outnumbered. The Forest in its current state, is just the framework with some coating over it. There are still plenty of options, mechanics and areas to be implemented yet so by the time the release date comes, it could be a completely different experience. I long awaited this game with high anticipation and so far it has lived up to it and made me desire more. They really have gotten off to a great start with The Forest.