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The Forest Review

When a team this small can create and publish something this good entirely on their own, you know the future of gaming is in excellent hands. The Forest is an open-world survival horror indie developed by Endnight Games, the tiny studio that happily proves making an excellent title doesn’t require a triple-A budget. The Forest isn’t going to win any beauty pageants, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat, nervously twitching at every stray sound, and obsessively coming back for more.

Not Just for the Horror Enthusiast

The Forest seamlessly fuses several genres. It is survival horror, but it also really does have an open world, and in that open world are countless options for how you tackle its primary challenge: staying alive. You play as a father flying with his son in an airplane — an airplane that crashes on a nameless island (with a forest). After the airplane crashes, you wake up to see a rather creepy fellow making off with your son. It’s hardly a few minutes of cinematics, then The Forest releases you… completely.

It’s wholly possible to avoid everything to do with your son and the actual plot and still get hours upon hours of gameplay out of The Forest. If you want to hunt down your son, however, go for it. You’ll have lots of exploring to do and clues to scavenge throughout the world. Just, you know. You’ll be wading through ever more difficult waves of vicious cannibals looking to really sink their teeth into you. Really.

The Height of Fort-Building Potential

While you track down your son, the rest of us will be scoping out the lay of the land and planning the specs for our forts. Why? Because The Forest is a masterclass fort-builder. It’s probable you’ll die the first few attempts you give it, since you won’t yet know all of the rather important details about needing fresh water, unspoiled food, a place to sleep and save, how to murder cannibals, and so on.

But when you do… The Forest becomes a delightful escapade in which you struggle to build the coolest — and most functional — fortress possible in which to survive the terrifying onslaughts of mutant cannibals, night and day. Build a houseboat with lengthy (but safe) piers. Build a tree fort with complex bridge systems. Build a tiny camp and ward off foes with nothing but your grimace and the axe you find on the plane. Do whatever you want. You’ll only be punished if you do what you want… and it’s not good enough.

Play Your Way, and with Friends

But it’s not only about creating a safe place to sleep at night. The Forest also pays homage to all of the crafters and inventors out there in the gaming community. Slay animals like rabbits and lizards for their skins and combine them in interesting ways with other ingredients for armor and items. Hack turtles apart for their shells and make them into rainwater collectors. Explore and pick plants and berries — some poisonous, some not. You’ll have to do ingredient gathering if you want to build a structure either way, but The Forest lets you decide how far you want to go with it.

If you would rather just hack down trees for the logs you need and grab the rocks you want, you can. You don’t have to become a berry connoisseur if you don’t care to. Precisely because this title has so many ways to play makes it glorious to share with a friend in the multiplayer experience. If your friend would rather design and work on the fort, you can busy yourself with hunting deer for food and crafting arrows and weapons for defense. Or, set up on opposite sides of the map and duel for the best cannibal-repelling camp.

Buggy, Post Early-Access

The Forest excels where it excels, but it doesn’t deliver in every aspect. Many of the concerns present in the Early Access gameplay are still present in the full release. Graphical quality is not necessarily up to par with other titles its size, and definitely shudders in the presence of triple-A titles like Horizon Zero Dawn or God of War. There are still issues like having tree branches jut through your fort haphazardly, and having structure placement glitch out unexpectedly.

These issues were expected and sometimes even enjoyed in the Early Access phase, but having them in the full release is disappointing to say the least. Some pieces of The Forest have undoubtedly been polished carefully for the full launch, but other pieces are still janky. While Early Access supporters might not mind, these will probably get in the way of a newcomer’s enjoyment of The Forest’s experience.

Scare Yourself Silly

Ignore the bugs and glitches and you’re in for a wild and terrifying ride. Building your encampment isn’t just fun — it’s a necessity. You’ll encounter cannibal enemies as early as on your first day, and they only get worse from there. The sounds they make and the desperation you feel while scrambling to break out your lighter at night is complete nightmare fuel. The Forest is an astounding accomplishment which has almost limitless playability for the player that really digs conquering an environment and everything it has to throw at it — and when you’re finally bored of that, adding a friend to the mix prolongs gameplay just about indefinitely.

7

The Verdict: Great

With every second of gameplay as agonizingly riveting as the next, The Forest is a stellar study in horror, survival, and anticipation. When in its element, The Forest is as worthy as any title costing three times its purchase price. When not, the low production budget peeks perniciously through the cracks of this otherwise superbly thrilling indie.

Taryn Ziegler
Written by
May 11, 2018
Published in Adventure

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Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.

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