Survival of “The Forest”


The upcoming survival horror game “The Forest” can best be described as the pinnacle of the survival genre, certainly a new level reached by producer Endnight Games.

Survival TV star Eric Leblanc and his son, Timmy, are settling down to sleep the rest of their flight as a mysterious energy pulse completely shuts down the plane.  As they plummet from the sky, Eric grabs Timmy’s hands and prepares for impact. Eric awakes to a man covered in red paint walking towards Timmy. As Eric crawls toward his son, the red-painted man lifts Timmy away and carries him off into the forest.

And so begins your quest to discover the whereabouts of your son and the identity of his kidnapper. Unfortunately, this is the least of your worries once you meet the inhabitants of the island you’re wrecked on.

At first glance, “The Forest” seems like any other typical survival game. Your plane wrecks on an island and you have to fight hunger, thirst, and sleep deprivation while collecting resources to build a house. A ridiculous amount of games have been developed with that plot, but this is the first one that has ever stood out to me.

Not only do you worry about the typical survival difficulties, but you also have to watch your strength, diet, weight, sanity, athleticism, and the ever-growing fear of cannibalistic natives.

If I listed every element which makes this game so special, I would have an entire book! The most impressive inclusions are in the game mechanics and AI, rather than physical items in the game.

To begin, the most impressive part of this game is that it’s still being developed in alpha. The most up-to-date version, Version 0.69, was released Oct. 20, bringing with it a new game difficulty, Hard Survival. This mode features reduced resources, greater penalties for eating and drinking contaminated items, and a faster thirst and hunger rate. With large updates like this consistently occurring since the game’s alpha release, one can assume that more is to come.

Upon release in 2014, “The Forest” was nothing more than the shell of a game. It had no story, no main character, no kidnapped son, just an island full of trees and cannibals. Since then, an entirely new section of the map has been created to serve as the game’s finale and a handful of noteworthy characters have been added to provide hints to your character’s past and the history of the island you’ve been stranded on.

A huge variety of craftable items and weapons, from snowshoes to wooden cranes, have been added to aid in your survival efforts. One of the big selling points of this game is the custom building system for structures.

You have complete control over the shape of your foundations, walls and roofs, providing you infinite possibilities for the shape of base you create. This can range from a log lean-to by the beach to a massive wood-and-stone fortress on the edge of a cliffside in the mountains. Houses can be fully furnished with beds, chairs, fireplaces, and some morbid decorations like a skull chandelier.

Another amazing feat of Endnight Games is the intelligence of their AI, not only in enemies, but also in animals.  The cannibals live in tribes and small groups, which usually stick together and help one another out. Every in-game day the cannibals follow a schedule, running their scouting route, claiming territory with effigies, and searching for survivors of the plane crash. What makes the AI so unique is that the enemies cooperate, feel, and adapt to how you play. If you cut off a cannibal from their group, the group will return, aggressively searching for their companion.

Certain tribes will have an obvious leader, which other cannibals will protect with their lives. Sometimes killing the leader will scare away the rest of the tribe, other times it just makes them fight harder. With enough patience you can even spare enemies lives and give them a chance to live in peace… for a while.

It’s astonishing to see enemies react to the way you attack, or choose not to. Groups try to surround you when you’re in the open, but begin to cluster if you try to separate them and pick them off one by one. If you are using a bow, cannibals will hide behind trees and dodge your arrows, forcing you to attack them head on.

I’ve had scouting parties of cannibals watch my base from afar, running any time I approached them, just to find out the following night that they were preparing a massive raid on my base. This was after I had killed past raiding parties and the cannibals knew they couldn’t survive a straight up fight with me, so they changed their tactics to avoid me until a huge group was able to surprise me at night. It’s crazy how in-depth the cannibals’ tactics are.

Deer, rabbits, crocodiles, and a variety of other animals exist throughout the island, each with their own personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Rabbits are quick and skittish, but if you find their trails, you can place traps to collect their meat and fur. Deer only appear while you are being quiet in the forest and will run away if you make too much noise. The small additions like these bring so much realism to the game which is lost when AI follows specific patterns and doesn’t interact with the player.

“The Forest” provides players the perfect amount of grind for reward in a suspenseful, yet serene environment. The graphics are beautiful, the ambient sounds of the forest make you feel like you are truly there, and the suspense of every sound meaning possible death keeps you engaged every second you play. Even if you aren’t a fan of survival or horror games, The Forest is worth checking out just to bask in the sheer beauty of the scenery.