This is nice you think to yourself, cruising at 30,000 ft, as you see the wispy clouds slink by your tiny porthole window. You look to your right and your son is fast asleep clutching your arm, you let out a prolonged breath, maybe you should nap too? A loud explosion soon jolts you away from any pleasantness, the plane whines as it starts to rapidly descend. Your son’s grip tightens, you look at him reassuringly, even though your heart is pounding and the plane tips ever deeper into its downward journey. It groans and creaks under the incredible pressure being exerted on it from the world outside its thin aluminium frame. The cockpit rips off; the rush of air is overwhelming; sucking the air from your lungs it becomes hard to breathe.
You can see the treetops now – this is it, you think. The end. Branches are being snapped and broken as the giant mass of aircraft punches through the canopy of lush greenery and a second later it’s all over, all black. You slowly wake; head pounding and unsure if everything is functioning correctly. My son! You think as your eyes focus on his still and motionless body. Another figure comes sharply into focus, a half-naked sinewy man with strange tattoos on his face. He picks up the limp child and walks away.
This is the opening scene of The Forest, it’s primarily a single player experience and this first brief glimpse of story is sadly, as yet, all we have to go on plot wise. The Forest is in the very early stages of development and it has a long list of bugs and missing features, but it also has an undeniable appeal and an astonishingly creepy and foreboding atmosphere. It asks you to survive in a strange island world filled with a multitude of dangers from the environment and local population.
You start by learning the basics; a quick glance at your survival guide reveals that step one is to build a shelter. The game handily silhouettes a shelter for you to place on the ground. You can rotate it with the press of a button and with a click of the mouse it will lock it in place ready for you to gather the necessary materials for construction. It’s a very neat and simple system that works really well; you just gather the bits needed and then dump it on your ghostly silhouette and gradually the thing takes shape. It’s the same for all the big construction projects, its quick and simple, no messing around trying to figure out the correct combination of materials or arranging items in a grid. A couple of projects later and you probably have a nice little camp set-up.
The environment of The Forest is beautiful, the lighting is excellent and apart from some minor issues with textures and objects popping in during certain situations, The Forest is shaping up to be a visually stunning experience. Many times you will find yourself just taking it all in, the beautiful sunset, the dense and lush foliage, the birds chirping and the lovely warm glow of the fire as it slowly cooks the rabbit you snared a couple of hours earlier. You would be foolish to think that The Forest is a happy-go-lucky skip through the Garden of Eden though, as it won’t be long before the illusion of paradise is shattered.
The mutants that inhabit the world are creepy and brutal, you will find many strange effigies whilst exploring and all of them are gruesome reminders of whose territory you are stumbling through. The A.I., even at this early stage is excellent, you are stalked, observed, encircled, distracted, flanked and when the attack finally comes it is usually a quick and brutal affair, with the mutants having varying attack patterns that mean you are always on an unsure when it comes to the encounters with the natives. Combat feels weighty and satisfying although the mutants seem to take an unusually large amount of damage and it can feel a bit unbalanced.
Unfortunately, The Forest is still a very long way off of being finished. Lots of bugs plague the experience, some minor and some major such as the save system, which at the time of writing is still broken. It’s probably not too much of a hindrance as such though, due to the fact there is very little to do other than going through your survival book and building all the various traps and shelters. It gets tiring quickly when there is no direction to follow and very few mechanics other than gathering a small selection of materials. There is also an item duplication glitch that makes the mutants ineffective given the right weapon.
The game world is also very small and it won’t be long before you have seen all it has to offer, the worlds beyond which are locked off for now offering a tantalizing glimpse of what may lie ahead which is The Forest in a nutshell; it offers a small slice of great gameplay but it’s let down by its bugs and state of infancy. It’s easy to recommend that you keep an eye on The Forest but it’s not so easy to recommend that you part with your cash, you might want to hang on for a few patches yet unless you genuinely want to support Endnight Games in the development and help The Forest realize its full and wonderfully promising potential.