The Forest has been on my wishlist for a long, long time, largely in part because the game has been in Early Access for a long, long time. It’s finally out of EA with version 1.0, and so I finally bought it. For $20 I got about 15 hours out of it, and I enjoyed most of those 15, so not a bad buy.
The odd thing about the game is that up front, its a survival game sorta similar to ARK or Rust or all those games. You run around, you collect resources, you build a base, you collect/upgrade gear. The big difference is that while Forest is fine in that regard, its the weakest part of the game and could be completely removed without it affecting my enjoyment of it.
The good stuff in Forest is the mystery, the exploration, and towards the end, the story. The game starts with a plane crash, and as you wake up, someone is taking your child while you hopelessly crawl to stop them. You are on a peninsula infested with cannibals and mutants, and seemingly everyone else is dead. Your main goal is to rescue your child, but a side goal is finding all the passengers of the plane. The area itself has had plenty of strange events in its past, which you uncover from picking up small clues like pictures, photos, and recordings. The setting/feel is kinda similar to the show Lost, in the best possible way.
There is plenty to find on land, but the real meat of the danger and mystery is found in the complex set of caves that run all through the area. Here is where the game truly shines, as exploring the caves is terrifying, both in the imagery you find and because the damn enemies can be really tricky and often kill you, leading to either a capture or a reload. Speaking of enemies, they are all rather unique and disturbing, and have some fantastically creepy AI. They really are the stars of the game.
I had two main issues with the game, one I fixed, and one that just is. The fixable issue is, at original settings, the caves are just too dark. Even with a light source, you can’t see much of anything, which is not only annoying, but you also miss out on the cool imagery you should be seeing. However the game has multiple light modes, and I found one that finally worked for me (its a bit too bright during the day, but not terrible).
The non-fixable ‘issue’ was the combat. Again its somewhat similar to ARK, in that its first-person and melee feels a little clunkier than it should. In other games that can be fine if the challenge ISN’T in surviving the enemies, but since so much of Forest is based on the enemies, the combat being a little clunky hurts. The other problem with combat is once you figure out that the optimal solution is to basically stun-lock enemies with fast weapons, combat goes from dangerous to a click-fest of meh. The bigger enemies you still need to be careful around, and large groups can pose a problem, but that’s about it.
Finally, the most surprising thing about The Forest is how much I got into it’s story towards the end. Piecing the clues together around the midgame was fun, and the last 10% or so of the game is a huge rush of discovery, change of pace, and one final and creepy boss fight. The ending is also really well done (the new 1.0 ending).