The Forest, A Visual Feast

756 words.

In January, I went through a phase where I wanted to play some survival-type games. I’ve been intrigued by The Forest ever since I first saw it show up on Steam, but I generally try to resist buying Early Access games, particularly from unknown sources. Until one day when I was bored out of my mind with my current games and wanted to look at something new. And hey, it was only $15.

In a nutshell, you play the lone survivor of a plane that crashes in the middle of a procedurally-generated forest. You have to find food and shelter and protect yourself from weirdo cannibals that also happen to inhabit the forest. Each game has a different landscape, so it looks like there’s a lot of replay potential.

TheForest 2015-02-02 15-55-12-88

The main thing I want to get across is that this game is drop dead gorgeous. The forest environment is extremely realistic and immersive. That’s what attracted me to the game in the first place, to be honest. Whatever engine this game is using should be used for all future MMORPGs, in my humble opinion.

Collecting logs and sticks in the warm glow of the morning.

Beyond standing around looking at the pretty forest, the gameplay is also pretty decent, too. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of survival-type games, but this one so far seems to have a good balance of crafting, exploration, and combat.

It’s supposed to be a survival-horror game, but I didn’t find it to be all that scary. The cannibals are a bit creepy but I didn’t jump out of my skin or anything. (However the first time the cannibals beat you up they take you back to their cannibal cave of horrors, which is pretty messed up.) The environment is realistic, but fortunately the hacking and slashing is not.

These creepy jerks keep ruining the nice scenery.

There are some oddities in the game though. Once you cut down a tree, it’s gone forever, but sticks and rocks and plants seem to respawn indefinitely in the same places. (Not that I’m complaining, because you need a lot of them. You need leaves to feed your campfires.) The cannibal AI is pretty smart, and you do not want to get caught out in the open around these guys, but they have a tendency to blindly step into campfires and burn themselves up. I’m not sure if that’s intended or not, but it seems a little overpowered right now. It makes for a very effective means of protecting yourself from them. Far better than trying to fight them hand-to-hand.

Don't worry, I didn't axe the turtle. Because you can't. They turtle up in their shell.

I’m not really sure what the goal of the game is beyond surviving as long as you can. After five or six tries I was able to build a home base in which I felt like I could survive indefinitely and I was fairly well protected from the cannibals, so I think I “won” the survival part of the game. But then there was still a lot of environment around me to explore. Maybe the final game will have more objectives in it. There was a hint in the opening movie that maybe I’m supposed to rescue someone. Anyway the whole landscape changes with each new game so I could see myself playing it again and again even after winning.

I like the way building works in The Forest. You put down a “blueprint” of the structure you want to build, then you keep depositing materials into it until the structure is completed. So for example if you want to build a shack, you put down the blueprint where you want to build it, then go cut down trees and add logs to the structure until it’s finished. That model works for me. It feels like you’re really building something without it being so tedious that you have to actually place every single log in precisely the right place (like, say, Landmark). I don’t even mind running back and forth between picking up materials and placing them in the structure, because when you add in the roaming cannibals, it adds a certain element of “gaming” to what might otherwise be a boring process. Sometimes you have to stop building and run for your life.

I really like the game but I think I’m going to put it away for now and wait for some more updates. I would hate to burn out on it before they even finish it.

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