You board a plane with your son, Timmy, looking forward to the future. While your son sleeps next to you on the plane seats, you pick up a small book near you, it says it’s a survival book. At this moment in time, you don’t realise how much that book really means to your future. As you feel your eyes slowly closing and reality drifting away from you, a massive clap of thunder and rain begins hitting the plane. The pilots struggle to control the plane, you fear the worst is about to come. You quickly grab Timmy telling him that everything is going to be okay, but you're not sure the words you're telling him are true.
As the plane crashes into a nearby island, known as the Peninsula, everything goes black as your body crashes to the floor of the plane. As you slowly regain consciousness you see a man covered in red paint (or perhaps blood?) holding your child in his arms. You try to move but your body is badly damaged all you can do is watch as he takes Timmy away from you.
This is a scene that evokes the pure fear and horror of some of our favourite games, movies and books. It begins an intense horror adventure game with numerous survival mechanics as the player scavenges for food, shelter and weapons in a remote, hostile environment.
Developed and published by Endnight Games Ltd back in 2014, The Forest has become an extremely popular game with fans of the survival horror genre. Endnight Games announced a follow up to the Forest in 2019 at the game awards with a new trailer calling it Sons of the Forest. While many people are very excited about this upcoming game, myself included, some newcomers may be curious: why are so many of us are so eager for the next chapter of this cult classic? Here are some of my favourite features from the original, as well as my hopes for the sequel.
It is clear from looking at the trailer that the sequel is a massive step up in overall visual quality. Many familiar mechanics are still present.
We see the player chopping down trees and splitting logs to make a floor. While we had similar mechanics in the original game this certainly seems to have more depth and imagination to its design.
For example, in a conversation with YouTuber Farket, Endnight games discussed a few of their plans for the building system in Sons of the Forest, saying:
“Building will be a major focus. We've been working on making the building system more immersive and satisfying, as well as giving more options for player creativity.”
Knowing what Endnight games were able to accomplish with their first game makes me excited to see what they are planning for the fans in this anticipated title. So far, the most interesting feature is the fact that you can now add solar panels to the roof of your house to supply energy to things such as lights or an electric chainsaw to help you cut down trees.
The original game was acclaimed for its immersive horror atmosphere with nail-biting tension. Some of my personal experiences involve me and my friends getting jump scared by the bats as we entered the caves searching for weapons, something that still scares us to this day because of the anticipation of it. Not to mention the frightening feeling of running away from enemies late into the night to get back to your base. These are all things that I hope to see get even more scarily brilliant in the sequel.
The original Forest, for me, had one of the most memorable settings of all the games that I have played. It’s not a huge map like Assassins' Creed: Odyssey or the Witcher 3, but I believe it doesn't need to be massive in order to capture the player’s attention.
The Forest is big enough to feel lost in, yet small enough to still feel engaged in your objective. You never feel overwhelmed when looking at the map, but you always want to keep exploring the next cave or enemy camp you find.
Endnight games have already announced that the new map will be more than five times the size of that in the first game. It will be interesting to see how this affects the overall game design.
The original Forest game, at the time, had one of the best survival systems in its genre. It was easy enough to understand but felt like it had some depth for those who wished to get the most out of the materials they found in the game.
For example, you could make special healing items with different types of plants by mixing them together with each other. The player could make items offering things like increased health and stamina while keeping an eye on hydration and hunger.
While it may not be as in-depth a survival system as we have in 2021, with games like Green Hell for instance, it still doesn't feel too out of place playing it now. If I had to say what I hope they improve on in the sequel, I would like to see them implement features like the developers of Green Hell have done, such as the sanity system or getting different types of nutrition with foods e.g., protein, fibre or fats.
One of my favourite things in the world of video games is the feeling of uncovering a hidden area or secret detail in the world which suggests information about the story. Thankfully, The Forest excels in this regard. The forest feels like a living thing, actively trying to stop you from finding your son, yet still nudging you towards the next chilling discovery. For example, while searching for supplies in a cave we find a note written in a familiar red with the ominous message “a jealous god punishes a parent's fault on their children”. Nearby we find a map and a compass leaving us with more questions than answers.
The beauty of The Forest is the freedom it offers to the player. Being able to do what you want in the game without any need of restrictions is extraordinarily enjoyable. Another thing The Forest does very well is putting the player in the protagonist's shoes, by making you feel the same way as the main character does. At any given moment in the game, the fear the protagonist feels when his son is being taken from him has perfectly mirrored the player's emotions.
While The Forest is certainly not a perfect game, I believe it has earned its status as a fan favourite in its genre. Let us hope that the sequel lives up to expectations.
Sons of the Forest should come to PC in 2021 or later with a small chance of getting a PlayStation and Xbox port in the future.
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