There are few things worse than being in a plane crash. It must be one of the scariest things to go through as there is so much time to think. The Forest manages to find a situation that is worse though. You survive a plane crash and find yourself in a forest that is also occupied by a tribe of cannibals. How’s that for luck! Out of the frying pan and into the fire, or should that be tummy?

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‘They’re in the trees!’ A great start to my first foray into The Forest. Upon leaving the plane wreckage, I had a merry time cracking open locked suitcases with my axe. I pillaged all I could and moved on to cutting down trees. It’s a very satisfying feeling to see the tree slowly eaten away with each axe blow and then having to look up and gauge if it’s coming down on your head. The trees yield the logs I need to create my hunting shelter. A rustling behind me causes me to whip around but there is nothing to be seen. Some branches move over my head and I shout ‘They’re in the trees!’ Well if I’m honest, there was an extra word in that sentence but I’m sure you can fill that in yourself. The naked behind of a man loomed above me before he slid down and leapt at me. Recovering my composure, I grinned and set about slashing him with my axe. Five swipes later, I realise he isn’t going down very easily. Then his previously unseen friends join in. I crumple to the floor, my vision going grey and bloody.

I wake up in a dark cave (if you’ve seen The Descent, this cave evokes that film nicely). I pillage some supplies from nearby bodies and set about finding a way out. All I have for light is the tiny flame of my lighter. It does very little for my vision. A cannibal attacks me from behind and the fight plays out the same way it did above, the only difference being I died this time. The screen goes black and a message tells me I survived for two days. I must have been unconscious for a day and a half then. Not that clever.

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This is my main early criticism of The Forest. The game is in Steam’s Early Access area which means it’s in an unfinished state. That’s fair enough, you takes your chance if you buy it knowing that it won’t be perfect. In this early build, the cannibals feel far too strong. I know it’s meant to be a game where you should hide and try to avoid them but they have the uncanny ability to find you very quickly. Once they do find you, they are tough blighters and seem to take anywhere between five and ten axe hits to kill. You can make Molotovs to lob at them which do kill them faster but you’ve still had it if a large group finds you. Their AI seems to be quite poor in some regards which does even the score a little, but not enough for my liking. I’m not the only one to feel this way judging by the user forum so hopefully their toughness will be dialled back a notch in a new update. They are set to add a peaceful mode at some point which gets rid of any enemies. This means you can just enjoy the survival aspects of the world.

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The survival stuff is really nicely done. Pressing a button brings up your backpack and a work area, with all of your collected items laid out for you to equip and combine. There is also a survival book which helps you with the basics: things like placing a shelter and making a fire. The world itself is very pretty and you have a great sense of being in the wilds as animals zig-zag past and leaves fall from the trees above. The ambient sound is also very good and makes the world seem like a real place. It’s also quite haunting when you hear the little audio cue that means you’ve been spotted by the cannibals.

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While I was looking at the game, the first large update was released, which added a whole host of tweaks, bug fixes and new things to play with. There are now sharks in the sea, rafts to be built and you now have the ability to block attacks by holding down the right mouse button. It’s a hefty update and seems to have improved performance too. It still feels like it has quite a way to go before it will be polished and mainly bug free though. Early bugs included save games not working and strange character interactions such as being shot high into the air after you swing your axe at a cannibal corpse. The cannibals are also still very tough. In my first play after the update a cannibal managed to kill me with one hit even though I was at full health before the fight.

So with The Forest, we have a nicely realised survival game with some balance issues and bugs. The bugs are to be expected and I’m sure they will be squished as development continues. Would I recommend buying The Forest as it stands right now? No. I would tell you to wait a little while and see what future updates bring to the game. If on the other hand you feel that you can take it as it is and live with some of the rough edges at the moment, I would say go for it. It’s a low price game that even if development stopped today, would still give you an experience worth having, even if it is a frustrating one. I am hopeful that The Forest will shake off its early issues and become something that horror and survival fans will love.

The Forest is out now on Steam and available for Windows PCs. Visit the game website here.

Rating: 2.5/5
GS Blogger: Casey Douglass

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