Sons of the Forest – Early Access on PC
Only a few minutes into Sons of the Forest and I’ve survived a fiery helicopter crash, tumbled down a snowy mountainside, and am now being pursued by a group of natives running at the speed of light, drenched in war paint, screaming at the top of their lungs. Ah, flashbacks from the first game, and I’ve suddenly remembered this journey is certainly not for the faint of heart.
I’m excited, though. After an extended cycle looking to surpass what the development team Endnight Games cooked up over the span of ten years, the anticipated sequel is finally here. And by now, you’ve probably seen the headlines of how popular Sons of the Forest is, racking up an insane 24-hour debut on Steam with 2 million copies sold. After nearly a week with the game myself, I can see why.
Sons of the Forest picks up sometime after The Forest. Players assume the role of a mercenary sent to discover the whereabouts of a missing billionaire family. Things quickly go awry, though, as I’ve mentioned earlier. It’s a familiar premise to what was introduced in The Forest, and you face a long, daunting road ahead of you. This time around, however, the adventure is made slightly easier with the introduction of a companion named Kelvin.
Following the dramatic scenes of the crash, Kelvin loses his hearing, but he’s still otherwise able-bodied and takes on the role of menial man; he can be instructed to gather materials for you, such as logs, making your grind easier. Kelvin is fast at what he does, and he’ll take breaks as he feels, meaning you don’t have to do anything except boss him around. He’s still present and equally useful in co-op lobbies, but for solo players, it’s a massive boon in particular.
Kelvin focusing on the grind of gathering makes a whole world of difference as you turn your eyes toward what matters: the eventual war against the locals and survival. The Forest introduced players to a nightmarish bit for survival, as they gather materials, build up their settlement, and maintain their food and water levels to survive. It’s the same loop this time around, and it’s no less engaging a second time. I found myself lost in building up my arsenal like a modern-day caveman, as this formula feels good and rewarding given the circumstances you’re in.
As for the crafting mechanics themselves, Sons of the Forest has a new system whereby you pull out a little guidebook and follow the instructions when it comes to building items. This is sometimes tricky to follow, and I did myself scratching my head a few times trying to decipher what the pictures mean. For the most part, though, it’s fairly intuitive. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of crafting is that the list of different structures available is rather short at the moment. Still, I was surprised at the extent to which
Along with that, the crafting system has room for mechanical improvement, with the new mechanics often feeling finicky when it comes to object placement of certain items, such as logs for doors. There’s also a small crafting list of items, which will be expanded over time, so keep that in mind when heading in.
Outside of crafting, the world is as immersive as ever, with underground bunkers, caves, campsites, and all sorts of secrets to stumble upon. There’s a twisted sense of beauty in the world the developers have made, with the perfect example being Virginia: a three-legged, mutated lady who creepily studies you from afar before eventually befriending you. The locals reflect her behavior, initially, as they survey you from afar, but they’re not so keen on becoming pals. Sooner or later they sense the rising threat you pose and start to harass you. Enemy behavior is still as good and utterly terrifying, as their behavior is sporadic and spine-chilling, producing some genuine jump scares in the process.
From a technical perspective, Sons of the Forest looks truly superb. The graphics really are quite impressive, and I frequently found myself gazing in awe at some of the spectacular scenery across the map. From a performance point of view, generally speaking, it’s very solid for an Early Access product. I didn’t run into any notable bugs — certainly, many less than you would expect from a game that is built around complex building mechanics and crafting systems.
Much like The Forest, the enemy designs are really well-done, with some terrifying creations that made me do a double take. The further into the game you get, the more bizarre and frightening the enemies become, and not only do those enemies appear in dangerous locations across the map but slowly begin to populate the entire island. By the end of my experience, my base was being attacked by enormous cannibals and twisted mutations capable of inflicting massive damage. I love that the danger of the world scaled with my adventure and kept me on my toes throughout.
Perhaps my main gripe with the Sons of the Forest experience, though, is the abrupt ending of the story. Yes, there’s an ending, and once you go past the point of no return, well… that’s it. Now, I don’t have a particular problem with an abrupt ending, but for the price of admission, I think some fans would’ve preferred that the development team take all the time needed to flesh out some systems, especially in the narrative department. It will likely see improvements over time, so I won’t give the team too much flack. It is noteworthy, though, that those who enjoyed the lore and narrative aspects of the first game might find the sequel lackluster — for the time being.
Overall, then, Sons of the Forest is a brief but very positive look into what Endnight Games has been working on for the past few years. It’s more of the same as what was playable in The Forest, but it’s a much prettier and more atmospheric survival experience that looks set to eventually expand on that same formula moving forward.
The biggest question here is whether it’s worth a purchase in its current state, and I’d say my response is based on two scenarios: if you have friends to tackle this with or if you enjoyed the single-player aspect of the original game. When played with friends, I think it’s a very fun survival experience that is absolutely worth your time. But in solo, those hungry for plentiful lore and a story-driven experience will be disappointed to discover that Sons of the Forest is lacking majorly in this regard.
Still, Sons of the Forest does deliver that gratifying sensation of being both powerful and powerless. For now, there’s a solid formula here, and just a brief snippet of madness has me excited for the future of Sons of the Forest.