The Forest Early Access Review

Running toward nothing.

GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

It was the nearly naked guy with a flashlight strapped to his head who did me in. I've little doubt that he'd waited there in the darkness by the shore long enough to watch me stumble through my own campfire like an idiot, setting my clothes aflame moments before I prepared to lie down for the night. Relieved that I'd ended that little emergency, I looked up to find him and his two friends illuminated by the soft orange light. And so I died again, satisfied that I'd at least managed to survive two days this time. A record. Such is life in The Forest, a new survival sim available on Steam.

Shades of BioShock reveal themselves in the opening moments, when the hero's plane falls out of the sky and strands him smack in the middle of a community of nutjobs. (Thankfully, there's no need to worry about water pressure or objectivism.) There's a kid who clings to your arm as the plane breaks apart, but he's taken away by a guy who looks like he last worked as an oliphant teamster in The Return of the King. Is he your son? Your MacGuffin? It's never expressly stated, and 30 minutes into my attempt to build shoddy lean-tos and cook iguanas I realized I'd briefly forgotten the tyke even existed. I suspect he'll pop up later, since I have to watch him get taken away from me every time I start the game anew after dying.

It was the nearly naked guy with a flashlight strapped to his head who did me in.

As survival sims go, there are far worse options than The Forest, even in its unfinished state. It lacks the austerity of, say, DayZ, since it complements its statuses about needing food or cleaning off blood before an infection sets in with an unobtrusive UI element that shows meters for thirst, hunger, and temperature. Experimentation is also largely a no-no. Our hero carries in his pocket the world's most comprehensive survival guide (accessible by pressing B), which provides templates for everything from log cabins and weapons to totems cobbled together from the heads and limbs of your foes. All airlines should start carrying this thing.

Crazed cannibals aside, it's kind of a nice life in an Idaho-mountain-man kind of way. The seaside landscape evokes the Douglas fir forests of the Pacific Northwest, and there's even a Mount Rainier look-alike that dominates the skyline from the beach. You can climb trees, and occasionally birds flutter down and land on your arm. Sometimes when the thunderheads start to roll in or the light breaks through to a small meadow, it's worth just sitting there gawping at the beauty. Small trees and weeds rustle and shake just as they would if you hit them with a real axe, and trees fall with a satisfying thud. In time, developer Endnight claims, you'll be able to sample all this in a peaceful mode without the threat of gruesome deaths from the natives. It's an attractive idea, sort of like reliving the story of Christopher McCandless but with the chance of a happy ending.

But as much as I hate to admit it, The Forest probably needs its barely clothed antagonists. They add a necessary dose of tension to every action. Maybe, I'd think, I could get about eight logs by chopping down that tree. The problem is, it might draw their attention. Ambling out onto the beach to scavenge for supplies? You're so exposed that it's always a risky venture. I also like the way cannibals move. These aren't idiotic zombies; they circle around you, trying to stay in your blind spot to catch you off guard before charging. Too bad the alpha state of the game often gives them an unfair advantage; I once swam out to sea in an attempt to escape, only to witness one of them walking under the water as carefree as you please. It didn't end well.

Fortunately, that doesn't always mean dying. Sometimes the cannibals drop you off in the back of a cave, where you wake up next to a poor fellow who's had his intestines yanked out through his T-shirt. Here, too, the unspoken narrative gets a little muddy. Dozens of bodies hang upside down from the cave's ceiling, and jumping up and touching them--hey, I was curious--triggers something to the effect of "1 out of 160 Passengers Found." Were these the passengers on my plane? Aside from the boy and a flight attendant with an axe buried in her chest, the plane was empty during the crash. It's ultimately a small complaint since they do little else besides hang there, and at any rate, you have a cave to escape.

I suppose you could die in the attempt, but I never have. The Forest reveals the presence of enemies with the subtle stroke of an autoharp, usually providing just enough time to prepare. One time after being captured, I chanced upon a gang of three cannibals blocking the exit to the cave, but I was able to kill them by blasting them with some starting pistols I'd found and chopping them with my trusty axe. Good thing they left me with all my supplies when they captured me (and I'm still not entirely sure if that was a bug).

Escape, and you live to fight another day. Or at least a couple of hours. The Forest currently piles on the enemies a little too thickly, to the point that it's difficult to go 10 minutes without seeing one. This is a problem when you're building stuff. Case in point: I've never been able to survive long enough to sleep in a shelter I've built and thus save my progress; the cannibals always find me first. (I hear that sleeping is bugged right now anyway.) My death in the opening paragraph? That was but moments before I'd planned to sleep in the little hunter's shack I'd just finished. Developer Endnight Games might do well to limit thine own appearance of cannibals based on whether it's night or day.

The Forest is a nice counterpart to DayZ's heavy emphasis on interactions with other players. Here, it's just you against the world. Given time, the game might even be great. But right now the glitches are almost as common as the cannibals, whether it's little stuff like seeing logs float well away from where they're supposed to be when you're building something or more pressing concerns such as the water-walking baddies. Only seconds after I booted it up for the first time, I was stuck in a rock-bashing animation that couldn't be fixed without a full restart. It's a lot better than you normally get with games labeled "alpha" these days, but it's an alpha nonetheless. Now if you don't mind, I'd like to get back to playing.

What's There?

A single-player survival game that pits you against the trials of the wilderness and some hungry cannibals.

What's To Come?

Possibly a multiplayer or cooperative mode, but Endnight wants to deliver a different "feel" than DayZ and Rust.

What Does it Cost?

$14.99

When Will it Be Finished?

There's currently no concrete release date.

What's the Verdict?

Despite its cannibals, The Forest delivers a survival experience that feels more "real" than many of its counterparts. You hunt, build shelters, and fight in a beautiful world that's oblivious to the action. It's largely playable in its current state, but you might want to wait a bit for the team to iron out some significant bugs and glitches.

Written By

Leif Johnson (pronounced "Layf") is a freelance writer whose works have appeared on GameSpot, IGN, PC Gamer, Official Xb

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Discussion

161 comments
ah17278
ah17278

I think the game needs to add 

Mini map and or compass

Sun Watch or a way to know time
Dodge moves too

Pause time while checking the Guide book

Williams0907
Williams0907

I can't really complain about early access. My favorite and most played game on steam came from it and that's Arma 3. I even got it 30 dollars cheaper. So I know it worked for me.

caramel_cod
caramel_cod

This is one of those extremely rare early access games that starts out good and can only get better, a bit like last year's Starbound in that sense. It's amazing that the dev team is only four people.

Makes you wonder what the end result would be if a AAA dev took the plunge on an open world survival horror game. Maybe something for Mikami's team to do after they finish The Evil Within. Bethesda just needs to lend them the Creation Engine.

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

My problem with all of these "survival" games is that there's not one good finished product.  They're all unfinished, buggy messes... and they'll all probably stay as unfinished, buggy messes.  I have reason to believe DayZ will NEVER be finished or at least resemble a finished product given how long its been out there and how broken it still is, and to me it reflects on the genre itself as the go-to title that represents it.

I like the genre but its a little annoying that nobody seems to be making progress with it.  It's almost as if the buggy, broken nature surrounding these games is a part of what defines the genre itself.  I don't place heavy blame on The Forest for that... it's a new entry.  I'm looking at the games that have been out there for awhile.  These are the kind of games that you should have at least a couple dozen people working on, not pet-projects of a few people.  I feel like the genre and what they're trying to achieve is too unrealistic for the manpower that these people have.

Rigges
Rigges

Going beyond the scams and unfinished products that people complain about (noting that unhappy people are often louder than happy people) early access and crowd funded games do allow for one key component that AAA games have been lacking, innovation.  Of course there will be many games that realize that one success in a genre could led to another (Survival game overload at the moment, and it took a free mod to show the world that this is something that people would enjoy) but it also allows for more interesting titles that publishers might not have a lot of faith in to have a chance. Publishers are much more likely to go for games that have had previous success, less risk and higher returns.  Alternative funding models allow gamer's decided what they want and not a business man in a nice suit.  The price is simple, the money you can afford (if you can’t then don’t since you don’t really know if, in the end of the day, the game will succeed) and a little faith in what you are putting your hard earned cash into.  Star Citizen is a nice example of a game that publishers did not believe in, but players did, and with funding of over 45,000,000 from the players, it is nice to see that players combined can be more powerful than a publisher.  Again, at the moment that is also a game that could go either way in terms of success based on the game itself, but it sparks hope and funds developers to strive for create games that they are passionate about, games that are original and not cloned sequels with a big actor thrown in to try and sway the crowds. Sure, if you want a game that just works, than a game that has been made before with a rehashed story and new skins (and if you lucky a minor graphics update) is your best bet, but if you want a unique experience, then be very thankful for indie games and alternative funding models.

 

vfibsux
vfibsux

Remember when payment for alpha testing was in the form of player feedback/bug reporting?

Banyek
Banyek

wow... PC gaming got really low since I left for the console world. So much potencial, so much awesome idea, and all that in vain. free2play , pay2win, early access and other viruses are ruining the PC gaming industry for years now. When will it end?? When will you finally get to see a PC exclusive, where you just unbox a game , put it in your PC, and everything you want is there, and its stable. Once in  a while you get a patch to fix stuff you didnt even realized it was a bug.... good old times.. I have a nice laptop, which I would love to use for PC gaming, but I just cant find anything good, that are not on console already, or arent shitty drm protected, early access or MMO sh*t

skipper847
skipper847

Should there be better laws when indie devs should finish a game instead of saying there is no release date yet?.  

lilflipp
lilflipp

I suggest waiting a bit, see how often it's updated. Right now it's extremely glitchy, being version 0.01b

Gabe447
Gabe447

I bought it and ive loved every second of it so far and can't wait for all the features there going to add,the games pre alpha aswell and impressive for the something made by 2 people,people should understand that and not hate on it. 

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

Have high hopes for this, games like these are precisely why I love PC gaming, there is virtually no barrier of entry.

Butcer2
Butcer2

the trailer looks so much better then the actuall game ,

stevhall88
stevhall88

empty shell of a game, has potential though

Mr_BillGates
Mr_BillGates

As if indies are bad enough. Add in Early-Access... oh god.

Dickyslamm
Dickyslamm

@ah17278 Please no pausing game and doge moves. If you sidestep them with good timing they literately can´t hit you as it is. This is easy mode stuff and pausing breaks the immersion and makes the game less about survival. Is this what we want? The other stuff are great ideas. 


Did you know you can block with the first axe if you right click right after swinging? You can do that while side stepping and you´ll never get hit by normal peeps. 

jecomans
jecomans

@ah17278 When I was playing there was always a marker telling you which direction your shelter was in, which was fine enough as a compass (albeit based on true shelter, not mag. north).

I think pause time for menus lets you off the hook a bit. Maybe slow time in single player, so there is still some threat, but pause in peaceful mode.

LaP
LaP

@Williams0907 

Anyway it is not like we are never ripped by "AAA" titles. I don't have enough fingers to count the number of times i spent 50$ or 60$ bucks on rushed crap full of bugs and badly ported from the console version. The worst is those rushed crap always get over 8 by reviewers. It is almost impossible to know which "AAA" titles are really great and which are not. They all get 9/10 b3st g4m3 3v4r. The last in line is Titanfall. While it is a good game it is not even close to all the praise it got and imo did not have enough content to be worth more than 40$ bucks. Also the excuse for the big amount of space required by the installation was laughable at best.


I personally prefer to spend 10 or 15 bucks on indie games. Yep sometime it wont be worth it but at the very least it is just 10 or 15 bucks and not 60 bucks.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@jinzo9988 the reason so many of them are early access, is because of how experimental these types of games really are.  they aren't games that big AAA publishers see a lot of ROI (return on investment) on... so they tend to skip over these titles and leave these titles to the indie teams, hence why they are much more interesting than mainstream releases, but also hence why they take so long to see the light of day...

jecomans
jecomans

@jinzo9988 I wouldn't say it is an issue of survival games, but one created by early access success. The incentive to 'finish' (not that I think games like these ever finish in the traditional sense, as they often rely on additional content to maintain user interest) your game must be diminished when tens of thousands of people are happy to play and pay for your alpha build, and you can spend the extra time and money honing your vision more carefully. Whomevers fault it is, it would be nice to have one of them Gold ready. 

caramel_cod
caramel_cod

@jinzo9988 That's what makes this one so interesting. In this super-early state, it's already more playable and enjoyable than some of it's competitors.

Fabian85
Fabian85

Dayz has only been early access for 6 months. Devs stated back in january they are aiming for end of 2014 beta since they are going to add hunting, cooking, player structures, ragdoll physics and improved visuals. So you are probably looking at mid 2015 release date. What reason do you have to assume its never going to get finished?

ACMC85
ACMC85

@Rigges Going back to the scams and unfinished games people complain about. Yes, YOU ARE TAKING A CHANCE. It should be pointed out and unhappy people are louder than happy people, because they were outright screwed.

jecomans
jecomans

@vfibsux Not even Pepperidge Farm can remember any more; and some things that should not be forgotten, were lost.

LaP
LaP

@Banyek 

imo the indie market is actually saving the video games industry. AAA titles these days are so sad, boring and soulless. The same crap over and over again without any originality. 4 years ago i was not interested in gaming anymore. Today i fell like a teenager all over again. Games like Lifeless Planet are actually saving the industry not the other way around.

phbz
phbz

@Banyek BTW, how many of your console games have no DRM? 

Kunakai
Kunakai

@Banyek When will it be your problem? You obviously have no idea how great Early Access can be.

LaP
LaP

@skipper847 

If you don't like Early Access then don't buy Early Access games. It is not like we are not warned about it. Right over the Add to chart button there's a big title in a bold white font on a blue background saying EARLY ACCESS ...

phbz
phbz

@skipper847 A "law" like that, while in theory makes sense, in practice would result on games being rushed. I guess we got plenty of that with many AAA games, no need to bring it to indies too. I rather take my chances and support projects I thing are worth it, and let developers do their job. 

xantufrog
xantufrog

@skipper847 why? You want laws to say "you have 4 months. Make it happen."? Game development doesn't work like that, ESPECIALLY with indies where they don't have the large teams and funding and infrastructure to push things through. 

It's a work in progress - either you are comfortable paying to help fund at the "work in progress" stage or you aren't.

LaP
LaP

@Mr_BillGates 

Some of the bast games in the lst 5 years are indie games. Rogue Legacy is more fun than 95% of "AAA" titles out there. I still play Rogue Legacy here and there and will continue for a while. I did not finish most "AAA" titles i bought in the last 10 years or so. They bore me after a day. There's a few exceptions like Xcom or Witcher but for the most part games like Watch Dogs or Thief are not even close to worth the price asked. They should be sold at half the price to be worth it.

Futilizer
Futilizer

@LaP Let's not forget how much patching goes into early access games. Instead of releasing the game at full 60$ price and not giving a crap what's wrong with it or even bother listening to the community, early access allows the community to shape the game the way they want it in a small way sometimes big.

dannydopamine8
dannydopamine8

@Fabian85 dayz has been in development for over 2years.. waiting for dayz standalone was like a joke

Psycold
Psycold

@Fabian85 They have removed more content from DayZ since the original alpha release than they ever added with the standalone. I mean how hard is it to put vehicles in the game? Especially when they already had them there years ago. 

Jd234
Jd234

@ACMC85 @Rigges LOL if it tell's you you are buying an unfinished product you weren't screwed in anyway unless your brain can't comprehend buying an unfinished product expecting it to be all dandy and finished

Rigges
Rigges

@ACMC85 @Rigges Be careful where you drop your soap (or money in this case) or you will get screwed.  The big scams are pretty easy to spot, while the games that try but fail are part of cost of this approach. It isn't perfect, I agree, but then again big publishers screw people over all the time, so I'm still voting for the more innovative approach.  In theory if you wanted to be really safe you could wait until the 'official' release.  Not to mention a lot of websites are doing pre-release reviews to give people an idea of what to expect before they drop any cash on these games, so there are plenty of ways to stop yourself dropping money on a game that isn't worth it.  I've invested in indie games, unfinished products but never before getting some background information on it first.  I mean, even the example I mentioned above, Star Citizen, regardless of all their funding I haven't dropped a single cent on it yet because I'm still not convinced.

Banyek
Banyek

@Kunakai @Banyek of course I dont have any idea! Just read the comments how many other people have no idea about it!

Jd234
Jd234

@Psycold @Fabian85 If you read anything about standalone you'd read why there are no vehicles right now. Its friggin alpha and they are undecided if they are going to use the old vehicles or brand new one's. Plus pretty sure vehicles aren't a super high priority and require to much work pretty sure they are focused on more of the game breaking glitches and bugs which are much more important.

Fabian85
Fabian85

@Psycold @Fabian85  Your talking about the mod then. What content was removed from the standalone? I would agree if he would have said kerbal space program where dev says where gonna add content until we are out of ideas and then maybe call it finished.

LaP
LaP

@Banyek @phbz 

Actually none of them. DRM wise Steam is like a console. You need it to play the games you buy on it. It is actually the same thing as an Xbox One of PS4.

phbz
phbz

@Banyek @phbz OK, so try to make a backup copy of a game and play it on your console. But never mind, I was just trying to understand how dumb you were. 

Banyek
Banyek

ammm.. I really dont know where you are going, or if you even know what DRM means, but for your information, I have 1200 burned game , 600 for the xbox360 on dldvds, and 600 for ps2. so I AM! playing burned copies since 2003. So what was your point??? Or did you mean making a copy of a pc exclusive ?? what the hell were you trying to say???

LaP
LaP

@Stebsis @LaP @Banyek @phbz 

You are right but then the DRM has nothing to do with Steam but the game itself. And usually if the game comes with extra DRM it is written in the information section just under the languages available for the game.

phbz
phbz

@Banyek Oh ... you really making yourself look bad. Stop it please.