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The Forest Review: Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

  • First Released Dec 31, 2014
  • Reviewed Jun 2, 2018
  • PC

Biting at the bone.

The broad premise of The Forest is far from unique. A plane crash lands on a seemingly deserted island, and you, a lone survivor, have to figure out a way to survive. It doesn't take long, however, until blood curdling screeches fill the night and glowing eyes appear in the distance. Once it sets in that your new home isn't as empty as it first appeared, The Forest evolves into a uniquely harrowing adventure that you won't soon forget.

Cannibals inhabit the grassy fields and pristine lakes around you, watching your every move; they are the source of The Forest's ever-present tension. You might expect monsters like this to attack on sight, but their behavior is erratic. Sometimes they'll charge forward to unsettle you during daylight but stop just outside striking distance to simply stare in silence. Other times they might feign a retreat before leaping into nearby trees to quickly get behind you. The Forest's enemies aren't easy to predict, which makes each encounter thrilling.

The breadth of enemy types is impressive too, and they can get surprisingly weird. As you explore the island more and dive into terrifying, pitch-black caverns, enemies transform into terrifying body-horror figures--amalgamations of appendages that bellow deep, disturbing howls. They're frightening to behold and even scarier to fight.

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The Forest does a good job of trickling out these surprises while you're already struggling to manage vital meters and resources. It's also imperative that you keep a close eye on the quality of the resources you find. Not every berry bush contains a bounty that won't poison you, and not all water is safe to drink. Meat you gather from hunted animals will rot if not cooked quickly. None of the resulting illnesses are serious enough to dissuade you from eating questionable food if you have no other choice, but needing to think about what you eat adds an additional layer to the minute-to-minute hunter-gatherer gameplay.

Chopping down trees for logs or scouting a route to clean water is paramount in your first few days on the island, and once you establish yourself, this goal shifts to fortifying your position with a base, and perhaps complex spike traps and tree swings. The sheer number of structures you're able to build is impressive, and thankfully The Forest doesn't gate your ingenuity with illusive blueprints. You're given a notebook filled with outlines at the start.

Building has a tangible effect on the island in several ways. Resources like small game and shrubs will respawn over time, but larger trees will remain felled for the entirety of your stay. You might turn a dense forest into an open field of stumps not long after you start, which gives enemies a clearer line of sight into your doings. The more you impose yourself on the island, the more aggressive your aggressors become. Patrols will grow and the more monstrous creatures will emerge from their caves for an all-out assault. The Forest doesn't force you to play in any specific way though, so a more reserved nomadic approach is sometimes safer and more viable. But the sheer delight at seeing an enemy trigger a well-placed trap during a raid is priceless, and well worth the risk of angering the locals.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to surviving in The Forest, but the balance between each of its interlocking parts keeps the game moving at a riveting pace. For every danger the island offers, there's a smart solution around the corner.

Crafting smaller items plays a big part when it comes to personal safety, too. Your inventory screen allows you to combine items you've collected to create new tools; from something as simple as combining a few sticks and stones to make an axe, to creating high-powered explosives using a combination of wristwatches, electrical boards, and spare change. The number of items you can both collect and craft is vast, but the inventory page eventually becomes cumbersome and overwhelming to navigate. And with only four customizable hotkeys, you don't have easy access to everything you want in a pinch.

Although it's constantly testing your perseverance and wants you to feel stretched thin, The Forest never feels overbearing. You'll always be able to depend on your crafted weapons as they aren't hampered by durability. Your pocket lighter will always help you see in the dark, never running out of vital fluid. This reliability frees you from the burden of worrying about the lifespan of any potential upgrades you can make to items too.

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Exploration in survival games is usually tied only to your immediate well-being, but The Forest features a narrative that's slowly uncovered by exploration and incidental environmental storytelling. Abandoned camps are a great hunting ground for modern resources and offer hints at past and present events. Putrid remains of long-dead victims aren't an uncommon sight, but you'll also come across small photographs, videotapes and magazines that flesh out a conspiracy with the island at the center.

Uncovering The Forest doesn't have to be a lonely experience, and it offers co-operative play for up to eight people. The time spent getting a fortified settlement up and running is drastically reduced, but remains just as compelling. Co-operative play does, however, deflate the the feeling of being exposed. Larger groups of enemies become easier to deal with, and the fear of diving into caves alone is undercut by both voice chat and the fact that enemies don't scale accordingly. The Forest might be silly fun with friends, but it's at its best when playing alone.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to surviving in The Forest, but the balance between each of its interlocking parts keeps the game moving at a riveting pace. For every danger the island offers, there's a smart solution around the corner. Combined with unpredictable enemies and captivating horror set-pieces, The Forest strikes a compelling balance between survival and horror that you won't soon forget.

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The Good
Unpredictable enemies consistently surprise you
Compelling crafting and survival mechanics
Exceptional use of sound to create unease and paranoia
Effective environmental storytelling
Playing with friends can be a lot of fun, but...
The Bad
...scary moments don't hold up when playing co-op
Inventory management grows cumbersome over time
Some low-quality visuals break your immersion
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Alessandro spent over 24 hours crafting his settlement on The Forest's cannibal-infested island. He spent many of those hours building traps to defend his home, and more than he'd like to admit cowering in the shadows. "Armsy" the cave monster still scares him that much.
31 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for phbz

Good to see this releasing to such a good reception from both media and gamers. I've backed this game around 4 years ago and remember the absolute sh!t storm on Steam forums about this game. So many criticizing it because it was buggy and unfinished (never get why people who buy an Early Access game make this type of complaint) and claiming it was a scam... And now here we are, 4 years later, and it's actually out and with great reviews.

Avatar image for bobbo888

@phbz: actually, it's still incredibly buggy. I purchased it to play with some friends, and it's the most buggy game I've ever played. Suit cases flying around for no reason, floating plants, falling through the world, getting kicked out of the game and losing all your progress.. OH, ad it's the only survival game I've ever played in which you need to save the game, or risk losing all your progress from a random kick from the game. The fact that you need to build a shelter to save is stupid as hell. Small assortment of enemies, male characters making female noises. I just find the whole game kind of meh, and building a base is pretty much pointless.

Avatar image for thedarklinglord

Out of the glut of survival games that spilled into early access, seemingly all at once, The Forest was the one that always struck me as the most appealing - largely because it wasn't relying on PvP. Might have to finally check it out.

Avatar image for banhammer

you just cant unsee that ending.

Avatar image for cherub1000

@banhammer: out on ps4 any day. I love the idea and concept. Would you recommend?

Avatar image for commander

this is a game designed for vr but not a single word about it. Talking about not being up to date lol.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

@commander: The game was designed as a 2D game, but they have been working on patching VR capability in! It's kind of a new feature, and still in Beta so maybe thats why- but still it is surprising they didn't mention the ability at all!

Avatar image for timthegem

Finally, a survival game against flesh-eating enemies.

Avatar image for asnakeneverdies

Regardless of what's said, what's shown doesn't look very compelling.

Avatar image for bobbo888

@asnakeneverdies: It's not, worst survival game I've played.

Avatar image for Oren76

@asnakeneverdies: put head phones on, play the game at night, and, some of the most interesting AI i've ever run across.

Game is too hard though IMO, and searching for stuff in caves is tedious. Very enjoyable gaming experience overall, just not much long term value

Avatar image for bobbo888

@Oren76: Hard??? This game is so damn easy lol, think I might have died from an enemy once. And yes the caves are way too tedious.. So much back tracking.

Avatar image for Smosh150

@asnakeneverdies: It's one of those games where watching it doesn't do it justice. I rather hate being told that, but even during the early days of this game the it was pretty great at what it did.

Though I haven't played it in a good long while, been burnt out on survival games since Rust released into early access.

Avatar image for BeatMastaFlex

@asnakeneverdies: If you like crafting/survival games its great, this is one of the best I have played.

Avatar image for Klop_Job

PS4 release please.

Avatar image for caj1986

@Klop_Job: sorry, looks like a pc exclusive

Avatar image for onehitta323

@caj1986: they already confirmed that it will be releasing on ps4 as well. I have it on pc though .

Avatar image for banhammer

@caj1986: nope, ps4 too just doesnt have a date

Avatar image for Klop_Job

@caj1986 : PS4 version was confirmed a while ago. I'm still waiting, not-so-patiently anymore.

Avatar image for KungfuKitten

Interesting... I've avoided this game because I thought it was a thinly veiled clunky survival game with next to no actual progression or story.

Granted, that was early days. Maybe I'll take a closer look. I'm terrible at horror games though.

Avatar image for bobbo888

@KungfuKitten: It still is incredibly clunky and buggy. Avoid.

Avatar image for banhammer

@KungfuKitten: i wouldnt call the forest "horror"

Avatar image for jerusaelem

@banhammer: It's a game filled with cannibals, Silent Hill-esque creatures, and mutilated corpses every ten to fifteen feet. It is literally, by definition, a survival horror game.

Avatar image for BeatMastaFlex

@KungfuKitten: Combat is a little clunky but its not bad at all. It does have a story with a lot of exploration involved but its really isn't that scary.

Avatar image for nikolistary

God I have been waiting sooooooo long for this to release on PS4. This game just came out but is like 6 years old!

In 2014 I saw a trailer for The Forest and was pumped. 5 years later and it JUST now gets a formal release on PC even though people have been playing it for years on early access.

Ugh. Here's hoping now that the PC version is done they can concentrate on consoles!

Avatar image for pelvist

@nikolistary: They are working on a VR version for the PC now. Its in early beta ATM.

Avatar image for mrbojangles25

@pelvist: have you tried it? How is it?

I just got an Oculus Rift, loving me some Elite, DCS World, and Robo Recall.

I bought and played The Forest conventionally some time ago, so when I saw it in my game library under the "VR" category Steam has, I was intrigued.

Avatar image for pelvist

@mrbojangles25: Its really buggy at the mo but it has massive potential. It could end up being one of the best VR games available when its done. I have only a Vive now as I sold my Rift+Touch so I cant say for certain what its like with that. I havent seen anyone complaining about any Rift specific issues though.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

@pelvist: tooooo scary

Avatar image for HesamB

"Guys take a break I got this" I lol'd :)

good review for a good game thank you.

The Forest More Info

  • First Released Dec 31, 2014
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Sinclair ZX81/Spectrum
    The Forest is an open-world survival horror game where you are the lone survivor of a passenger jet crash and find yourself in a mysterious forest battling to stay alive against a society of cannibalistic mutants.
    Average Rating60 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Forest
    Developed by:
    SKS Games, Endnight Studios, Phipps Associates
    Published by:
    Endnight Studios, Phipps Associates
    Survival, 3D, Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity