The Forest (Early Access Review, Public Alpha Version 0.05)
Disclaimer-“This is a review of a great but still in early access game, I shall add a full review when the public sees v1.0”
Why review an early access game? There are many reasons not to, including the biggest reason: it’s not finished. However, The Forest is such an experience that I thought it deserved a review for the Alpha-public version alone. That’s right, the Alpha Version 0.05 is enough of a full game and such a satisfying experience I felt it deserved to be reviewed. This game is one of a few that has actually had me paranoid and truly frightened, as I was immersed in the game’s world. The Forest aims to be a crafting-based survival game that relies heavily on the aspect of immersion. The Forest is successful, even in its earliest of early access builds, in delivering a worthwhile experience. The Forest welcomes you to a plane as the game starts up, then the flight you are on crashes, and as simple as that you are thrown into the unforgiving forest to survive on your own, with nothing more than a hatchet from the plane and whatever little bits of supplies the game decides to generate on this instance of a new game.
I will first cover how the basic gameplay looks in this simulation-like, sandbox survival game that is sure to get your blood pumping (or give you a heart attack). If you enjoy games like Minecraft, where the game revolves heavily around building and crafting things to survive, this game is right up your alley, as long as you can handle the stress…I’ll get to the stress in a moment. After acquiring a hatchet and whatever you can get off the plane (of which you are the only survivor, we think), you walk out into the forest and are prompted to read the survival handbook after only a few minutes of being on the ground. The survival book explains a few key things: you will get hungry, you will get tired, you will get cold or wet, and if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you will die. The book teaches you some really useful and easy to learn basic mechanics. It also shows you what food in the forest is safe and what will make you sick, and how to craft housing, walls, boats, light sources, even traps, all from materials that you must gather and maintain on your own. Cutting down a tree takes a little while, chasing a rabbit can be annoying, and needing to stumble across medicine or a lighter from the crashed plane can be a game changer. This is truly a survival experience, and I anticipate that the game will become more and more realistic as the patches are released for the game.
All the resources are fine and dandy, but what about that stress I mentioned earlier? The stress comes in the form of the creepiest and most interesting AI I’ve ever played with in a survival game. Those AI are the cannibals…war paint wearing, body mutilating, blood thirsty cannibals. As soon as you land, the Cannibal AI are active and looking for you. They know exactly where the plane crashed and time in the beginning is precious. It’s not uncommon to be minding your own business and cutting a tree down when you see something out of the corner of your eye. Something crawling in the trees like a giant spider. Yep, the cannibals will even hide in trees to silently keep an eye on you. You will also find yourself walking along, then spotting them in the distance or end up running right into them. If they see you…you can crouch and try to hide, but once they’ve got your scent…they’re hard to shake without a full on sprint. Unless they see you, or you get too close, the cannibal AI will move along looking for you elsewhere. It’s important to remember that you are never alone in this game, and that will keep you on edge. The AI are fairly impressive in body language, modeling, and actual intelligence for a build labeled “v 0.05”, and I only expect them to become more and more intelligent as time goes on for this game in development.
My game experience has been something to remember. I didn’t quite know what I was getting into when firing up the first game. I will admit, I jumped out of my chair the first time I saw the cannibals, as I was too busy trying to figure out how to play. I came out of the pause menu to find that looking at the survival journal or rooting through the game’s main menu does not pause your game; time keeps on ticking. As I came out of the menu, it was night time already and two shadows were quickly approaching. I played the game for quite a while and survived three days before my first death at the hands of the cannibals. That first death will take you not to your end, but to somewhere far creepier than that. I’ll leave out those spoilers simply because I found it too cool to ruin. I quickly learned that the game world I was in is gigantic and, after doing some research, found that the developers plan on continuing to expand the areas you can explore with almost every other patch (as of this writing, there are patches coming out almost every ten days). The world available, as of now, is by no means small, and it really does hold to the games advertising as an “Open-world” game. After day five of survival, I discovered that by typing, “veganmode”, while in the main menu, I could turn off the enemies, and this was the perfect way to learn crafting and survival skills in this totally new-to-me system. After setting up a nice little fort, I saved, turned enemies back on and played a little tower defense with the cannibals.
Now after going over the basics of gameplay and a bit of my experience and feelings, there is still one big question to answer: “What bugs can you expect to see in the game at this point in time?” The only bug I encountered was a loading issue when I decided to build a camp in a heavily forested area. The issue came about when I went to load my game where I should appear next to my tent, however it took me loading the game three different times before I wasn’t loaded into the ground or under the map. After research, this issue is something that can happen when trying to move about as the world around you continues to load. Other than this one issue that prevented me from jumping right into a game, I can’t see that there are too many experience-breaking bugs in The Forest v0.05. There are a few other things that are worth mentioning about the game, but as I mention them, keep in mind that some of these features may stay for the reason of creating an immersive game, and some may not as they are simply not things that are built into the game completely just yet. The key things worth mentioning that come to mind are: your survival guide and menu when pressing escape will not pause the game, games are only saved as you survive 24hrs at a time, and the game does not yet support the ability to have multiple saves. As a quick thing to be noted, the game is also, for an early access game, with little optimization, beautiful. Running on the UNITY engine, I was able to pump out an average 45fps on max settings on a GTX 750ti Card, and 60+fps on medium to high settings. (See my bio for the PC rig details I game on, if you are a tech junkie like myself.)
Despite the anticipation for more detail to the content of the game and the few things that I mentioned above that may stay or leave, this game is an excellent survival crafting game that has a great amount of potential. With a current buy in price for early access being $14.99 as of this review, it’s one hell of a steal. This game will, without a doubt, “out of the box” and as is right now, provide you with hours of intense survival experience, exploration and immersion. I recommend picking it up, as right now you will be getting a very nice open world game with a lot to look forward to, since the developers do listen well to everything that the community has to suggest. Due to community suggestions we will see: multiplayer modes, new types of enemies, more crafting, optional story arches (that include rescuing survivors), and much more. I would fully expect this game to go up to $20 to $30 on full release, if not a full $ 60. If I had to describe this whole game to a friend in two words, those words would be “Buy it”.
I give The Forest (as an early access game) 4 “Human Body Parts” out of 5
By Austin Gragg