The Forest is a revelation. It's not an action game, but will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. It's not an RPG, but it will have you juggling inventory systems like there's no tomorrow. It's not a horror game, nor is it a survival game, and heaven forbid you describe it as a survival horror game. No, what The Forest is is a horror-survival game, and the order of those words is important. The same applies to its incoming sequel, Sons of the Forest.
If that sounds pedantic, it may well be. But it's also justified, and it's full credit to the talents of indie outfit Endnight Games in crafting something that effortlessly weaves old fashioned horror – jumpscares, unpredictable enemies, and nefarious corporations – around survival mechanics; a move that keeps both elements intrinsically tied, while somehow also making them feel like separate, independent things. In Sons of the Forest, an entirely new AI system and a map four times the size of the original promise to lift those core interlinking tenets to a whole other level.
"In just scale, the world is around 4x the size of The Forest, but everything is more detailed this time, with more plant and tree variety, more log and stump types, and visually when you craft items, for example, a Molotov Cocktail, you actually see the player take some cloth and shove it into a bottle of vodka," the Endnight team tells us. "When you place a log on a wall or cut a floor apart you see the player actually do it. We wanted this to feel like the ultimate camping simulator meets a terrifying horror survival game."
"The A.I. in the first game was something players really responded to, and so for Sons, we wanted to take that to the next level. We created a whole new A.I. system that allows for some really interesting and creepy encounters."
Barking up the right tree
If The Forest epitomized the work-in-progress boom that defined PC games in the 2010s, then Sons of the Forest underlines the elevated ambitions of a sophomore title. To this end, Endnight now has years of dealing with live feedback, of making incremental changes and steadily improving their game with myriad updates – all of which will undoubtedly serve the devs' second outing well. Endnight describes the journey so far as a "crazy ride" which saw its first game rise from an impressive 6,000-concurrent player count on launch day to a record 75,000 concurrent tally last October.
Moreover, much has changed in the real world since The Forest's initial Early Access launch almost nine years ago, which is something Endnight is keen to reflect in Sons of the Forest via its tech and survival tools.
"We’ve introduced a 3d Printer this time, allowing players to print various items to help them survive," says the dev team. "We’ve tried to keep this realistic, so you can only print things you would in the real world. The player also starts with a personal handheld GPS which helps with navigating the much larger world."
"Additionally, this time, players have access to guns and more advanced explosives giving them even more ways of dealing with the island's inhabitants."
So much of what makes The Forest work is that very idea of learning the surrounding environment in order to survive – and it'd seem Endnight itself has and continues to harness those core principles in everything it does behind the scenes.
"The Forest was our first game as a studio and the four or so years of early access was an amazing learning opportunity, being able to release content and have direct feedback right after releasing allowed us to try things and really quickly see what worked and what didn’t work. Making the VR version also taught us a lot about immersion, and we’ve attempted to carry some of those ideas into our new game."
Sons of the Forest is due on February 23, 2023 for PC. As discussed in our Sons of the Forest guide, we suspect console ports will arrive at some point down the line too.
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