Sons of the Forest review: "A great horror game and survival experience that balances terror with player freedom"

Sons of the Forest review
(Image: © Endnight)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Sons of the Forest is a great horror game and survival craft em up that balances a strong atmosphere and terrifying moments with player freedom. Whether you want to build a better tree house, or survive the story, there's something here for you.


  • +

    Easy crafting

  • +

    Good mysteries to uncover

  • +

    Absolutely terrifying


  • -

    Lot of backtracking

  • -

    Occasionally annoying random encounters

  • -

    I have to boil water now? Humph.

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It's an interesting experience, returning to Sons of the Forest's full 1.0 release long after playing the original Early Access debut. Everything is… sort of exactly the same but, as you'd hope, better. It feels more streamlined in places, richer in others. The changes add to the world and experience in lots of little ways that improve on what was, as I said for the original early access review, 'already a deeply satisfying game'  


Release date: February 23, 2023
Platform(s): PC
Developer: Endnight Games
Publisher: Newnight

Sons of the Forest is still challenging, and you'll be building plenty of save-accessing shelters as you press on through spooky caves. But it's easy to get yourself in a sustainable position very quickly in terms of food, water, and shelter, so you're free to worry about other things. Although the 1.0 release does add a little challenge by making water sources tainted until you boil it; it's not too much of a problem as you'll probably find enough energy drinks and hydrating berries to keep you going while you look for the pot needed to sterilise things, but the days of sucking up mouthfuls of whatever stream or pond you come across are long gone. 

Despite having to take a few extra steps to enjoy a dysentery free drink, the core mechanics still feel good. You can throw up a shelter easily with a book full of building recipes right from the start, or assign food gathering to Kelvin – one of two NPC characters that can join you on the island – leaving you to play explorer and focus on all the fun stuff. Namely building pointlessly elaborate tree houses, poking cannibals with sharpened sticks, and running screaming from shadowy caves full of monsters you really weren't ready to take on yet.

Once upon an Island

Sons of the Forest review

(Image credit: Endnight)

Much of the improvements from its 15 or so patches to full release can be felt in the way Sons of the Forest leads you through its island setting and tells its stories. There are new cutscenes, notes, and paper trails to flesh out past events and characters. These changes build depth to the clues and events, adding more edges to the wider mystery without fully outlining it. Where, at the outset of Early Access, there was sort of a vague 'strange artefacts something something, rich people doing stuff' mumbling, there's now a more coherent sense of purpose to the narrative. Caves give way to bunkers, bunkers to something else, and so on… There are bodies and clues everywhere that let you fill in the gaps as you flesh out the story with your discoveries. 

One area this extra clarity can really be felt is how you find key items and expand your reach across the island. In the past you'd have a few GPS locations highlighted, leaving you to muddle your way through a crapshoot of caves to find all the gear and equipment you needed. Now it feels much clearer as to what's required, what you're looking for, or where important things might be. That helps ease the frustration immensely of working out where to go next in what is almost a metroidvania feel to how you find the tools and keys you need to progress. Other additions, like hang gliders and golf carts, also help speed up the process of getting around to find all this stuff. Smashing through the undergrowth in a tiny electric car as you ping between locations is just one of life's great joys. 

Sons of the Forest review

(Image credit: Endnight)

Sons of the Forest's Early Access release felt like it had the potential to be a great open world horror game, but now it's undeniable. Yes, there's endless crafting and survival to be played alone or with friends, but it also stands up well as a one and done playthrough for an absolutely terrifying experience. The island is full of weird, feral mud-crusted cannibals and mutated cave monsters and no matter how easily you can craft and build up supplies, you never feel entirely safe. The caves in particular are horrific experiences as you press into the shadows. No light source ever seems like it's bright enough, and things can come out of the darkness with a suddenness that can shred your composure to ribbons. In true 'first person to die' movie cliche, it's so easy to end up running around in panicked circles and getting utterly lost until you either escape by chance or use up all your resources and succumb almost willingly. Few games really nail that 'dying lost and alone in a cave' vibe in the way Sons of the Forest does

The late game especially pushes the survival aspect more. Without decent gear you'll struggle to stay alive in some of the deeper, darker caves that demand your attention. These can feel like literal dungeons at times as you risk all the supplies and resources you've hoarded to get through and out the otherside. The rewards are worth it though, with more story info and vital bits of gear getting added to your inventory. The ease with which you can gather up supplies makes sense when you reach this point – it's less about day-to-day survival and more about building towards dangerous expeditions. 

Best of both

Sons of the Forest review

(Image credit: Endnight)

There's a nice dual pace to what's on offer here, between the free roaming crafting and story, as a result. If you just want to settle down you can – building out a base and slowly taking over your little part of the island. While the story provides a well directed path through uncovering what actually happened, with boss battles, set piece beats, and more. There's both kinds of end game here in terms of narrative and grinding to build the best house you can. And, both intertwine in a way that supports each other without always limiting either option.

As you'd hope, the 1.0 full release of Sons of the Forest is the best version of the game. Unlike a lot of Early Access titles that can occasionally feel a little bare bones that need to be fleshed out, most of what Sons does well was there from the start. The updates have mainly refined and polished a framework that was already a solid and enjoyable game. If you were waiting for the final version, your patience has been rewarded. But if you were there at the start, the subtle improvements make it good all over again, with the added bonus of plenty of new surprises to uncover along the way. 

Sons of the Forest was reviewed on PC, with a code provided by the publisher

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Leon Hurley
Managing editor for guides

I'm GamesRadar's Managing Editor for guides, which means I run GamesRadar's guides and tips content. I also write reviews, previews and features, largely about horror, action adventure, FPS and open world games. I previously worked on Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website.