Sons of the Forest review: "Already a deeply satisfying game"

Sons of the forest
(Image: © Endnight Games)

Early Verdict

Sons of the Forest is a robust and highly enjoyable survival craft em up. With its strong horror roots and fantastic focus on exploration, Endnight has released a great experience that I'm keen to see develop further through Early Access

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It only takes a few hours to realize that while Sons of the Forest is by no means easy, it does take a lot of pain out of the usual survival faff. No punching tree trunks to get crafting resources, no scrabbling around for a sustainable food and water supply – if you're smart about it, you can avoid death from the beginning. This leaves you free to focus on all the fun stuff: 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.


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

It feels counterintuitive to have a survival game where survival is actually pretty easy, but this creative decision creates space for a wider focus on exploration. You start out with a GPS full of enticing markers to check out, which soon sends you off around the island. You can throw up a shelter easily with a book full of building recipes, or gather food using Kelvin, one of the handy NPC companions who can be sent off to fetch fish, making adventuring a simple pleasure. It's a joy to play explorer in this world. The GPS will even regularly lead you to easily harvestable supplies, and the focus feels more on what you do with all this bounty rather than scrabbling to get what you need. 

Danger island

Sons of the Forest screenshot

(Image credit: Endnight Games)

That is not to say there isn't any threat though – the island is full of weird, feral mud-crusted cannibals and mutated cave monsters. It's these creatures who create Sons of the Forest's real survival loop. You can carve a decent spear from the outset of the adventure, but to push deeper into the world you'll eventually need to craft better offensive and defensive tools. 

You could, reasonably, just settle down building massive structures with your friends, and there's a huge amount of fun to be had there. But there's a lot of weirdness in the world that just begs for more investigation. Finding and exploring your first cave will soon uncover strangeness of the highest order – underground offices, locked doors with music behind them, strange redacted notes teasing… well, it's redacted

Obviously I'm not going to say more about the story, but at times Sons of the Forest feels less like a survival game and more like an open world narrative where you piece together what you can and interpret events to the best of your ability as you go – staying alive is just a means to an end. I'm dying to say more, but I also don't want to spoil a thing because there's an absolute joy to some of the 'what the actual fuck is going on here?' moments throughout. 

Sons of the forest weapons

(Image credit: Endnight Games)

"There's a lot of weirdness in the world that just begs for more investigation"

There's a nice dual pace to what's on offer here as a result, because if you just want to settle down, you can – building out a base and slowly taking over your little part of the island. But the urge to explore will take over at some point. Those little GPS markers, and the questions they lead to, are just too alluring. There's an element of gear gating here too that opens up the more hardcore elements of progression once you start exploring. You'll find dirt patches that need a Sons of the Forest shovel to dig up for example, which seems simple but that's really what draws you into the game's second phase…

You see, getting a shovel is a whole thing here, something that requires you getting other hard to obtain items first just to reach it. It'll also lead you to discovering keycards and the doors they unlock, and set you on the track for what is basically an end game. Narratively, at least, as you can finish the story and sort of get answers, and then choose to leave or stay on the island after. 

This late stage game pushes the survival aspect more, as 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 as you risk all the supplies and resources you've collected to get through and out the otherside. The rewards can be worth it, with lore bombs dropping as you uncover information, 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 preparation for dangerous expeditions.  

Survival and horror

Sons of the forest

(Image credit: Endnight Games)

There's a strong horror element to these deeper explorations as well. Especially right at the start when you only have a plasma lighter that gives out an eerie purple glow. When you're in a cave area and shut off from the outside world, suddenly what you've brought with you becomes essential – every dark corner is a threat you might not have the right gear for, and the abundance with which you can stockpile things can be quickly contrasted by the speed you burn through it all. 

I do wonder if the Early Access release was as much a safety net for developer Endnight Games as much as anything else. There's already a deeply satisfying game here that's a literal survival horror game full of intrigue, danger, and surprise. The 'find it yourself' story and thrills and spills of trying to explore the island to uncover more is an engrossing and involving activity. 

I suspect any further development might well target the building side of things where there is potential to expand. You start with a very robust set of things you can build but it's all there from the start so there's little to aspire to. But, in all honesty, this is more me trying to work out how this can be expanded on to leave early access. I'm certainly looking forward to finding out how.

Sons of the Forest was reviewed in Early Access with a code provided by the publisher

More info

Available platformsPC
Leon Hurley
Senior Guides Co-ordinator

I'm GamesRadar's Senior Guides Co-ordinator, 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.