The Forest Preview
What constitutesÂ a good horror game? Itâs not monsters, nor is the gameâs setting. The psychological side of things? God, no. Itâs the combination ofÂ every single element of the experience, including the boogeymen, the locationÂ and everything else you might have thought of. Now, the main gripe most players have with horror games is that theyâre usually very linear and stop being scary after playing through them multiple times. One could argue that the same thing happens with the movies, but thatâs a whole different subject. Anyway, a couple of months ago, I witnessed the trailer of an absolutely terrifying game. It had everything that makes me cringe, and much more, but since it was a very early build, I gradually forgot all about it.
Fast forward a week ago, I got a notification that a game going by the ominously familiar name of The Forest is soon going to get an Early Access release. Naturally, I was curious, and immediately went on to check it out. Imagine my reaction upon the sudden realization that this is the game that looked so monstrously scary some time ago, and that itâs finally going to beÂ released. An incomplete version of it, sure, but still. And now, finally, Iâve got my paws on a virtual copy of a game that seems to be a decidedly nerve-shattering affair.
Letâs just make one thing clear. The Forest doesnât care that you didnât have the chanceÂ to get used to the controls, to catch something to eat or to wash the blood off of your hands. Now that I think about it, the experience isnât exactly dissimilar to that of KleiÂ Entertainmentâs Donât Starve. Itâs just that The Forest doesnât have funny characters, gives you no time to breathe and will use everything at its disposal to destroy you. After a tragic plane crash and the loss of his son at the hands of a mysterious tribesman, itâs up to our protagonist to find out just what the hell is going on, where is his son and what happened to the rest of the passengers, all the while trying to survive the harsh environment of the mountainous area he crashed into.
The crash locationÂ and time of the day are completely random, although the locationÂ is confinedÂ to a relatively small area dedicated to alpha/beta playtesting. The titular forest is going to beÂ much bigger and filled with things to do. No, the world is not completely randomized, but certain things about it are. These include but are not limited to: plants, old human camps, animal and cannibal population, freshwater sources and similar things. What will certainly amaze you at first is the attention to detail this game is filledÂ with. Iâll avoid mentioning anything in particular because thereâs nothing quiteÂ like discovering things by yourself in this game, but take note of how the cannibal AI acts when you encounterÂ them. They never travel alone, and while some will attack you if you get too close, others will run for help. Sometimes, they will be contentÂ to sneak around you and stalk all day long, but they can also decide to mount an attack to try andÂ hunt you down. Itâs completely random, and can seem punishing, but it also brings an incredible amount of immersion to the table. After all, they might be cannibals, but they also have unique personalities, families, personal belongingsâ¦ actually, they act much more humane than most other AIâsÂ from other games do. For example, my first encounter with a pair of tribesmen resulted in me chopping one of them down immediately, while the other one stood up to me and tried to fight. When I finally managed to inflict severe wounds, he started crying and calling for help. I did silence him quickly, but a female with two hunters arrived as an answer to his cries, and she dragged his corpse into the bushes while I ran for my life. Facing this threat is what will terrify you the most, I guarantee you. Especially when you remember that you have to find your son (I guess) to actually finish the game. The devs (a four-man team, mind you) said that there will be a storyline and an endgame, but you will also be able to ignore it and just survive for the hell of it.
As it currentlyÂ stands, The Forest is in its late alpha/early beta stage and is extremely bugged. Screen-tearing, obnoxious performance, AI flawsâ¦ but it deserves the attention ofÂ every horror lover out there. It will terrify you in ways you didnât think were possible in video games, even at its worst. At its best, itâs a tense, scary and unique experience that will surely get you hooked. If not now, then when it all comes together in a more playable, user-friendly way. If youâre interested, support the devs and encourage them to turn it into what itâs supposed to be.