Sons of the Forest is the sequel to the famous survival horror game, The Forest, which significantly impacted its genre the way it introduced building and crafting into the survival horror gameplay. But despite The Forest's prominence in the PC-gaming space, I have mixed feelings about it. Some of its glaring flaws, such as bugs and a general sense of it not being entirely finished before release, were issues I hoped could be remedied in the franchise's newest entry.
Sons of the Forest maintains the gameplay and tone from the first game, combining a thrilling atmosphere with a unique, survival-action experience that pulled me deeper into the forest for another round. Unfortunately, it strongly follows suit of the prequel, once again swaddled with an early access ribbon. This Sons of the Forest review comes amid the release of the early access build, which I took into account while exploring and fleshing out my feelings about the game. No doubt, if you play this game three years after me, you won't experience precisely the same game that I did.
The eerie atmosphere in Sons of the Forest left me unsettled and fully immersed, precisely what I hoped for. As my team of mercenaries were shot out of the sky, we looked for a landing zone on the island. Knowing that the game wouldn't leave me alone for long, I scrambled to make a shelter and arm myself. The constant, visceral feeling of being watched was only elevated when the night came, as all I had was a pocket lighter and a stick in my hand.
Sons of the Forest only provides the most straightforward crafting instructions, leaving me to figure out most of the building process independently. What's more, the feeling of true survival horror didn't let up as I explored the game further—it merely changed shape. Soon, I discovered that more than simply roaming the island is necessary to progress the storyline. Hence, I entered a claustrophobic and gloomy domain where mutants live, opening up the game to a greater domain of terror. The sheer fright of meeting them in darkness exemplifies the fantastic atmosphere that Sons of the Forest successfully creates.
Score: 5/5 Stars
Sons of the Forest presents strong and competent visuals throughout. I felt that the developers at Endnight Games put their heart and soul into creating this gorgeous, isolated setting. Although Sons of the Forest is still in early access, I knew the game had a lot to offer graphic-wise just by looking at the raindrops on the glass of a helicopter during the first cutscene.
The first sunset I saw at the helicopter crash site fully embodies the visual treat that is this sequel. The view was so amazing that I immediately took a screenshot. The attention to detail in Sons of the Forest is impeccable—from snow falling on my head when I whack a snow-covered tree with an axe to the fog hovering over the mountains on a dewy morning. The pictures of nature paint themselves in Sons of the Forest.
Score: 5/5 Stars
Related: Sons of the Forest plot, explained
Sons of the Forest brings original, bold enemy design to its realistic AI. The first game is known for its well-programmed enemies, a theme continued through this entry. Starting with cannibals, Endnight Games has developed a complex enemy-AI system to provide an additional immersion level for the player. It's made the natives of the island as human-like as possible. Aside from performing simple actions like patrol and attack, they also have deeper programming processes that allow them to behave and react believably.
Upon first seeing me, the cannibals displayed curiosity. They also mimicked threatening behavior, like waving their weapons at me and gesturing in a throat-slitting motion. My aggressive actions quickly angered them, but firing a gun made them flee. When seeing a slain relative, they would sometimes run up to the corpse crying or start attacking me even more vigorously, something I never saw in The Forest. Fighting enemy AI in Sons of the Forest was a riveting and fun experience.
Score: 5/5 Stars
The storyline and narration take a backseat in Sons of the Forest. The game explains next to nothing about the events leading up to you getting stuck in a tree on an island full of bloodthirsty cannibals. I wanted more information on how I found myself in this precarious situation. Still, almost no explanation is given by the game. Only a few breadcrumbs were thrown here and there in the form of notes and emails.
Another gripe I have is the linear and narrow story progression compared to the promise of vastness and the open world this game offers. Skulking about, I would occasionally find a locked door. I would later find out that, to open it, I need a specific keycard, and to get to that keycard, I would, in turn, need several other items that are strewn across the island.
More often than not, I felt like I was playing a walking simulator without knowing why I was there and what I should be doing. Needless travels from point A to point B made me feel like I was being punished for not knowing where to go. This approach to progression creates the feeling of artificial difficulty and offers poor context as to what is going on in the game.
Score: 2/5 Stars
Sons of the Forest developers have stayed true to their word, giving us updates with additional content soon after the early access release. Along with several juicy story elements like more letters, the players can explore vast new cave systems, adding new bits to the storyline, like the cave drawings. What's more, the addition of a final boss guarding the last door makes the game more structured and complete.
There are several quality-of-life upgrades, too, like using a GPS Tracker while flying a paraglider, making navigation much easier than when I played. The developers have also systematically squashed several bugs and tweaked the gameplay to make the experience more realistic. Cat food no longer sustains you like an MRE, and the items no longer respawn after reloading the game. All these updates do the game justice, making it look more polished and worthy of replaying once again.
Verdict – A brilliant survival-horror experience with room to grow
Sons of the Forest excels in bringing the atmosphere of a true survival horror to a player as they scramble to survive with little resources given. The game's entire progression could be better, however. The moment I finished the game, it left me yearning for more. Once I knew exactly where to look, the main storyline only had a few missions that took little time to complete. And with a lack of side missions, I didn't have much to do in this game after finishing the main objectives. For the most part, though, it was an overall good ride, ultimately a faithful successor to The Forest that may easily surpass if Endnight Games continues to polish.
A free copy of the game was provided to PGG by the publisher for review purposes.
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Sons of the Forest Early Access Review: A Diamond in the Rough