Checking in on The Forest: Four Patches Later

The end of Summer is a good time to go camping, but you can skip the tent and bug spray by booting up The Forest on Steam. Having played the 0.01 build of Endnight Games’ survival thriller until I hit a game-ending bug (which believe me did not take long), I booted up patch 0.05 to see what had changed. What I found was a vastly improved experience that made me consider the morals of my actions. Oh, and cannibals – lots of effing cannibals.

The Forest is a unique take on the survival/crafting genre that drops you (along with a commercial airliner) on an island populated solely by flesh-eaters. You were on a trip with your son, who’s been carted off from the crash site by a tribe of cannibals. Perhaps they will eat him. Maybe they are benevolent and trying to rescue him. Maybe they will make him the chief of the tribe. Who knows? While there are no set story missions, inquisitive players can scour the woods for answers (and an optional ending).

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You need to survive with nothing but your wits and an axe that you find buried in a dead flight attendant. In The Forest “survival” means more than “don’t be killed” – you need food and shelter first and foremost. Build a fire with some sticks and rocks, grill up a bit of skinned rabbit, and use the excess sticks and logs to make a lean-to. Even in early stages the crafting system has an impressive amount of depth, but it seems like just the tip of the iceberg.

In patch 0.01 the axe hit like a wet noodle, and the natives were everywhere. The behavior of these islanders has vastly improved since then. Cannibals aren’t nearly as populous as they were, and they don’t immediately want to kill you. Within five minutes of playing this time, I saw my first pack; they looked at me, I looked at them, and they moved on. Given this free time, I used my survival handbook (lucky I packed this) to make a temporary shelter on the beach while I built my log cabin. (You should always build your shelter on a beach; it’s far-removed from most caves and your view of your surroundings is unobstructed).

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When I tried to build a log cabin in the 0.01 Alpha it ended up floating in the air. In 0.05 I could place it firmly on the ground (84 logs later), and I could save in it and everything, a feature added in Alpha 0.02. Finishing the cabin this time around was quite the relief, since last time I encountered the game-breaking bug midway through construction. I ended up swimming in the air about ten feet above my cabin (which was itself floating) whenever I got near it. Since saving didn’t work at the time, I abandoned the game.

This time, only this goose had to deal with that problem:

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After finishing my cabin, I grew restless. I knew the axe would be slightly more powerful thanks to a previous patch, so I decided to go cannibal hunting. To my frustration they were nowhere to be found. When I finally did find a pack, they ran away when I approached them. Were they like the Tusken Raiders, scaring easily before coming back in greater numbers? Not until I killed one (okay, four) of them, . They scared me, so I busted out a Molotov cocktail and burned the bastards (the only effective method of killing them thus far, as the axe is still ineffectual).

One of them got away. Did he warn the others? Did the four dead bodies give off a pheromone that brought signified a threat that needed to be eliminated? The exact cause is unclear, but killing those tribesman opened the flood gates, and before I knew it more than a dozen cannibals were on my beach. Their impressive AI really put me through the ringer. They protected their wounded, distracted me from the front while flanking me, and made me glad that I could reload saves.

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Endnight still has a laundry list of bugs to work through, the details of which would be better-served on an official bug report, but The Forest has already shown vast improvements in crafting, AI and the environment. I’ll be watching The Forest very closely, because the finished product is quickly shaping up to be a must-play.