Sons of the Forest is the follow-up to Endnight’s 2018 horror-survival game, The Forest. Releasing as an Early Access offering, it has already amassed 414,000 peak concurrent players, making it one of the most-played games on Steam. And, truth be told, there’s a lot to get excited for, what with a new island to explore and new secrets to discover.
Of course, given that this is still an Early Access game, you’re bound to experience a bit of jank. Some issues might be detrimental to your enjoyment, though a few can be downright hilarious or beneficial (such as the item dupe exploit). Having said that, I’m still intrigued to see the full story unveiled.
Sons of the Forest begins with your character as part of a task force sent to find and rescue a billionaire, his wife, and his daughter. Suddenly, your helicopter is shot down, crash landing on one of several possible locations. You slowly try to get up, before someone smacks you in the head with a gun. From there, you meet another survivor, a soldier by the name of Kelvin. That’s followed by a quick romp to a nearby base camp where you slowly learn the basic mechanics, such as your stats, the cold, crafting, and so on.
You then begin exploration in earnest, and the island itself comes to life. The mountain range in the center has snow-capped peaks, often leading to blizzards that will chill you to the bone. Numerous rivers can be followed from sloping paths all the way to the coast. Then, in the more temperate regions, majestic waterfalls dot the landscape, and countless copse of trees hide dangers that lurk in the shadows. It’s helped by the fact that, visually, Sons of the Forest‘s environments look varied and vibrant enough; there are times when you’d simply want to take pause and marvel at your surroundings.
Combating cannibals and mauling mutants
But you can’t just wait around, because many dangers still await you in Sons of the Forest. Cannibals roam the overworld map, sometimes just watching you from the distance, though they can also advance with hostile intent. You can try to scare them away or distract them, and a few items can help you do just that. For instance, the Red Mask will somehow trick them. Barring that, a hastily crafted Spear might keep them at bay. And, naturally, firearms like Pistols will warn them of their potential end, though you could just as easily anger them, too.
Other than cannibals, you also have to contend with mutants that hide in dark caverns. There are multiple variants, such as the slow and shambling ones, the twin-headed creatures with multiple legs, and even little bloodthirsty babies that I call “Tiyanaks” (Filipinos would know). This is where Sons of the Forest truly captures your interest: the exploration of the unknown, surrounded only by darkness, foreboding music, and otherworldly noises. Perhaps you’ll blast these creatures to bits with a Shotgun, or rip them apart with a Chainsaw. Either way, the tense atmosphere and potential scares are enough to keep you on your toes.
Evidently, crafting in Sons of the Forest took a backseat. I’d surmise that this is primarily because I chose a single-player run, whereas it might be more fun to play co-op. I found myself more eager to unearth new caches for weapons and check facilities for keycards as opposed to building a large base. Similarly, managing my inventory felt like a chore, especially with the lack of quickswap equipment hotkeys.
It was immersive, in a way, but not particularly endearing from a purely mechanical standpoint. As such, I just continued to advance, having only the slightest concern about survival concepts (i.e., freshwater was easy to come by, I had enough food, and makeshift tents were fine for both saving and resting).
Looking forward to more Sons of the Forest
Aside from that, I did have other misgivings. For instance, your first companion, Kelvin, is next to useless. While there are ways to control him, the mechanics are a bit too contrived and hokey, not worth the trouble considering Kelvin’s limited actions. On the bright side, there’s Virginia, another possible companion (provided you don’t accidentally kill her, that is). As a friendly mutant, she can equip both the Pistol and Shotgun at the same time, allowing her to take out hostiles. The problem is that her AI is too aggressive, and I often had to chase after her (mirroring how I ran after her prior to making her a companion). And so you’d end up with two characters that you had to babysit: one because enemies tend to pounce on him, and the other because she aggros every enemy.
Still, in spite of these concerns, I progressed further, all the way to the campaign’s ending. It left me with more questions than answers. It’s partially because some information can only be gleaned from scattered notes, while certain cutscenes just popped out of nowhere, making you wonder what the heck was going on. However, these are but hiccups that are part of the Sons of the Forest Early Access stage. With additional development time and constructive feedback, the full release could become a hallmark of the survival genre. For now, you can check out our Sons of the Forest guides hub.