Sons Of The Forest: Never going camping again
Sons Of The Forest is the long-awaited and highly-anticipated successor to the hit survival-horror game The Forest. The Forest helped redefine the survival-horror genre and offered an incredibly unique (and terrifying) world for players to survive and explore.
With such big shoes to fill, does Sons Of The Forest stand up to both the competition and the expectations set by its predecessor? Does SOTF provide a new and interesting take on an aging idea, or does it have its own identity? Finally, is it worth your time and money? We will be answering all of these questions and more in this review.
Keep in mind as you read that Sons Of The Forest is still an early-access game and may change drastically as it approaches full release.
Story and concept
Players enter the world of Sons Of The Forest as members of an elite team of operatives flying over a remote island. Your mission is to locate the missing billionaire Puffton family. However, soon after entering the island’s airspace, an unknown group shoots you and your team down.
As one of the only survivors of your team, you and any allies with you must survive long enough to find the Pufftons, discover what happened on the island, and (hopefully) find a way off it. This won’t be easy, however, as the island is crawling with terrifying cannibals and monstrous mutants.
The story’s objectives are much more straightforward than those of the first game. With a proper map and marked objectives, it isn’t especially difficult to figure out where you are supposed to go next, though the order in which you must accomplish them is still a bit unclear at first.
The main deterrent preventing players from sprinting straight to the endgame is the lack of a necessary object. For example, one cave might be inaccessible without a Rebreather, while that same cave might hide a piece of equipment needed for the next cave. It isn’t a terribly involved system, but it works well enough and provides the player with a tangible reward for clearing a location that can be used for more than just story progression.
The story itself is a bit hard to grasp. We won’t spoil anything for you here, but we often felt it had vital information missing. This might well be a result of the game’s early access status, but overall it felt very scatterbrained.
The best way we can describe the story of Sons Of The Forest is a scrapbook of different storylines. Each of these storylines is interesting and engaging on its own, but how they overlap and ultimately tie together feels somewhat lost in translation.
Story elements are mostly presented tangentially through environmental elements and occasional pickups. Without a clear understanding of the story overall, these elements can be easily overlooked or mistaken for a part of a different event. Lacking the story section of the notebook found in its predecessor, players may struggle to understand what exactly they are looking at when they discover a story element.
Sons Of The Forest is a beautiful game. All of the graphical marvels present in the first game have been refined, polished, and given a fresh color palette to accentuate the game’s style. Compared to its predecessor, we would best describe Sons Of The Forest’s graphics as much more vibrant but slightly less gritty.
Whether or not you are more fond of the grim style of the first game, you can’t deny the impressive artistic prowess SOTF displays. Of course, the game suffers from some graphical bugs here and there, but the development team is actively working to smooth out details like those, and at no point did we feel as if they detracted from the enjoyment of the game.
Weapon, player, and NPC models are all very detailed, with an impressive variety of animations, clothing, and colors. We haven’t found anything that felt out of place or contrary to the game’s style, and all the models function together quite seamlessly.
Honestly, we recommend just stopping and admiring the beautiful waterfalls, rock formations, and shorelines this game offers before returning to the horrifying darkness of the caves.
Sound and atmosphere
The atmosphere of Sons Of The Forest is where the developers succeeded in keeping the first game’s style alive. The forest around you feels dense, vibrant, and alive. While that might sound relaxing, and it certainly can be, players might see the shady trees more as menacing giants once night falls.
The darkness of night is encompassing and oppressive, making the space beyond the light of your fire feel like a dangerous and hostile place. Regardless of how high you build your walls, the feeling of being watched from somewhere in the trees never really disappears. We will mention, however, that caves felt a bit less scary than in the first game. Perhaps it is because we knew a bit of what to expect, or perhaps it was the pervasive blue tint to everything.
The game’s sound effects can feel a bit cartoony at times, but overall are quite satisfying. The echo produced by firing a gun, the ringing in your ears from an explosion, or the thump of chopping a tree are all fitting and rewarding. However, the real artistry of the game’s sound is found in the creepy, uncomfortable, and nasty sound effects.
Mutants’ sounds as they wander in the darkness are wet, unsettling, and gross. Cannibals will communicate by screaming, roaring, and chattering to one another, and we can’t count how many times we have jumped out of our skin when a cannibal scout suddenly screamed out our location from right next to us. Even eating can be visceral sometimes, especially when your character decides to bite off the head of a raw fish or slurp down an oyster.
Sons Of The Forest doesn’t have much music, relying more on atmospheric ambiance and oppressive silence to support the gameplay. That being said, some radios around the island play an impressive variety of songs.
The core component of Sons Of The Forest’s gameplay centers on general survival, requiring players to find food and water, maintain their energy, and generally avoid being eaten by cannibals or mutants. That being said, combat, exploration, base building, and traversal will all be frequent parts of the player’s experience.
The survival elements themselves are well integrated, encouraging players to stockpile food before heading to dangerous locations or to bring energy supplements when they may not have somewhere to sleep. However, these elements become somewhat trivial rather quickly, pivoting instead to a combat-based struggle for survival.
Combat isn’t especially complex, allowing players a basic allotment of abilities such as power attacking and blocking. However, adding a parry has added an additional level of complexity to melee combat. Instead of complex fighting mechanics, Sons Of The Forest integrates survival horror elements, offering players somewhat limited supplies and ammunition and pitting them against statistically superior foes. To succeed in combat, players must manage their supplies and adapt to their situation intelligently.
Crafting and building are two huge parts of what makes Sons Of The Forest so unique. The inventory system utilizes a stylish layout reminiscent of the first game and provides a feeling of great satisfaction when players finally fill it with all the weapons, armor, and supplies they have crafted or discovered along their journey.
Though some players have expressed dissatisfaction with the game’s new dynamic building system, most players wholeheartedly agree that it is one of the game’s best aspects. The ability to build an entirely custom structure through animated, visible means provides an incredible sense of freedom and self-reliance that we haven’t felt from base-building in a long time. Though learning the ins and outs of the dynamic building system can take some time, we hope other survival games will take note of and integrate it in their own ways.
Overall, the game is fun, immersive, and very satisfying.
Though players who complete the game’s story now may return later to experience the full version, we don’t feel players will be enticed enough to replay the game just for the story. That being said, this game still has incredible replay value.
Though the map is static, it’s huge enough that players likely won’t find everything there is to see on their first run-through. Different difficulty levels and external mods add more layers for returning survivors to enjoy. The enemies on the island become more aggressive and more dangerous the longer you survive, so some players will return to see how long they can hold out against encroaching cannibal hordes.
Above all, however, the base-building is what we believe will offer the most replay value for this title. Building a successful base in a unique location is extremely satisfying, and the sheer variety of those unique locations is just staggering.
There are limitless creative ways players can construct their base using the dynamic system, allowing them to create massive towers, hanging tree villages, walled-off caverns, floating piers, and so much more. We will admit that most of the time we have spent playing this game was in service of constructing different bases.
Final thoughts on Sons Of The Forest Early Access
We had been waiting for Sons Of The Forest to release for a long time, but we felt it was well worth the wait. Though certainly flawed in some areas, Sons Of The Forest serves as an excellent successor to The Forest while still offering a bit of style all its own.
The game’s mechanics are functional, well-implemented, and (most importantly) lots of fun. In some ways, it does feel like a game entirely separate from The Forest. However, the moment we first saw one of the new mutants, and were immediately hit with that dreadful feeling of “What on earth is that thing?!” we knew it wouldn’t disappoint.
Some bugs still exist, and some content is missing, but the team at Endnight Games seems to have a clear vision for what they want this game to be and are still delivering fresh new updates every couple of weeks. So make sure to stay tuned and keep an eye out for brand-new content as Sons Of The Forest develops.