After four years, the survival/cannibalism simulation game The Forest is finally leaving Steam Early Access. The game has been one of the bigger success stories of the Steam Early Access program, having already developed a very devoted fan-base. This is largely due to the game actually being pretty damn good and for the past year or so it has felt like a full release, requiring only a little polish.
What is The Forest all about? You play as a man on a flight that crashes onto a mysterious island and has to develop the survival skills necessary to stay alive. You must set traps to catch animals to eat, make sure you have a clean water supply and stay warm. This is all par for the course, since there are now roughly twenty billion similar games in Steam Early Access. What makes The Forest unique is in how it brings horror elements into the same tired old formula. You see, you are not alone on the island, as there is a fairly large native population living there. Unfortunately for the player, these natives are horrifically mutated cannibals, who will stop at nothing to hunt you down and transform you into a delicious second course.
Part of what makes The Forest great is in how these cannibals operate. The natives have several different settlements from which they send out search parties along select routes across the island. You can learn these routes and either avoid them or set up traps to thin the herd. There are a limited number of locals to contend with, so each kill you make actually contributes to making the island a safer place to live. The cannibals also hunt you down, however, and should their scouts see you they will run home and inform the rest of their tribe. Soon, the mutants will send more and more hunting parties to that part of the island to track you down.
Altogether, this makes The Forest a very tense experience. I remember feeling terrified when my character woke suddenly at night, only to find his wooden shack surrounded by cannibals annoyed that I had eaten one of their comrades the day before as an alternative to rabbit stew.
The developers say that they are not finished with The Forest yet, with promises of “heavy support” in the future, including updating the game to work in VR. You can purchase The Forest on Steam and for the Playstation 4.