I’ve always been a fan of satisfying games that involve some kind of cleaning up, from House Flipper to the settlement building in Fallout 4. Having just entered Early Access, VIRTUAL MAGIC’s Forest Ranger Simulator is one of these games.
You begin Forest Ranger Simulator with an announcement that you have won a competition organised by the ‘Save the Forest’ foundation and, as part of your journey to become a Forest Guardian, you must now perform the duties of one by taking care of the forest. I did think that this premise was a bit of a stretch and didn’t make much sense. Why would we win a competition to start the trial of becoming a forest guardian? I feel like the simpler backstory of you just being a forest ranger would have sufficed.
Taking care of the forest involves clearing the litter, feeding the animals, disarming bear traps, building furniture for guests, putting out fires and raising money for the forest by selling junk, producing honey, and collecting mushrooms. I’ll be honest, Forest Ranger Simulator doesn’t have an awful lot to it. BUT, I still got four hours of satisfying playtime out of it, so I would recommend it to people who enjoy clean up games. Forest Ranger Simulator isn’t advertised as a clean up simulator, but this does take up the overwhelming majority of the gameplay. This involves going around the park and sorting garbage into designated bags depending on the material, and then disposing of these bags in larger bins which earns you some extra cash.
The rest of your daily tasks in Forest Ranger Simulator are more of a burden than anything that produces actual enjoyment. This isn’t helped by the fact that it takes you ages to get around the place until you raise enough money to purchase a truck; for some reason you have a stamina bar and you’re also unable to cross over even the shallowest water, meaning you have to find a bridge every time you come across so much as a puddle.
And once you do save up enough to buy the truck, there’s not an awful lot else that you have to aim towards. I think Forest Ranger Simulator would benefit from some larger building mechanics such as making gazebos or huts for visitors. You can buy furniture for your weirdly bare hut, but this doesn’t actually add any benefit to the gameplay as you’ll spend most of Forest Ranger Simulator travelling around the forest.
Forest Ranger Simulator also hints in the loading screens that travelling at night is dangerous due to animal attacks… I didn’t see any animal attacks. I also thought it was strange that there’s no way to pass time in the game, and travelling at night isn’t fun as you can barely see anything, so I would usually just walk off and make a drink or something during the nighttime and wait for the day to come.
Another quality of life improvement that Forest Ranger Simulator would really benefit from is a way to order items without having to travel all the way back to the house. This especially became a problem when I walked halfway across the map to put out a fire, then my fire extinguisher ran out while I was in the middle of this, so I had to travel all the way back to the house, order another fire extinguisher, and then wait for it to be delivered while the forest was burning away. Did I mention that it takes a painstakingly long time to travel in this game?
Forest Ranger Simulator looks okay visually if you try to ignore the obnoxious sun glare effects that completely block your vision. And the audio is also okay if you ignore the obnoxiously loud and repetitive sound effects of the local wildlife that abruptly cuts off the moment you reach a certain distance from the source. All-in-all, this game is very much lacking the calming, tranquil atmosphere that you would expect from a game that takes place in a forest.
I also noticed that the pause menu doesn’t actually pause the game for some reason. So, when I thought the game was paused while I took a ten minute break, I returned to my computer to find a fire had started and the forest was burning down.
There were also some messages and instructions that haven’t been translated from Polish yet, so I had messages coming up on the screen which I presume were explaining why I couldn’t perform a certain action – but I wasn’t able to actually read them.
As I mentioned earlier, I played Forest Ranger Simulator for around four hours; completing the tutorial and saving up enough money to buy a truck so I could finally carry more than one rubbish bag at a time. Unfortunately, I then came across a game-breaking bug where I was unable to pick up any trash at all which abruptly ended my playtime.
Forest Ranger Simulator should have been called Litter Picking Simulator as that’s what you’ll spend most of your time doing. In its Early Access state, it offers very little in terms of immersive gameplay and the game breaking bug which removed the only enjoyable aspect I had in my playthrough was seriously off-putting.
Jess played Forest Ranger Simulator in Early Access on PC with a code provided by the publisher.