Developed and published by Endnight Games, The Forest was a survival horror game which entered early access in 2014 and was fully released in 2018. It told the story of the sole survivor of a plane crash, Eric (along with other random passengers if you were playing in multiplayer, who also had pictures of Timmy in their rucksack for some reason). Eric journeys across the island of Peninsula to find his son, Timmy, who was taken by a mysterious man when the plane crash landed on the island. Finding Timmy wasn’t the only challenge in The Forest; you also had to learn to survive the elements and defend yourself against the cannibals and terrifying mutants inhabiting the island.
The sequel, Sons of the Forest, has been again released into early access; this was announced shortly before the game’s suggested release date. Sons of the Forest is a set a few years after The Forest. This time, you play as a mercenary who is searching for a missing millionaire and his wife and daughter. While flying in a helicopter over the island that they are presumed to be located in, the aircraft is shot down and you are knocked unconscious by a stranger. Upon awakening, you learn the only other survivor is another mercenary called Kelvin, who has gone deaf from the crash (of course, you’ll find some other mercenaries if you’re playing in multiplayer). Once again, you must search for these missing persons while also surviving the wilderness and fighting off cannibals and mutants.
The biggest difference between The Forest and Sons of the Forest is the increased realism in the building mechanics. In The Forest, players had a build menu where they could place down blueprints and add materials to the structure until the blueprint was completed. In Sons of the Forest, there are two build menus. The first adopts the first game’s style of placing down blueprints and filling the outline out. This allows you to craft basic structures and is handy for quick building. The new building feature involves manually crafting your own structure by placing logs where you wish – which takes longer to do but does feel more immersive and opens up an increased variety of creative options too.
Logs can be modified by cutting them up into smaller chunks. Items such as sticks and logs can also be placed on the ground either standing up or laying flat, allowing you to create walls or fences. You can even shave off the tops of logs placed vertically to create sharpened defences. Your freedom with the new style of building isn’t complete; there are a few limitations as the game must understand what you’re building in order to help you complete it. I found that I struggled to make a rooftop to my base which was anything other than a Lego-style basic sloped top because the game wouldn’t allow me to put leaning logs down anywhere other than a simple straight line.
To begin with, I felt like the new build system overcomplicated Sons of the Forest. The fact that there are two different types of build menu rather than one makes the entire build system feel “too much.” I think Endnight should have picked one or the other rather than trying to cater towards both, especially because this has ended up with Sons of the Forest having less blueprint build options than its predecessor.
After learning how to work it properly, I actually preferred the new build system to the old one. Not only did it fully immerse me into Sons of the Forest, making this feel more like a survival experience, but it took a lot of puzzle solving skills to work out how to put together the building that I was envisioning. The only downside is that, like a lot of aspects in Sons of the Forest, building is very glitchy. Sometimes you can’t put objects down even though there’s nothing in the way, sometimes things won’t snap together, and there’s even a glitch where the game won’t let you put a log down but will instead keep duplicating it (which can also be a blessing).
On top of this, I felt as if the build menu wasn’t as well laid out as the first game. It’s harder to understand where different blueprints or build guides will be located. As mentioned before, Sons of the Forest lacks a lot of the build options that The Forest had, including overwater building, the log sledge, and boats – all of which are sorely missed. However, Sons of the Forest is still in early access, and further build options have been hinted at in future updates.
Another major difference between The Forest and Sons of the Forest are the graphics. Sons of the Forest is utterly gorgeous, and there were plenty of moments where I just had to stop and take a look at the scenery. It’s ironic that such horrors are taking place on such a beautiful island. To contradict the picturesque scenery above ground, the caves feel darker and more nerve-wracking. In The Forest, it was easy to become lost in caves or miss turnings because they were laid out in a way that required in-depth exploration to make sure that you didn’t miss anything. This hasn’t changed. Just like in real life, it’s difficult to work out which route will take you out of a cave and which will sink you further into the darkness and possibly help you score some valuable loot
Cave exploration is something that could be maybe improved in Sons of the Forest. In The Forest, most of the caves you explored would have something in them to make the venture worth the effort. In Sons of the Forest, there are more tiny caves with repetitive loot than there are ones with valuable items which will help you progress in the story. Luckily, these kinds of caves are small, so you won’t spend too long in them. Still, the hike to their location itself makes this really disappointing when you finally enter the cave, hoping to find something interesting only to discover a couple of bundles of rope, cloth, wire and tinned food. However, Sons of the Forest does use the clever effect of some enemies not appearing above ground until you’ve first explored a cave; ensuring that your first encounter with some of the game’s most gruesome designs will be in a near pitch black environment.
There are also seasons in Sons of the Forest, which is a new inclusion to the series. Seasons add to the immersion and realism of the game, as when winter hits and freezes over the lakes, it’s much more difficult to find places to drink from. It also means that enemies will be able to attack you more easily if you have tried building near water, which you might have done for protection (enemies still can’t swim in Sons of the Forest).
Sons of the Forest is huge. If anything, the map size feels a little too big, considering there’s less to do in it than there was in The Forest. However, it should also be noted that the game is still in early access, so there’s a possibility that more locations and points of interest will be added in the future.
To assist you on your journey, your character in Sons of the Forest now has a GPS map. This differs greatly from the struggle of finding and drawing out a map in The Forest. I very much preferred having a map from the start, especially considering this island is so much larger than the first game. It also means that it’s easier to complete the storyline in Sons of the Forest, as you know where your objectives are from the get-go and points of interest are marked out for you to find useful tools more easily. However, this does mean there are fewer exploration aspects compared to The Forest, where you felt compelled to explore every cave just to check for anything that you may need to progress in the storyline.
In Sons of the Forest, advanced weaponry is much easier to come by. In The Forest, you needed to collect six parts for a gun in order to use it, however in Sons of the Forest, a pistol can be found at one of the points of interest already marked on your map. This benefit is leveled out by more frequent raids from enemies and more populated caves.
The inventory menu is much more expansive. However, I did find it difficult to navigate, as there’s not much order to its layout and it’s also very big. Thankfully, there’s an option to place your most-needed weapons in a rucksack, which makes them quicker to access than going into the inventory menu. This becomes very useful during fights!
There are a handful of enemy variations in Sons of the Forest, which gradually become stronger the longer you survive in the wilderness. As you explore caves and open them up, you’ll also unleash new types of mutants to the area, making the game harder as you progress. I do think that Sons of the Forest could do with some more enemy variations, especially larger mutants such as the ones seen in the later days of The Forest. However, we will hopefully see these added in future updates.
The respawn situation in Sons of the Forest is much more preferable to The Forest, however it does still have its issues. Upon respawning in The Forest, you would wake up on the plane that you crashed in and then have to make your way across the map to retrieve your gear. This was really annoying as you would respawn with low health, so surviving without your gear would further increase the challenges faced in the game. If you had died in a cave, then you had to fight your way through the cave all over again, only this time without the weapons that you had on you before.
Thankfully, Sons of the Forest changes this, which is really appreciated considering the increased size of the map. Upon dying in Sons of the Forest, you’ll instead wake up in the closest cannibal camp to where you died. You’ll be tied up and have to cut yourself loose, and your gear will then be located somewhere close by. This does have one problem, though. Like the first game, you wake up with minimal health. However, since you’re respawning in a cannibal camp, there are situations where you will wake up surrounded by cannibals. This once put me in a loop situation where I consistently kept on dying while trying to escape, which was incredibly frustrating.
Along with Kelvin, your other AI companion is a friendly mutant called Virginia, who will hang around your camp once you have befriended her. The AI for Kelvin and Virginia is pretty abysmal, however it actually feels like a feature in Sons of the Forest. Kelvin’s dopiness makes for some really funny situations and he’s quickly become a fan favourite. Kelvin can assist with building and everyday survival chores such as collecting food or resources. Once armed, Virginia will protect your camp. I do wish that both would protect the camp and help you gather materials, as Kelvin cannot defend himself during an attack and Virginia is another pair of hands not being put to use while you’re spending hours chopping down trees and building a base. On top of this, Virginia’s tight fitting bathing suit – which goes see-through in the rain – is a really shameful design choice, although you can find alternative clothing for her while exploring.
Enemies are harder to defeat to balance out the fact that you have easier access to guns. However, this makes things very difficult in the early game. My best advice would be to first learn the mechanics of Sons of the Forest and then start a new game and begin building a defended base right away. During the first few days, you won’t be raided as much by cannibals, so timing is of the essence. Keep in mind that when they attack your base, they’ll also try to destroy all your hard work. I ended up having to restart my game as completing my base had become nigh impossible. I was just getting attacked every time I had made some progress, and the enemies would knock the place down again which is really disheartening. But, if you start the game prepared and make good use of the downtime, you’ll handle the enemies much more easily.
I played Sons of the Forest both in multiplayer and single player modes. While, like most multiplayer survival games, Sons of the Forest does thrive the best when played with friends, I do think it stands up as an enjoyable single player experience for survival game fans. The inclusion of Kelvin and Virginia also aids single players with the aspects of the game that become challenging when facing solo, such as enemy attacks and resource gathering.
So far, Sons of the Forest is a much improved version of The Forest. It feels as though Endnight are fully making use of the more advanced possibilities of today’s gaming technology by creating a game that is more immersive and technically impressive than its predecessor. Although it does have its fair share of glitches and unfortunately doesn’t have as much content as the first game in its current state, I feel as though the 30$ price makes up for this and we can expect more content to be added in future.
Jess played Sons of the Forest in early access on PC with a code provided by the developers.
Don’t forget to watch Jess and Nirav’s Let’s Play of Sons of the Forest on GameLuster’s YouTube channel.