Review: The Forest (PS4)

Review: The Forest (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC
  • Oculus Rift
  • HTC Vive

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: The Forest
Format: PSN (2.29 GB)
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Publisher: Endnight Games
Developer: Endnight Games
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), £13.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
This is probably the most conflicted I have ever been with a game. Trying to find the balance of how the game was designed versus what I want it to be. Was that a bad design choice or just not what I would prefer?

The Forest is part of a new and growing trend among survival indie games, a survival game with a purpose. Probably the most well-known game like this on consoles is Subnautica. This is not a game that is meant to be played forever. It was designed to go out with a bang instead of slowly draining your interest until you move on to something else. The developers have a story to tell and they are pushing players towards the finish line.

The treehouse and houseboat that can be built in The Forest aren’t for fun and pleasant cruises. The plane you were in crashed and your son is missing. Where did the other passengers go? OMG… was that thing human?

Although my first thoughts were food and shelter, right away the game tasks you with finding your son and the other passengers. To scavenge the supplies and find more resources needed to survive, you’re forced to explore the whole island and cave systems beneath it.

Review: The Forest (PS4)

I really like the idea of The Forest, but the execution leaves something to be desired. It was not until I died the first time and lost an hour of progress that a loading screen message told me how to save my game.

To be fair to the developers, there is a guide book with a “Basics of Survival” tutorial. However, as I scrolled back and forth looking through the myriad of things that I could build and craft, I never came across the survival tutorial. The only way to select the tutorial is from the table of contents page. Honestly, I didn’t even see it during my first game.

Right away there is so much to do and not much time until it gets dark. I immediately started skipping through everything I could build, trying to create a game plan in my head. The tutorial would have been helpful, but not helpful enough. Yes it’s a survival game, and there are many things I wouldn’t know how to do without trial and error. However, I should be struggling to survive, not struggling to learn the game.

A few attempts later, some Google searches, and a couple of helpful wikis, and I am back in the game. I finally, partially, figured out a decent food source though near constant hunger was the bane of my first few games.

There are so many structures, traps, and furniture pieces that it can almost be overwhelming. After some trial and error and internet suggestions, I had some attainable goals and knew what was just a waste of resources early on. However, many items require vast amounts of resources and/or rare resources.

Review: The Forest (PS4)

A small cabin only requires thirteen logs but the houseboat needs forty and the log cabin needs eighty-nine. Even when building right next to a forest, that’s a lot of trees and a lot of going back and forth carrying logs. At some point this just becomes tedious.

Resource scarcity is a good way to encourage people to get out and explore the island. From the initial hunter’s lodge and basic campfire to having a handle on resources, food, shelter, and protection there’s a pretty big hurdle. Having more of certain resources at the crash site or changing crafting the requirements for a few items would have gone a long way to smoothing out the giant hump.

You will realize you are not alone not too long after the plane crashes. I stumbled across some disturbing structures and quickly checked to see what I could craft. With a couple of Molotov cocktails and a hatch found at the crash site, I searched for anything useful. On the other side of the huts, I was forced to defend myself.

The mood is eerie, now my heart is racing, and everything just falls flat with the combat. Combat is simple, with only one attack button. There’s a stamina bar so you can’t just keep jamming on the attack button. However, the attack is a slow two handed swing.

The enemy was right in front of me but the game doesn’t seem to lock onto them so I was fighting with the controls trying to perfectly line up my attack, while wasting my stamina on near misses. A quicker attack or kick to create some space would have been a welcome addition.

I took out one but the second enemy knocked me out and dragged me away before I could finish him. I woke up, hanging upside down, in a cave. I got free and couldn’t see anything. I pulled out my trusty light, still can’t see anything.

Review: The Forest (PS4)Review: The Forest (PS4)

The ability to craft a torch out of materials I had already collected seemed like a good idea but I still couldn’t see that well. The light was reflecting off some skulls and bones near my feet but not really off the cave walls that I was standing next to. I couldn’t see a few feet in front of me. I blindly kept walking, following the walls, and eventually found a way out of the cave.

The next day I came across another cave entrance and went in to explore a bit. After thirty minutes of trying to find my way out, I gave up and started a new game. Even with a torch, I couldn’t see well enough to really tell where I was going or if I have already been in an area.

I kept adjusting the brightness setting in game and on my projector. I even tried a couple of different televisions. It was just as dark outside at night. It’s weird how my torch light reflected off a pile of logs maybe ten feet away but when I turned around I couldn’t see half that distance in open space. I built a few fires, which can be resource intensive, but they only lit up the immediate area.

One day I rested early and I believe it threw off my rest timer. Every night after that I was not able to rest until it was almost dawn. It’s too dark at night to really do anything productive. I had to rest or my energy meter would be drained but doing so also took up too much of my precious daylight.

Visuals:
There are a lot of objects clipping through one another. Cut down a tree and it will clip through a couple of other trees on the way down. On the way down a tree will automatically turn into a four or five logs and they will usually clip through a neighbor tree on the ground as well.

The amount of clipping was probably a tough balance for the developer but erring on the side of too much clipping was probably the right call. It would be really annoying if not impossible to move a sled of logs through the dense woods if it was bouncing off every little tree sprout or bush along the way.

I’m sure The Forest runs smoother on a PC but on the PS4 there’s a large amount of texture pop-in. Walking over a hill or running through the forest is one thing but even just walking in general can cause the grass textures to pop-in late. The pop-in doesn’t happen all the time but it’s definitely noticeable.

Review: The Forest (PS4)

Audio:
There’s not much audio in The Forest. You do get the generic nature sounds of the wind blowing through the trees and insects making noises. Most of the audio is from the player doing things like jumping or cutting down trees.

The sound effects do what they need to but it would have been nice to have some character audio. I would certainly be yelling my son’s name or probably talking to myself at some point. When you finally find some more rope or other rare resource, that’s certainly worth a small cheer.

Online/Multiplayer:
I only spent a short time with multiplayer. Playing with a couple of friends would have made the game more enjoyable but only because of the social aspect. Obviously the larger building projects would have gone much quicker.

However, many items require rarer resources as part of the crafting recipe. Since parties can build faster it feels like you’re running out the rare resources faster.

In the first random game I joined, I was immediately sent a party invite and after a quick hello I was informed that the two gentlemen needed to go looking for a couple of items they were struggling to find. Because I could only play that same game when the host was on-line, it was hard to get invested.

Couch co-op is sorely missing. I would be much more likely to play with a friend if we could sit down together for a couple of hours and goof around.

Review: The Forest (PS4)

Conclusion:
I’m really conflicted about The Forest. On paper it sounds like a game I would love. There’s a solid foundation here but I’m just not having fun.

The first few hours were really frustrating because I was not given enough information. I wasted a lot of time and scarce resources on failed attempts or doing things really inefficiently. After the trial and error and couple of helpful wiki pages, I started a new game and it was easier to get started.

The problem is there are so many great games available to play. Developers can’t expect players to fight through the first few couple of hours until they find the enjoyment when there are plenty of other games they can enjoy right from the beginning. Wikis can be a great resource but I feel that a game should tell me everything I need to know to get started.

There are survival fans out there who will love The Forest and will welcome all of its challenges. In the end, when the game started to make sense, the building was too tedious and the combat never connected with me. I really want to like The Forest but I never had fun.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook