I beat The Forest last weekend and the main takeaway is that this is a decent, 7/10 game that I couldn’t get all that into.
The core gameplay loop is as follows: collect resources, explore, acquire a new item, and start the process over. Interspersed throughout this is building up your base and killing cannibals, and there’s some good fun to be had here.
The problem is, this gameplay loop doesn’t self-reinforce - there’s nothing in any one part that made me really want to do the others. For example, I built a little base with a drying rack for food, a bowl for water, and a shelter.
This took maybe 2 hours? And then I was done. My base was never naturally threatened, it was safe enough and provided all the necessities. I never needed to build it up. That entire branch of the game felt like an “if you want to do this you can” option.
Ok, that’s fine, then this must primarily be a resource collection style game where resources are difficult to come by and you have to struggle to survive.
Nope. Resources are trivially easy to find. There’s food and water literally everywhere, even in the caves! The caves are not grand expeditions that you need to prep for extensively, for 99% of them you can just run in and eat the snacks you find scattered throughout. Above ground there’s blueberries, fungi, animals, birds that land next to you - the entire game is a damn cornucopia.
As a result, there’s no need to build a base, or even scavenge, because you can just wander aimlessly and happen upon some snacks and soda.
What about the cannibals? Is this a “They Are Billions” type situation where you have to run-for-dear-life from hordes of savages?
Also no! Killing the cannibals becomes trivially easy after you explore one of the first caves and get the Katana. They never came with a large enough force to make me scamper back to my base (beyond the first hour or so), and the cave portions allowed me to channel them into narrow portions and spear them one by one.
This just leaves the story for me, which is well told and engaging. It kept me spelunking around the island and I mostly enjoyed the 14 or so hours I put in. I just wish the gameplay loops were in sync.
I’m sensitive to the critique that people will “optimize the fun out of a game” and I may have done that a bit here by not building a bigger base or anything, but the game also didn’t encourage this at all, so why bother?
With the game design stretching itself so thin in so many directions, what kept me around? The vibes.
This game has outstanding audio and visual design. The titular forest had so much energy and felt oddly spooky in the way large empty places do. I felt a lot like Tom Hanks shouting “hello” at the palm trees in Cast Away when he first lands on the island. It was brilliant.
Nighttime gets even better when you can’t see more than a stone’s throw away and the audio cues kick in even more. It was spooky and truly immersive. The caves did an equally good job with this though they were a little less enjoyable for me. Fewer ambient audio sounds like trees and wind made those sections a lot scarier, but less fun.
In short, wandering around the world is a delight, and that’s the one thing all the gameplay loops have in common.
The Forest throws a lot out there. It’s a base builder but it’s not. It’s a story driven adventure, but that portion’s optional. It’s a survival game, but surviving is trivial. Each of the systems work and in some cases work well, but none work well together and that’s why I put it away after I completed the main narrative.tags: posts - video games