The RPS Conversation: The Forest Early Access

By RPS on June 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

The Forest is a singleplayer FPS which mixes Rust-like crafting and survival with a setting more visually stunning than you’d think possible from a four-person indie team. It entered early access on Steam last week, and Adam and Graham spent the weekend shivering alone in the rain (and in the game) so they could bring you their impressions.

Graham: I am slick and naked like a fine young cannibal. LET’S DO THIS. Where “THIS” is talk about The Forest, the new survival horror/Minecraft-alike/singleplayer Rust/early access game that came out late last week.

Does an Adam shit himself in The Forest?

Adam: I’m shell-shocked, confused and handy with an axe, like the sole (?) survivor of a plane crash. I hate forests and want nothing more than to chop them down and make a shelter out of their innards.

I used a ‘?’ there but we’re not the sole survivor of that crash are we. The wee lad who gets taken away at the beginning looks like an endgame quest to me. Save the son.

Computer games have taught me to see family members and loved ones as objects to retrieve in high level quests.

Graham: Craftable children. Gather 12 sticks, 8 rocks and 15 logs to re-build your son.

Adam: How much of The Forest have you played, Graham? As far as I’m aware, with limited experience I admit, it’s impossible to craft a son.

Graham: I’ve played Not Very Much, but I’ve played Not Very Much repeatedly. I don’t know if I haven’t found its rhythm yet or if it’s just quite hard, but it seems quite hard. I’m living a Groundhog Day of my first experience, which was: wake up in the plane wreck, start building a shelter, almost immediately be confronted by a family of Burning Man attendees, and then die in a cave.

Adam: That’s my experience as well, although I’ve only Murrayed my way through it twice.

I wander away from the plane, chop down some trees, struggle to find sticks (HOW DO I STRUGGLE TO FIND STICKS IN A FOREST, HUH?) and then I see some chap running up and down a tree, so I swing my axe at him and then. BAM. I’m in a cave.

Graham: On my last go, I managed to successfully build that shelter, though it didn’t make any difference. Partly that’s because the save mechanic doesn’t seem to be in yet, and partly that’s because the Blue Man Group Without The Blue woke me up in the middle of the night to kick the shit out of me.

They are very rude.

Adam: They’re either fine young cannibals, Burning Man attendees or the Blue Man Group Without The Blue – not all three. This is outrageous.

I shall now think of them as an army of Tobias Fünkes

I do like the way they approach tentatively. Like they’re as frightened of me as I am of them. That’s what my mum used to tell me about spiders but I still won’t be in the same room as one.
And I shall take the same approach with the cannibals. When I do get round to building a room, I won’t let them in.

Graham: Yeah, their behaviour is interesting. I make fun, but I’ve found them legitimately chilling so far. As in, I got a real chill down my spine when they first attacked me. The way they skirt around your periphery is unsettling.

Adam: Same. They move too quickly to be properly human, or at least that’s how it seems. And then they start climbing and clambering, which I absolutely cannot do, and I start to get the willies something proper.

Graham: I keep thinking they’re going to Clever Girl me into being surrounded, but there’s not yet any tactic to them I can discern. That seems partly that they’re deliberately skittish, and partly that they’re maybe a bit wonky. At one point a group of them at the beach spent almost an entire day looking out to sea.

Adam: I really love how it seems like just the one has approached and then as you try to track it, another pops up.

Just because they’re cannibals doesn’t mean they don’t feel the soulful call of the sea that every creature with a soul is prone to.

You have a very reductive view of the cannibals.

Graham: I like that they hunker down and hide in the long grass. Also that bushes, at certain levels of distance, have clearly been designed to look like the silhouette of a person. I’m always on edge when I’m playing.

Adam: I guess my main question is, ‘what’s the point?’

Graham: Don’t you care about your craftable son, Adam?

Adam: There’s no save function yet and it doesn’t seem like there’s a great deal to do. So is it worth playing at the moment? I got a kick out of the couple of hours I played but I don’t want to go back for a good while.

I care more for my Candy Wife. A reference which maybe two people will appreciate.

Graham: I don’t get it.

I’d hold off for now. It definitely needs a save function before it’s worth spending the time on. It’s a neat little taster at the moment, and those kinds of crafting/survival/empowerment mechanics do hook me, but it’s demoralising to lose everything even if you survive.

I also wonder if they’ve tweaked the balance in light of the lack of save system and the relatively light content.

Adam: Have you managed to escape from the cave?

Graham: No. It’s creepy to wander around in there with the lighter, but I always end up confronted by the Fünkes. Except for the one time I was crushed by static geometry.

There are tools to find, like a better axe and a flare gun, but they’ve yet to assist my journey meaningfully. There seem to be so many of them.

I wonder if it’s meant to be a kind of last chance saloon thing. Super dangerous and hard but you can come out with useful tools if you manage it.

Adam: It’s very creepy. Reminiscent of The Descent, which is A Good Thing. I’ve made the same discoveries – a flare gun and a big rusty axe. Oddly, I don’t want to use the flares because I’m saving them for an extremely desperate situation, even though I can’t save the game. And being trapped in the cave is pretty fucking extreme.

Graham: But I also wonder if they’re throwing cannibals at players earlier than they would normally, because the broader mechanics are unfinished and it needs the urgent challenge and 15-minute playtime to stop you hitting the boundaries.

A lot of the difficulty is just not knowing what kind of game it is yet. Have you tried stealthing through the caves? Crouching, moving slow, etc.?

Adam: I think you may be right. I was surprised by how quickly they show up. The first time I saw one was startling – I was going about my business (not literally shitting in the woods, mind) and suddenly there was a man standing in a clearing staring at me. I looked back at him, froze, and then he darted off to the left. I thought he’d gone but next thing I knew, he was back again, behind me. Horribly unnerving.

I’ll be honest – I ran through the caves swinging my axe at anything that moved and half of the things that didn’t. I was not happy in there and I wanted to leave, pronto.

Adam: Also, when the (Not) Blue Man Group captured me and took me back to their little hole, I whizzed across the entire Forest at ultra-speed. As in, the final blow that presumably knocked me out sent me flying through the air like a cannonball.
I don’t think that’s supposed to happen.

Graham: The other thing, aside from being thick with cannibals, is that the forest has more animals in it than Farthing Wood. The floor is a sea of rabbits almost immediately, and the don’t run when you club and skin their mates.

As soon as I built a shelter, five seagulls landed on it. Four of them resting on the shelter itself, one of them balanced on the face of one of the other seagulls.

Similarly I don’t think that’s meant to happen.

Graham: But there’s a weird balance in it, between realism and visual fidelity and glitches and necessary gameyness. Trees sproinging into perfect logs when you chop them down, for example.

Adam: I’ve seen what I can only describe as a ‘waterfall of birds’. I hacked away at it hoping to feast on their tiny crunchy bodies, but I don’t know how to cook birds.

I love the damage when you chop at them (the trees, not the birds). It looks ace.

And then they creak and topple, all majestic and thunderous. And then logs bounce miles into the air. Or the falling tree catches on another tree and spins around for a while.

But you’re right, it almost looks TOO real so that the things that don’t quite work are a bit distracting.

Here’s a thing – I can’t remember another first-person survival game in the recent crop that has been single player only. There’s something very unnerving, I think, about the simple fact of being the only actual living thing in a world of mechanical monstrosities. ‘Mechanical’ in the sense that they’re artificially intelligent rather than actual machines (they may be machines like the craftable Pinnochio son – question: was Real Boy Pinnochio a cyborg?)

It makes the situation instantly weird and inscrutable in a different way to the inscrutability of DayZ’s bizarre fringe players.

Graham: Yeah. It’s in some way more alienating. There’s comfort in other humans being in DayZ, even if they mean to handcuff you and make you fight for your pants.
The Forest reminds me of Stalker a bit, for the feelings of isolation and strangeness.

Adam: Yeah. The cannibals won’t tie to me a lamppost, drain my blood and replace it with rotten kiwi juice, but they might just stand and stare at me. Obscure and alien pieces of code.

Adam: I don’t quite get that vibe. I think that’s possible because the crafting stuff feels a little bit rote. Within minutes I think, OK, it’s one of these games – better get chopping, better start collecting and combining. Takes me out of it a little. Although the same could be said for Stalker’s FPS-ness, I suppose.

Crafting + motion blur = the entire game looks like this.

Graham: I think it was the first time I tried hiding from the cannibals. My shelter wasn’t finished and they were becoming more curious of me, and so I climbed back in the wreck of the plane and crouched behind some of the seats at the back. A thunderstorm started outside, and I could hear the cannibals rustling around and the rain falling.

Fear and vulnerability and AI strangeness. And then I clipped through the solid wall of the plane.

Adam: I don’t mind admitting that whatever potential I see in the game lies in the naked mystery of those cannibals. They’re an odd bunch and I like them.

Graham: They have suspicious minds and may yet drive me crazy, but I like them too. I’m also fond of those rote crafting mechanics; if it’s not too laborious to build more complex contraptions, anyway. I like building a base in games, and camping in a forest is good for that. So I can venture out and then (Johnny) come home.

Adam: I like the idea of building a base far more than the act of building a base.

I’m intrigued by the traps though, which were the bit that got me all hot and bothered in the original trailer. All sorts of unplesantness being done to wicked intruders in a way that I found my bloodthirsty parts agreeing with wholeheartedly.

Graham: A trap to remove their head, and then heads with which to build effigies.

Adam: Oh yeah – the effigies, which are contained in a blood-stained and sinister part of the crafting guide.

Who made that crafting guide? Some creepy alternate universe version of a knitting circle?

The idea of the player becoming a monster is neat though. And the way the cannibals act defensive and nervous adds to that. They’re like, “why the fuck did you just fall out of the sky in a big burning chunk of metal and why are there a hundred dead birds in that outhouse you’re trying to build?”

But then they do have an underground lair full of dismembered people so, hey, they’re not exactly the victims in this scenario, I don’t think.

Graham: I think maybe they wrote the crafting guide.

Adam: Doilies, origami penguin, pipecleaner gazelle, papier mache gnome, decapitated head shoved into a torso with arms for legs and legs for arms.

Graham: I’m excited at the potential of the game. It’s very pretty. It’s a bit scary. It’s my kind of thing. But I think people should hold off until at least the next beta, which the main menu informs me is coming in thirteen days and some hours and minutes and seconds. But how do YOU feel, Adam Of The Forest?

Should people play it now, or wait?

Adam: I’d hold off. I like jumping in early and seeing how things change but the things that interest me in The Forest are related to the persistence of the world. Construction and survival over time. In the short bursts that it can be played in at the moment, there’s very little for me to engage with.

But I’m definitely intrigued. The behaviour of the Fine Young Things will be the selling point, I think, particularly seeing how they interact with structures and an increasingly powerful player.
There’s a cooperative mode planned, right?

Graham: Yeah, there is, though I think not until much later in development. I’m not sure how much I want that. Would co-op really improve the experience?

Adam: Well… we should totally go camping together and hold one another, shivering under the stars while skittish flesh-hungry mobs hunt our precious flesh.

That sounds like fun.

But we could always just go to Glastonbury next year.

Graham: Or Burning Man.

Alice: Boo hiss you didn’t mention how many weapons there are, etc.

Adam: A FLARE GUN LIKE IN BLOOD.

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41 Comments »

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  1. Artist says:

    Im astonished that nobody refers to Lost yet.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Lost!

      There.

    • Tikanderoga says:

      That’s pretty much the first thing that came to mind when I saw the wreckage and the words: Survive after a plane crash, craft, etc.
      All that’s missing is the smoke monster.

    • zentropy says:

      This is what I wanted Lost to be :p

    • Flank Sinatra says:

      I hope the missing kid’s name is Walt.

  2. FurryLippedSquid says:

    A good read, thanks.

    I’m interested in the proposed peaceful mode. I know that sounds daft, taking away the single most influencing mechanic, but I long for a game where I just have to survive and, maybe, escape. Without all this monstery zombieness.

    There seems as if there are going to be a LOT of ways you can accomplish this eventually. I love the idea of that. Plus, I’m a big nancy.

  3. kendoka15 says:

    Another early access game, great -.-

    I’ll get it when there’s actually something to do, though I like the single-playerness and the gorgeous graphics

  4. JFS says:

    Is that Lufthansa, or is it Ryanair?

    • captain nemo says:

      Lufthansa – L will cost you an arm and a leg, but only RyanAir will dump you in the middle of a forest where you’re the menu

    • Dozer says:

      You’re not alone – Lufthansa’s PR team arrived right away to paint over the company logo on the tail as per usual after a crash.

  5. Premium User Badge

    quietone says:

    Early access survival horror…
    There’s a pleonasm somewhere in there.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Arathain says:

    I believe Alice wishes RPS was more like http://www.objectivegamereviews.com/

  7. Eight Rooks says:

    Pretty sure the devs have said they’re going for a balance between grimdark horror business and a more Disney feel to the ickle wickle forest creatures, to play up the weird dichotomy of it. Obviously waterfalls of birds are bugs, yes! And they probably could stand to tone down the sheer amount of fauna, especially as they talk about having plans for god knows how many more species. But still, the whole “Come to me, my animal friends!” vibe is at least partly intentional AFAIK.

    Also, you couldn’t get out of the caves? Weird. I’ve not managed to survive past a couple of days (though that’s partly down to not having enough time to play it) but I still got out of there fairly quickly.

    And I have no idea whether I’d recommend the game at this stage – probably not without a save function – but at the same time I do wonder if you’re being mildly harsh. I can’t help feeling even reasonable folk are erring a little too much on the side of caution with these games – yes, there are bugs and glitches, yes, there’s not a whole lot of content… it’s the first public release of an Early Access title. DayZ sold 7-figure numbers, remember? Then again I don’t believe that multiplayer is the endless font of perfectly unique stories and limitless adventure that everyone else seems to, so there’s that.

    (Saving is supposed to be functioning later today or tomorrow, by the way, if you credit the devs.)

    EDIT: Also, sticks? They come from those small leafy bushes, which are everywhere, those tall thin saplings, or they appear on the ground out of nowhere at odd intervals as far as I can tell. (Rocks definitely do, and I’m pretty sure sticks spawn in the same way.)

  8. rexx.sabotage says:

    That was fun :]

  9. tk421242 says:

    +1 for the Jurassic Park reference.

    I would absolutely not recommend The Forest for anyone that just wants to see what it is about at this point. Unlike some EA games in early stages there is not much to do and until the save feature is working I will not play it again. I spent about an hour with it and crafted most things you can craft at this stage. The cannibals are creepy as hell… especially when you find one of their custom made territory markers… namely a head on a stick. Seeing that then just off in the distance seeing one run between trees… instant nerves.

    I look forward to seeing what they are going to do with this title in the coming months but lots of tweaking needed still.

  10. Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

    I’ll come back to this in a year. Too enthralled with 7 Days to Die at the moment.

  11. Jason Moyer says:

    Dear videogame makers: Trees don’t fall towards the opposite side you’re cutting from.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Depends how the cut is made and where the final blow is struck, tbh.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        Right, typically you want to cut the notch on one side and then finish it from the other side, but they fall in the direction of the notch regardless, which is basically the opposite of how it’s depicted in any form of media I can think of. The tree in the trailer for this defies the laws of physics.

    • mechabuddha says:

      Tangentially related, but this is irking me after a comic book I just read.

      Dear comic book artists: Handguns do not have two barrels on top of each other.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    Flapjack is the best cartoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MEA7yF2jxE
    This is a real children’s cartoon, for real: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SL72a4CNz8

  13. Giftmacher says:

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the revolting supercannibals yet. As someone who’s been playing horror games since he could talk, those things cut right through my jaded shell and have severely disturbed my psyche. I’m actually afraid to engage in melee combat with them.

  14. racccoon says:

    As good as it seems, no save makes it a total waste of time.
    I can not understand why they’d release a game without “save game” option.

    • Premium User Badge

      airknots says:

      From what I’ve heard, the game not saving is just a bug. I think there’s a hotfix coming today.

  15. hemmingjay says:

    You have added nothing to the discourse or the human race. Your bizarre anger and misplaced aggression serve no purpose but to steal oxygen from those with a proper use for it. Your absurd efforts to direct people to the game have backfired and actually made reasonable people take pause and consider the type of people they will be sharing company with on the official forums.

  16. Reefpirate says:

    Are you for real, dude?

  17. tormos says:

    likely new and misreading the atmosphere here

  18. razgon says:

    Thankfully, its easy to block people.

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    Harlander says:

    Are there places where comments like that would fit in?

    I need to know so I don’t accidentally go there.

  20. GAmbrose says:

    Well said.

  21. DanMan says:

    Hemingway would be proud.

  22. tk421242 says:

    Do not feed the trolls.

  23. DThor says:

    The tech works! All I see is “comments from an ignorant angry person with rage issues”! Best.
    Having made my snarky remark, I must admit that while I fully understand the concept of early access, in this case it does appear to be a little on the underripe side, just an engine demo. I would expect something with perhaps sour mango flesh, but not rock hard. Hmm, are there mangos in-game?

  24. chargen says:

    I thought it was kind of funny– not great but definitely not appalling. Maybe some people actually thought he was advocating murder for some reason? And were genuinely disturbed?

    I’ve never actually had to spell out such obvious irony, and to such a bunch of wet blankets. It’s kind of saddening, like imagining a world without kittens.

  25. SillyWizard says:

    @chargen

    I think you might be confused.

  26. steviebops says:

    Ive read a few of your comments and honestly, this isn’t that kind of place.
    You might be happier on IGN.