The Lighthouse Customer: The Forest

By Christopher Livingston on June 9th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

It takes a village to eat a child.

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, fighting savages while becoming one in survival-horror crafting game The Forest.

Interesting how priorities can change. Two days ago, my crafting goal was to build a log cabin. Today, I’m more interested in assembling a tower of human body parts. Of course, the day before yesterday — when I was a civilized, practical person pulling myself out of a plane wreck in The Forest — was a long time ago. Things have happened since then. Things. Now, I’m a wild-eyed, blood-spattered maniac, my body half-plastered with lizard skins, tightly gripping a rusty axe and slashing at anything that moves. On the plus side, I only need one more dismembered head to finish today’s crafting project! Whose will it be?

Rewind. Day one. The airplane I’m on crashes in the woods on a remote island. Horrifying, but not as horrifying as what happens when I briefly awaken and get a look at a nearly naked man decorated with tribal facepaint making off with, I assume, my young son. Still, I’m calm. I’m ready. I know the drill. Collect supplies. Feed myself. Pull that axe out of that flight attendant’s torso and start cutting down trees. Survival always begins with cutting down trees.

The punishment for using your Kindle during takeoff is super severe these days.

I sort of had a thought while playing Rust a month ago, and that thought was, “Okay, you know what? I never want to chop down another goddamn tree in a video game ever again. Like… I think that’s enough of that. I think we’re done with that. Forever.”

If a tree falls in the woods and there are only a bunch of filthy cannibals around...

I’ve gone back on that concept, though, first last week while playing DayZ’s experimental branch, because chopping down trees in DayZ hints at some sort of future survival mode that goes beyond simply putting bullets in people’s heads in Berezino. And now again, in The Forest, where chopping a tree down is actually fairly satisfying. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because you can see the cut you’re making in the trunk getting bigger and bigger before the tree finally, slowly falls over. or, maybe it’s because you can heft two large logs over your shoulder and carry them around. Maybe that’s all it takes.

No need to follow the 'home' icon, just look for the weirdly huge cloud of birds.

The crafting guide I’ve shrewdly brought with me on the airplane shows a number of things I can build: campfires, storage containers, and different levels of shelters, from a simple lean-to to a full-on log cabin. There are additional pages that hint at more to come. For now, I build my shelter and crawl inside. When I awaken it’s completely dark. It takes me a moment, with my eyes adjusting in the dim moonlight, but I realize someone is standing a few feet from me, staring at me, eyes glittering in the night.

Some stars behind the trees. And two in front. Staring.

Um, ha-ha, NOPE, I think, preparing to crawl right back into my shelter and wait for daylight. But the woman watching me does something unexpected. She runs away. She flees from me, darting away into the trees, and that makes me bold. Bold and dumb! Boldly and dumbly, I follow the retreating filthy, topless woman into the forest. Naturally, I quickly find myself surrounded by several other members of her tribe. I find myself first battered unconscious, then I awaken in their cave of horrors. This appears to be the home of a cannibal tribe. Lovely.

Maybe games do desensitize us. All I thought was, 'What's his shirt say?'

I gather what I can, including a second axe, and find several of the plane’s passengers in various states of dismemberment. Then I try to find my way out of the cave using only the illumination of a plastic lighter that occasionally blows out and has to be *fssht-fssht-fssht* flicked back on. One time I *fssht-fssht-fssht* flick it back on and, hey, there’s someone standing there.

Relax, dude, I'm not lighting a cigarette. I'm not some monster.

That’s awful! That is an awful thing. I hack and hack and hack with my axe until he falls down. I stare at his weird naked body since I didn’t get much of a chance to while he was standing. His hand moves, raises, toward me. I hack him roughly twenty more times while making some sort of noise like nehhhhhhh (not in the game, in my actual mouth) then flee, finding my way back to shelter as fast as my legs will carry me (not very, especially with such a quickly-depleted sprint meter).

Molotov cocktails, human body parts... the perfect picnic.

I guess this is Day Two. I’ve been scavenging on the beach, where I’ve built my shelter. I start searching the nearby woods and I spot, through the trees, four cannibals just walking around. Oh, shit, what? They come out in the day, too? That’s not fair. I’ve been thinking of them like Minecraft monsters, only skulking around at night, but they’re just walking around in the sunlight like they’re not horrible cave-dwelling cannibal monsters.

Look at them, struttin' around like this is their ancestral home or something.

I also discover they don’t just dwell in caves, they have a little village. This is terrible news, because I’ve essentially built my camp right in their neighborhood. I scurry back to the beach, figuring I need to explore more, to find a safe place to camp. That’s when the attacks begin. The natives patrol the area, a lot, and when they spot me, they come running — unless just one of them spots me, in which case they go running away and come back with others.

One at a time, I can handle. I just keep hacking away with my axe, though I usually wind up injured and have to heal with meds found in spare airline luggage. In groups, the cannibals become incredibly difficult to fight, taking turns falling back and attacking. Repeatedly, I have to run into the ocean to escape, catching my breath on an abandoned sailboat that has gotten itself stuck just offshore. I discover I can craft molotov cocktails using airline booze and rags, and I manage to burn one cannibal to death on the beach. I hack up their dead bodies to make sure they’re really dead, and find I can collect the body parts to craft an “effigy,” a sort of grotesque statue to warn them away from my camp. (You can also use limbs as bludgeons.) This seems like a good idea. I should build an effigy.

Build something with your own two hands and several of someone else's hands.

Day Three. They keep attacking. All the time. I can’t do anything, can’t build anything, they’re everywhere, and I keep having to escape to the sailboat. I’m out of rags for molotovs and I’m out of food and frankly, I’m out of patience. I’m also one head short of completing my effigy, so I’ve decided to invade their camp for a change. I’ve killed some lizards and stuck their bloody skins all over my body as armor, because that makes sense to me at this point. I scout the cannibal camp for a bit — they have their own gruesome effigy that I’m envious of — and I spot the tribe walking away in a line, out on patrol. I sneak in and start stealing their stuff, which mostly consists of charred corpses, luggage, and other odds and ends from the crash. Then I notice they didn’t all leave. Three of them have stayed behind.

I don't know why I can't just join them. I'm just as horrifying at this point.

It’s over quickly. I’m dead, having survived three days. Is it for the best? I mean, another day and I probably would’ve become a cannibal myself.

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18 Comments »

  1. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Now I’ve got visions of one of those seat-back cards which shows people sliding down the inflatable ramp, and then chopping down trees and building a computer that can play “Daisy” out of Redstone.

  2. Eight Rooks says:

    Yeah, while I genuinely love The Forest even at this early, buggy, glitchy stage, the potential for hi-larious comedy is certainly part of it. You don’t even need the glitches to find something to giggle at, half the time. I love the way the body parts are just blithely sitting there in the inventory, like you can imagine yourself/the guy unpacking them every time – “Okay, stick, stick, rock, leaves, airplane booze, head, foot, arm, ew, that one’s leaking…” And the idea of wrapping yourself in lizard skins as an IMPENETRABLE SHIELD also amuses me for reasons I can’t quite articulate.

    But it’s absolutely amazing, too. Rust’s dreary vanilla deserts can’t compare in terms of mood and how the game swings so well from extraordinary beauty to stomach-churning terror and back, and DayZ looks all right but it’s forever going to be the playground of giggling trolls, and that simply doesn’t interest me. Really, really hope these guys can make a go of this one, because the promise here is immense, and it’s already one of the most entertaining things I’ve played so far this year.

    • SavageTech says:

      You just sold me on this game. I’m going to amass a giant pile of lizard skins and scream “I AM KING LIZARD-SKINS, COWER BEFORE MY UNTOUCHABLE BULWARK YOU PETTY MORTALS!”

  3. Martel says:

    Is this one singleplayer? Doesn’t say in their “About” on their site. I like survival games, but aside from a very small amount of friends for a coop experience, I have no desire to play them MP.

    Edit*: NM, says singleplayer on the Steam page. Now I’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

  4. xcession says:

    I really like The Forest but at this early stage you only need 2 or 3 goes at it to find enough bugs to dissuade you from a 4th or 5th go.

    There’s really good potential here though. I’ve read a lot of opinions about it that suggest everyone assumes it’s a flash in the pan – another Greenlight that the developer will give up on. I rarely use graphics as a yard stick, but the effort that has gone into making a forest feel like a forest strikes me as exactly the kind of attention to detail that could make the fuller game awesome. And that mountain in the distance too, that’s exciting. A few more “biomes” would be great.

  5. ramirezfm says:

    I doubt they will ever deliver, but at the same time I am loving the game even now. Maybe that’s because it’s a survival game that I wanted DayZ to be. It is full of game breaking bugs, but it’s also full of promise.

  6. johnnyr says:

    I would be totally fine if people just stopped giving Early Access titles any kind of media coverage.

    • AngelTear says:

      We don’t need less info about EA, we need more. We need to judge them and evaluate them, and not for what they might or should eventually be, but for what they are now, since people are paying for them now and they may not be anything else in the future.

      Related video/what formed my opinion:
      http://superbunnyhop.com/archives/1777

      • The Random One says:

        I’m a bit torn regarding that video. On the one hand, I agree that Polygon’s EA policy is rather sensible (unlike their website design, haw haw!). I can also see his point about the comment on Sir (which I haven’t played): if a major publisher released an unpolished game and announced they’d be polishing it in upcoming patches, all reviewers would go to town on it and most players would say they’re right.

        On the other hand… I think that treating EA as a normal thing would enforce it being a normal thing. I don’t think it should be; I think it’s a twice removed cousin to the hundred-pound preorder and should exist mostly for the megafans. I expect – or at least hope – that once this deluge passes the Average Player will look at coverage of EA title the same way she, before, looked at preview trailers.

        (I also have a major grip with his rationale for giving EA titles a score. I mean, I get it that he’s asking for consistency – if you give a score to released games then you must also give one to EA’s – but that’s not what he says. By his rationale, we should all just release CoD clones, because that’s what the “average public” will play, right?)

        (also he looks surprisingly like a younger, thinner me. Is he my long-lost brother? Is he me from an alternate timeline? AM I ALTERNATE ME AAAAAAAAAAAAAH)

    • Phasma Felis says:

      How is it worse than other pre-release/in-development coverage?

    • trjp says:

      Yeah, fuck those people who are making genuinely interesting video games – fuck them and their need to eat and perhaps survive long enough to finish them

      Fuck the people who might be interested in seeing how that happens or supporting the process too – how dare the media report things like that

      Fuck everyone unless they quietly work away until emerging one day with a completed item or at least await that in reverence and mystery

      I have no idea what johnnyr really thinks goes during game development but I can smell his ignorance and entitlement, it has a very specific scent – it has heat, a fevered sweetness…

    • hungrycookpot says:

      And yet you keep reading them. Why do you do this to yourself johnnyr???

  7. Kiiyor says:

    Argh! I fell for you!

  8. The Random One says:

    May I suggest Blockstorm for a future Lighthouse Costumer? Not because I think it’s especially good or bad or even interesting, but simply because I, along with anyone who’s spent above a certain value on Indie Gala bundles, have had it thrust upon them.

  9. danimuriel says:

    I’m very interested in this kind of approach to video game reviews, especially those that are still in progress. As part of my research I’m trying to explore this way of producing knowledge about video games. I’ve even written my own diary entry on the first time I played The Forest: http://the3headedmonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/diaries-from-forest-vol1-senseless.html

    I would love to read your own ‘diaries’. No matter if you post them here, on my blog or at any other site. Let me know about them, please. Thank you very much and good luck with your surviving!

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