Four years in early access, a highly active player-base and enough sales to make it a regular front-page bestsellers fixture on Steam, The Forest has done very well for itself, considering its lengthy public development cycle, and crowded genre.
While not quite as ambitious as the excellent (and recently finalized) Subnautica, The Forest puts its own narrative-driven, oft-horrific spin on the survival sandbox genre. Development on the game has shifted gears in recent months, and developers Endnight Games are planning for it to leave Early Access this April, accompanied by one massive final update.
For those who haven't been keeping up with every survival game to come and go (and who can blame you), The Forest builds on a simple concept: Your plane has crashed in a deep forest (shocking, I know), and aside from your child - who is dragged away by a mysterious figure - you're the only survivor. As per genre standard, you must cobble together shelter, weaponry and tools from whatever you can find lying around.
What defines The Forest is that it's as much Survival Horror as regular Survival. It's not long before the game takes on a slightly Lovecraftian spin, with the woods being inhabited by tribes of cannibalistic mutants, and the caves that run under the hillsides contain some creatures that really should not exist. There's also a number of plot threads to pick up as you explore, and the deeper you dig, the more aggressive the locals become, requiring increasingly advanced fortifications if your camp is to survive each night.
The game has been arguably 'complete' for some time, and even has full online multiplayer, but according to the developer's blog post on the upcoming version, they've got a lot planned for the final release, including reworking how heat and cold affect you, and giving you more reasons to fight against the cannibals head-on.
One thing that catches my eye is mention that they've got 'really fun and crazy surprises' planned regarding the ending. Given how wild the current final act of the game is already (a lengthy sequence I do not dare spoil for anyone), I can't begin to imagine what they've got cooking, but I can't wait to see.
The Forest is available now on Steam for $15/£11, although Endnight do plan on increasing that to $20 once the game launches in April, so get in early if you want it a little cheaper.