I still remember the very first time I played The Forest. It was surprisingly creepy and had such an interesting atmosphere compared to other crafting survival games I had dumped hundreds of hours into, like 7 Days to Die. Over the years, we would venture back into The Forest each time the game received major updates and each time it was a fun experience trying to build an even more outrageous base than our last playthrough. Eventually The Forest exited Early Access and was a complete game, one of the best the genre has to offer. Well, it’s actually one of the few crafting survival games that has successfully made it out of Early Access and even more surprising, has resulted in a sequel.
That sequel is Sons of the Forest, which entered Early Access on February 23, 2023. Originally, that was supposed to be the game’s actual release date, but instead of delaying it, developer Endnight Games decided to go the Early Access route again. The company wanted to get the community’s feedback and build on the game as it did with the original. Normally I’d be pretty skeptical about that sort of reasoning, but I have to give Endnight Games the benefit of the doubt, because The Forest is a great example of what a game should be when it goes through Early Access. So on February 23, a few of us at FullCleared.com were part of those two million or so people who contributed to breaking Steam, trying to purchase a copy of Sons of the Forest.
Having spent a little shy of 20 hours in the game, I felt it was time to deliver my first impressions.
Base building in the first game, The Forest, was quite different than what’s in Sons of the Forest.
Whenever we play these base building, crafting survival-type games, I always find myself in the role of, well, building the base. It’s something I enjoy doing quite a bit, seeing just how ridiculous and large of a base we can manage to build while figuring out the specific rules for base building. The base building system in The Forest was pretty robust, and one that I have fond memories of. As you can tell in the above screenshot, you could do some pretty cool things in that game when it comes to base building. Quite a bit has changed in Sons of the Forest however, and I’m not quite sure yet if it’s for the better.
Base building in Sons of the Forest is essentially broken down into two categories: blueprints and non-blueprints. The crafts that require blueprints are very similar to the original game, where you drop the blueprint and then place the materials to finish the craft. The other mode is more like a “free build” mode that, at least on paper, offers a lot more freedom and creativity. We did run into some issues trying to figure out the rules for building, especially when we wanted to scale upwards and get a second floor to our base. Without the ability to place a blueprint for your overall base to experiment on how things should look before committing the resources, base building in Sons of the Forest is a bit of a tedious and arduous task — even with the assistance of Kelvin, who I’ll talk about more in a bit.
Our first real base in Sons of the Forest took a few hours to get to this state.
Now a lot of the hours we’ve already spent in the game went into building a decent-sized base (it’s actually our third). There are some pretty neat things with the base building in the sequel, like being able to split the log up into pieces and using them as planks or to create stairs. I can definitely see the potential of the system, but it needs a bit of work in its current state. Some parts of it just aren’t very intuitive and this is coming from someone who loves to admit having spent hundreds of hours building bases in a variety of different games. I will say being able to teardown what you’ve constructed without losing the materials is nice, but it’s way more difficult than it should be to tear down a complete structure. For example, if you placed a lookout tower, which is a blueprint craft, and decided you wanted to move it, you have to frustratingly place your character in a certain spot to dismantle certain logs from the structure. Unfortunately, you can’t just pull the ones out from the bottom first and watch the entire tower tip over and fall. Instead, you have to start from the very top and work your way down, something I learned the hard way.
For now, I don’t have any major complaints about the base building, but I’m not exactly thrilled about it either. There are many things I miss from the original game that I’m just surprised to not see in the sequel. It’s a bit odd to me that Endnight Games didn’t just build on the foundation it had and instead went a bit of a different route with the more free-form building. It sort of works and it sort of doesn’t — that’s basically best way I can summarize it right now.
This is Kelvin. He does what you want, sometimes, maybe.
One of the biggest additions to Sons of the Forest is Kelvin, your AI companion who is designed to make your life a bit easier in the game. It’s also great for solo players who are trying to make it through the game on their own. You’re able to issue basic commands to Kelvin, like gathering resources and dumping them off in your containers, or even finishing placed blueprint structures. He can also help clear the nearby vicinity and likes to point at scary things when they show up. You also have to let Kelvin take breaks from time to time, otherwise he just doesn’t listen to you.
Initially, Kelvin was pretty impressive and helpful, dropping off logs at my feet while I tried to construct a real basic base. But as we got into building a more complex base, we started seeing some weird limitations to Kelvin’s current state. In one instance, he just kept running into the wall and seemingly couldn’t find the door out of our base. As we demolished the forestry in our general vicinity, Kelvin just stopped picking up logs entirely — it appears that he has a functional range and if there aren’t any trees within that range, he just chooses to do nothing.
But he is very helpful on the trivial tasks, like filling up your baskets with sticks and rocks. It will also never get old when you’re carrying two logs and walk up to Kelvin to issue out commands without dropping the logs first. The result is you throwing them into Kelvin’s face and knocking him out, so you have to resurrect him. It’s hilarious, really. Maybe that’s why he stopped doing anything I ask of him, he’s sick of my shenanigans.
Overall, Kelvin is a brilliant addition to the genre and I really hope Endnight Games continues to work on his development. Right now, he’s meant to replace the log sled from the first game, but after a while, he just stops bringing you logs if they’re too far away. Hopefully he’s more than just a punching bag in co-op games.
I don’t quite know what’s the story behind Virginia just yet, but it’s wildly entertaining to speculate her purpose.
And then there’s… Virginia
Along with Kelvin, there’s Virginia. We actually haven’t gotten to the point in the game where it reveals her name, but the internet says it’s Virginia and I believe the internet. So far, Virginia is our friend and we’ve been able to place a locator on her as she just hangs out around the base and periodically drops things off at our feet. Based on the fact that you are able to give her certain items, our educated guess is that you can eventually equip her with weapons to help you fight. Like Kelvin though, Virginia can result in some hilarious moments in the game right now. One time, she brought me a rabbit. Except it was alive and once she placed it on the ground, it just ran away. Thanks, I guess. And then there are other times, like the above screenshot, where she just gets in the way of you chopping a tree.
So far, the map in the game seems pretty large. When you start off, you crash land on one of several different pre-determined spots. That does mean you can start off in an entirely different location from one game to another. There are some pre-marked locations on your navigation device, which helps you get started on your way. Caves are also marked, but you won’t know the order to explore them. Sons of the Forest keeps the original game’s Metroidvania-type system of unlocks, where you can’t progress until you find the tool you need from a previous cave.
The upgrades to lighting and overall graphical fidelity is impressive, giving Sons of the Forest a much creepier environment to explore than the first game, especially inside the dark caves. We haven’t done a ton of exploration yet, maybe a quarter or so of what the game has to offer, but what we’ve seen so far is an improvement over the first game. More to come on this in the future.
The winter season in Sons of the Forest can get particularly annoying.
Another new feature in Sons of the Forest is the addition of seasons. Winter was particularly brutal, because the source of water near our base became frozen. This meant we had to trek out to the flowing river in order to get water, and this was before we figured out how to make a flask to store water. Cold conditions also impact your stamina and the days get significantly longer. The other seasons don’t seem to have much of an impact on gameplay other than visually or adding more rain. In the fall, colorful leaves litter your inventory.
The way Sons of the Forest handles your inventory is a cool concept, but a bit poorly executed at the moment.
My biggest complaint during the first weekend of playing the game was the horrible inventory management system. There was no way to hotkey your tools and the fact that you can’t drink water while holding a spear is just… frustrating. I get the balance of making things realistic and tense, but sometimes you just have to do video game things because it’s a damn video game. Don’t make me unequip my spear just to drink some water. But Endnight Games was quick to patch in a hotkey system on February 28. How quickly it works to address major issues in the game is one of the reasons I’m happy to support Sons of the Forest while it goes through Early Access.
We’re not quite sure what causes this, but we’ve been able to generate logs from thin air by spamming a log holder.
Since it is an Early Access game, it’s not surprising to have run into a few bugs already in Sons of the Forest. Some of these have been pretty funny, like being able to generate dozens of logs from thin air. We’ve also seen deer magically run up onto the roof of our base, and then clip right through the wall as if the wall didn’t exist. Some of us have fallen through the map a few times. Audio seems to be a bit off right now, at least when using a headset. Sound effects sound a lot closer than they actually are, which can be annoying when you think your base is under attack.
Performance seems decent, with me getting around 85 fps on a fairly high-end computer, with an i7-13700K with 64GB of DDR5-6000 RAM and a 3080 Founder’s Edition running on a 2560×1440 monitor.
Well we’ve spent many hours messing around with the base building component in Sons of the Forest and now we intend to check out what the game’s story has to offer. I’m not expecting much from it, as I’ve heard it doesn’t feel necessarily complete at the moment. Right now, Sons of the Forest feels very much like an Early Access game, but it’s significantly better than the vast majority of Early Access games. Given Endnight Games’ track record with The Forest, I’m very confident that this game will shape up to be one of the best the genre has to offer. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take years to get there.