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Screenshot by Destructoid

Early Access Review: Sons of the Forest

The daughters aren’t worth mentioning

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The Forest was a terrific “get off my lawn” simulator. You built up your cabin in the woods, then spent most of the trying to keep cannibals from waking you up at night. This must be how all those gated community suburbanites see the world.

Released in 2018 (as long as you don’t count all those years in Early Access), it was and remains an indie darling. It was one of the big success stories in the post-Minecraft open-world survival boom.

I got into it a bit too late, I think. By that, I mean after it finished its run in early access. Having already experienced a lot from that trend, a lot of what made The Forest special, I had already seen enough of the sub-genre. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, it just would have likely made a larger impact if I tried it much earlier. However, I earmarked the sequel because I wanted to see what an update could do. Sons of the Forest is that sequel, and it definitely has trees.

Sons of the Forest - Bunker entrance
Screenshot by Destructoid

Sons of the Forest (PC)
Developer: Endnight Games
Publisher: Newnight
Released: February 23, 2023
MSRP: $39.99

While The Forest started with a plane crash, Sons of the Forest opens with a helicopter crash. A helicopter full of very quiet people, including you! And Kelvin!

Kelvin is amazing. Something got rattled around upstairs in the crash, and he’s left dazed with impaired hearing. Despite the two of you being stranded on an island covered in mutant cannibal nudists, the dude is just a ray of sunshine. You write directions on a notepad to get him to do stuff, and he just smiles, nods, and goes to work. He doesn’t necessarily stay with you, instead just wandering in your general direction. But if anyone hurts him, they will pay.

You and Kelvin are on the island to try and locate three missing rich people. You survive the crash with your fancy GPS that somehow isn’t fancy enough to have an emergency ping signal. Or maybe you’re just very single-mindedly dedicated to finding these billionaires. I feel like your priorities would change drastically after the helicopter crash – they certainly have for Kelvin – but escape isn’t really your priority next to saving the one-percent from filthy savages.

Butt tuxedo

Maybe. Actually, you could focus more on surviving, but rich people have the best loot. I just found survival wasn’t much of a priority for me. In the first title, I was working to create the most efficient fortress when it came to keeping people off my lawn, but in Sons of the Forest, the cannibals should have probably been more concerned with keeping me off their property. I eventually set up a primary base of operations, but that was mostly so I’d know where I had stored all my heaps of excess food.

Ordinarily, I kept traveling, setting up temporary camps to save and pass the night. In transit, I was a wrecking ball. If I came across a cannibal camp, I would kill everyone, chop their heads off, and stake them up as a warning for anyone who thought it was a good idea to build in my path. My husband would occasionally lean over to watch my exploits, and he thought I was the bad guy here. Pfft. As if. I’m not like these people. I’m wearing clothes!

Speaking of which, the armor system sucks here. However, when you’re in a cave, and you’re fighting slimy, subterranean nudists, you can skin them. Not, like, entirely. You just shave a slice of their butt off (I assume). You can then just glue them to yourself. It’s called creepy armor, and, at first, I had some hesitation about just gluing butts to myself, but the caves can be pretty harrowing. Wearing a tuxedo made of butts is a much better alternative than being savaged to death by blind nudists. Sometimes.

Sons of the Forest - Quite moment with Kelvin and madame 3-legs
Screenshot by Destructoid

The foundation

I actually played through the entire main narrative of Sons of the Forest and it was… there. This is in Early Access, so it makes sense that it would be barebones, but in its current state, it’s kind of weird. It does a lot of great stuff with environmental storytelling without literally scrawling it across the walls in graffiti (mostly), but there are some gaps to fill. For example, a guy punches you in the face at the beginning, and I’m not entirely sure what that’s about. He shows up again, but I don’t really know what his deal is.

The island feels somewhat unfinished. A lot of the cool stuff is around the places you start off, and the further East you go, it’s noticeably emptier. For example, there’s an entire abandoned golf course and almost no reason to go there right now. Unless you actually want to play golf.

There’s also content that was in The Forest and hasn’t made it over to its sequel yet. That’s not surprising, but it’s something to keep in mind at this point of Early Access.

That said, what’s currently available is pretty solid. It’s a great foundation to build the rest of the game on, and the developers seem to have a consistent upgrade schedule in mind. I’d say it’s pretty safe to dive in right now, but for what it’s worth, Sons of the Forest is planning for around eight months deep in Early Access.

Cave spelunking
Screenshot by Destructoid

The best forests

I also want to note the forests. The forests look great. I love a good video game forest, and, to date, these are some of the best forests I’ve seen. The lush undergrowth and towering trees. The subtle variations of different places and the running streams. I remember too well when I first saw The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and thought those were the best forests could possibly look, so I know that in, like, five years, this will probably be really unimpressive. However, right now; these are the best forests.

Also, there are changing seasons. You just wake up one morning, and there’s suddenly snow, but that’s really cool. It’s an awesome touch. It’s something that video games rarely seem to attempt, so to see Sons of the Forest go the extra mile to implement them is just delicious. I just feel sorry for the nudists since that has to be chilly.

If you played The Forest, you generally know what you’re in for. Sons of the Forest is largely that, but upgraded. There’s still some work to do, and I have a laundry list of things I want to see, but I have zero regrets about binging the whole thing over a single weekend. It’s maybe not a transcendental title that reinvents open-world survival, but it’s a nice addition otherwise. It might be a lot of fun in multiplayer, but there’s no chance I would ever bring someone along with me to a secluded island. Except for Kelvin. And that three-legged woman. They’re cool.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]

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Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.