Image: Endnight Games Ltd/IGDB

‘Sons of the Forest’: does the sequel live up to the original?

Hacking up cannibals on a not-so-deserted island and traversing your way through thick, leafy forests, snow-capped mountains and sandy beaches is the name of the game in The Forest franchise so far. It has encompassed the classic survival game outright. And not only that… it has been one of, if not the most, beloved. But the original game in its form was always praised for its great and interesting, if ambiguous, story. It was one that allowed players to not only follow a narrative but fit its pieces together through their own initiative and creativity.

The game in its current state is one that fails to live up to the billing of its predecessor. Considering fans had to wait years for the release with many postponements (at least four different release dates) in the lead-up, there were high expectations for Sons of the Forest.

The game begins with an opening cutscene similar to that of the original. Again, you are in an aircraft and appear to be crashing – only this time you are surrounded by some form of para-military. For some unexplained reason, your helicopter crashes and after it does you are suspended in the air. At the same time, you watch one of your crew members limply fall to the ground. Then you, too, meet a similar fate. But not before a mysterious figure adorned in a shiny silver jacket, with slick black hair and a comically large pistol, whacks you across the face. Only then do you awaken from the black of unconsciousness and enter the game.

For fans of the original there was some fun in trying to find the caves yourself

In this game, the objective differs somewhat. You are assigned the task of searching for others on an island: some from your own crew and others who remain unaffiliated. Added features include a GPS that locates caves, as well as traces of life surrounding the map. In some ways this does help the player travel across the (at times) very similar-looking landscape. It breaks up the time of checking if it was this rock that the inconspicuous slit was placed that I must pass through to enter the cave, allowing for smoother playing. For fans of the original there was some fun in trying to find the caves yourself, and it allowed you to explore the map outright. Now, most of the map is alienable and useless, and only the spots that contain the known loot matter.

Progression is also far too easy. With the GPS, you can already see the path to victory. You know where all the items are as long as you can use a digital map and do not find it too challenging to point yourself in the right direction and follow. I even found the enemies to be quite simple to battle against. Mutants in the former game would charge at you and you could do little against them. In this game, it is effortless to dodge and move out of the way of enemies with very similar attack patterns.

However, this game takes the original’s graphics to a whole new level, and this point has not been contested. The game looks and feels beautiful. For a new release it is not as buggy as you would expect, although it does rely on you having quite a sophisticated device to play it. This has been a downside for many players, leading to crashing and bugs for the poor souls that played the game with computers outside of the parameters of the recommended specification page on Steam.

In this game, the mechanics that allowed you to build great fortresses of old are lost. I thought that the new building style was cumbersome, tiring and long. While entirely realistic, having to place each twig and log to create a base is not necessarily enjoyable. The original game had elements of the real, but areas such as building were optimised for efficiency. More to the point, the fact that enemies can very quickly destroy your structures leaves little reason to build such a thing in the first place.

All in all, I found Sons of the Forest a little bit of an underwhelming game

The addition of companions in the game is instead a welcomed mechanic. It is nothing new to survival games to have resourceful friends that surround you, but they are beneficial if you do not have any friends of your own to play the game with you. One criticism of this addition is that you are no longer the lone man in the forest: while the companion that you are provided is vulnerable at the start, you hardly have to tend to him. He is resourceful and self-sufficient and is really just used as an extra pair of hands to gather and construct.

All in all, I found Sons of the Forest a little bit of an underwhelming game, but with the essential elements of a good survival experience. It is still objectively fun. Despite critiques, if only a few, it remains an enjoyable game. However, compared to the previous game in the franchise, it really does not live up to The Forest‘s legacy.


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