Once you load into the beautiful island for this macabre crafting game, you’re met with fantastic visuals, absolutely bonkers cannibals, and other unusual creatures. As the follow up to the successful The Forest that released in 2014, Sons of the Forest picks up where it’s predecessor left off with it’s early access. With a map that is four times the size of The Forest’s, it’s created a gaming space nearly as terrifying as something you’d see in films like The Green Inferno. The game has up to eight players for co-op and is one of the best titles to play with friends currently if you enjoy co-op titles.
You play as a mercenary (or mercenaries if you play co-op) tasked with finding an elusive businessman and his family. The story here is found in documents, emails, and all over the island, making the story telling more akin to a FromSoftware game in terms of narrative.
There are some cutscenes present, but most of the story is found in the game’s caves, bunkers, and campsites located around the map, making the narrative of the game driven by the player’s interest. Or, if you don’t care about the story, you can just focus on gathering weapons, resources, and building to defend against the island’s many mutants, cannibals, and freaks that want nothing more then to devour you.
As you play through the game, there are some new updates that elevate Sons of the Forest to new heights, with the biggest being the new AI used on the cannibals and the inclusion of companion AI’s to help you along your journey of survival.
The new AI for cannibals is astonishing, and it creates interactions that will have you cynically laughing, or making you feel guilty for putting your axe in a creepy little cannibal’s skull that may or may not have had you jump out of your seat with their scream. For example, if you kill a cannibal and they had companions nearby, you can watch as the companion mourns the loss of their little buddy with tears and screams, and often times after this interaction the companion becomes more aggressive and out for blood. These kinds of interactions make the cannibals feel more then just parts of the environment and more like a relative enemy that changes and adapts as you play.
Another fun feature is that you can be captured by the island’s inhabitants in co-op play, which adds to the unpredictability of the cannibals while adding flair for your friends to come save you. Events like this can happen at anytime, whether you are gathering resources or scavenging for food. Always be on your toes, because you’ll often find that you’re being hunted and can’t see where your predators are hiding until it is too late.
One thing that will need some work is the companion AI’s abilities, particularly regarding your deaf companion Kelvin. At times if you task him with getting wood, for example, and say you build a tree house, I hope you have house insurance. Besides that, his abilities make the game much more enjoyable if you are introverted and enjoy games like this by yourself. He can gather resources and build structures, which, functionally, is a happy inclusion and great idea for a game like this. He just needs some TLC.
The other AI is one you have to win over with your behavior in game, and while not giving any spoilers, their inclusion is the opposite of Kelvins. This other AI can fight but cannot build or gather supplies like Kelvin can.
Building mechanics, functionality of creating structures, etc., could be explained more, but once you get the hang of it and understand how to put logs/sticks in the ground and shape the area you claim as your home, the sky becomes the limit. You can build an aisle of tree houses, or a fortress with traps. This makes replayability so much higher and makes co-op play much more enjoyable.
Another thing to mention is how progression is tied to discovery in Sons of the Forest. Weapons, upgrades, everything is tied to dungeon-like raids that often yield frightful sights and terrifying enemies. Also worth noting is that when you open the wood planks that cover these caves, it means that whatever’s inside is now invited to join you in the jungle while you forage for supplies.
All in all, Sons of the Forest is an excellent title to play with friends for around $30. As content and features get added, the game will only increase in replayability, consistency, and enjoyment. With it’s first foot forward, Sons of the Forest creates a terrifying, unique experience that makes it a must play title for PC players.