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Sons of the Forest

Sons of the Forest is an Appealing, Blood-Spattered Early Access Debut

Sons of the Forest is finally here! Sort of. Instead of the planned final release, February saw this survival-based horror outing enter Steam Early Access.

We can definitely see why developer Endnight decided to change its plans – there’s a lot missing from Sons of the Forest’s Steam Early Access release, especially if you’ve come from the original The Forest. You won’t be building any stone walls for a start.

Raincatchers are right out, too. We’ve tried gawping at the sky whenever there’s a downpour but our water meter doesn’t budge an inch. But since there’s no water contamination system in place, you can plunge your head into a mucky pond and slurp away.

In short, there’s no way this was going to be ready for February. But, even as a Steam Early Access game, it’s still an entertaining outing. It’s not for the faint hearted – there’s an option to make armour out of mutant skin, for a start. But you’ll have a blast, even if you die horribly or get trussed up underwater.

There’s a peaceful mode for those who just want to potter about building and shoving turtle meat into their faces, but one of the things that makes Sons of the Forest such fun is having unexpected “guests” turn up.

Sons of the Forest

The game lulls you into a false sense of security, with cannibals who’ll ignore you unless you introduce them to the business end of your fire axe. But then, a few days in, they get a little more aggressive and that’s when things really kick off.

We were rather attached to our cool little beachfront hut, even seeing off the odd nearby mutant. But when cannibals bore down on us we ended up high-tailing it into Sons of the Forest‘s snowier regions. Half an hour later, we were building a treehouse in the darkness, frantically glancing around for any unwanted guests. Unless you are playing in peaceful mode, Sons of the Forest never lets you get too comfortable.

Related: The Best Horror Games on PC

It helps that the island is so large, several times bigger than the original’s. You get the feeling that the cannibals and mutants aren’t everywhere but you’ve no idea of knowing whether you’ve set up camp on their turf or not. That said, seeing a group of cannibals spawn in did undermine that sensation.

If you have already played The Forest a lot of what we’ve described may seem a little familiar, and you’d be right. But Sons of the Forest is more than a prettied-up version of its predecessor. There are multiple improvements, too many to list here. We were particularly impressed with the new tree-chopping system: while ecologically suspect, it made us feel like we were really hacking away.

Speaking of hacking away, one significant game-changer is the addition of NPCs, including the fantastic Kelvin. You can start to build something and order him to complete it, then wander off to do some harvesting. He’s a bit twitchy at times but if you’re not a fan of the resource-gathering grind you’ll be glad he’s around.

Sons of the Forest

Another great feature is that you can choose to build things log by log and stick by stick. Want to scare off the cannibals with a skull on a stick? Get a stick, put in the ground, then stick a skull on top of it. Building a log floor? Place each log by one, then start making some planks.

You can still use the regular building system, where you get a “ghost” of a structure and just throw resources at it. But the new system feels like building Lego models. You get to watch your creation come to life, piece by piece. It’s so, so satisfying. That said, we’ve yet to tackle multiplayer and we can see how a few arguments could ensue.

There is a story of sorts though it’s almost incidental. Unlike The Forest‘s tale of a missing son, you don’t have a personal stake here. But we’ve still spent hours immersing ourselves in Sons of the Forest and we don’t regret a minute of it. Sure, it can be a little clunky but it’s a beautiful, brutal start and we’re looking forward to seeing where Endnight Games takes it next.

Sons of the Forest is available on PC via Steam Early Access, priced at £24.99/£29.99.

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