There is just something so interesting and engaging about survival games. We have seen a few online survival shooters rise up recently, with Arma 3 and Nether perhaps the most recent, and, of course, DayZ. Yet there is a game coming that is offering something completely different.
Ben Falcone and his team at Endnight Games offer up a genuine survival experience. So much so that you have to fetch your own materials to build your house, while fighting off starvation, dehydration, and genetically mutated monsters. When I first heard about the game last year, I was immediately intrigued, and even added it to the list of top ten horror games to keep an eye out for. Then, when the second trailer was released with additional information, it reminded me of a book that has been incredibly popular recently despite its age.
“Defend yourself against a clan of genetic mutant enemies that have beliefs, families, and morals, and that appear almost human.” That sentence is taken off the official website for The Forest, and is also the most intriguing. It reminds me of the 1954 horror fiction novel by Richard Matheson, called I am Legend. I don’t want to spoil it, because it is a book I believe everybody should read, even if you have seen the film (the book works so much better). It is perhaps the closest I will get to playing a game with a premise similar to Matheson’s masterpiece.
You get complete freedom, yet you may never feel safe. Walking through a sunlit forest carrying your next load of wood for your house in the woods will seem relaxing. That is until night falls, and you hear the shrill cries of the clan that is also trying to survive. The aspect of survival is one of the most important factors to this game. These mutants aren’t out to kill you simply because they are evil, bloodthirsty creatures. They are like you, just trying to survive. It shakes it up to what sort of enemy you usually come up with, and it faces you up with something that is similar to you.
I asked Ben Falcone if the book had any influence on this game at all and he replied with, “It definitely had some influence on the game – subconsciously, at first – and then [more], as we [further] developed the game. Adding the ability to kill enemies in the caves whilst they sleep, and having them more and more relate-able, I started to realize just how much of an influence the book was having on the game. I think having interesting creatures with thoughts and feelings who act unpredictably makes the game a lot scarier than the traditional zombie or mindless enemy that a lot of horror games have.”
The Survival Aspect
It is the ultimate survival simulator. It also may be one of the most intense survival horror game we have experienced. You have to fetch your own food, build your own camps, and defend it from what lurks at night. It will be arguably the main aspect of the game that makes or breaks it, so it will be interesting to see what kind of mechanics Ben and his team have in place. I’m also looking forward to what level of detail we will get in the game, and what happens when you die. Food and water will be vital, but protecting yourself from mutant attacks at night has the potential to be absolutely terrifying.
Picture your character in your homemade cabin and night has just fallen. You think you saw something move past your window, but you’re not entirely positive, so you either stay and wait, or check. Now, I’m not entirely sure if they attack you while you’re in your house, but if they can, it will be horrifying seeing mutants crouched in the trees and behind bushes while the leader scouts the place. Having the ability to set traps around your house will be absolutely crucial, and I can’t wait to test it out.
Ben also added a bit more about the style of enemies we will encounter, “I think having interesting creatures, with thoughts and feelings who act unpredictably makes the game a lot scarier than the traditional zombie or mindless enemy that a lot of horror games have.”
If there is no online experience, it will simply rely on a player’s willingness to explore. Which is why The Forest may offer a memorable experience, and the type of survival horror I having been waiting for. It seems that it will be led by something so simple, yet something everyone has – curiosity. You can learn more about the mutants if you explore more of the world, without it being shoved in your face. Ben also noted that scaling of the world map had been hard to correct but their main goal was, “large enough to get lost in, but really dense. There should always be something interesting to find or see.”
There is also a conclusion to the game, but it is something most players might never experience, or even realise there is one. It is the most extreme form of freedom a game can give you. On paper, it gives you the land for you to explore, and the rest is up to you. You don’t have to worry about some mission objectives telling you where to go, or some narrator directing your path. You are simply a silent character, stuck on an island after surviving a plane crash.
Ben also spoke about the sort of situation you might expect in The Forest – “I think through world design and layout, you can help direct players towards interesting areas – a path through dense forest leading to an abandoned village, a floating derelict yacht off a beach… a small cave entrance. I think, as far as horror, when you make the choice to explore a cave you’ve found when it’s not something you’re being told to do by the game, it makes it all much scarier. You’re never sure if you’re where you should be. We’re trying to drop people into a world, a place that’s scary, mean, and dangerous and let them figure out how to survive.”
Possibility of a Multiplayer Mode
I really feel that, with the inclusion of a multiplayer mode, the scare factor can take it even further. A multiplayer mode would be suited to The Forest much more than an MMO styled game. Having too many players might ruin the horror experience that Ben and his team are going for. But having the option to play with a friend or two would really add more depth to an already seemingly large game. Being able to explore the island, build, and defend a house and scavenge food would be lots of fun with a friend.
Ben also spoke about the potential for a multiplayer mode – “Our main focus is on the single player survival horror experience, but over the course of making this game, we’ve started to have some ideas of how throwing an additional player into the world could actually enhance some of the horror and randomness in the world. Letting a second player work with you, or kill you.“ I am inclined to agree with Ben, in that – with another player – it could add a new layer of horror.
The Forest offers up a genuine unique horror experience. By combining all the aforementioned reasons, it will provide a horror that we might have never experienced before. You are alone on an island with mutated beings that are just trying to survive. I can already tell that exploring the caves will keep players on a knife-edge with tension. Even hiding inside your own at night will be scary. The Forest Early Access will be arriving very soon, exclusively on the PC, while also supporting the Oculus Rift.