The Forest: White Meat

The unnamed airliner that falls from the sky at the beginning of The Forest is a marvellous thing. Not only is the opening of the game one of the best plane crashes we’ve seen in a game, the company that runs the airline apparently also publishes the most comprehensive seat pocket safety guide in the history of everything. It’s essentially a paper version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, albeit one complete with schematics for building effigies out of multiple body parts so as to scare away cannibal mutants.

In the fine tradition of Italian cannibal movies, The Forest seems to question who is the real monster on the island the cannibal mutants who aren't always aggressive, or the outsider who seems to want nothing more to hack them apart with an axe to build decorations. But deeper philosophy aside, The Forest is a game about brute survival. Initially armed with nothing but what can be scavenged from the downed plane, scattered luggage and a single flight attendant with an axe buried in her chest the player must find ways to survive on the island, building shelter, hunting or foraging for food, building fires to keep warm and scare away predators and traps to catch or deter any cannibals curious enough to get too close.

Much in the same vein as Minecraft, all of the crafting ingredients needed for shelter or tools can be found in the environment. Trees can be cut down for the logs needed to build shelters, walls or boats. Stones needed to stabilise construction can be scavenged.
Sticks for finer crafting can be scavenged from the forest floor and leaves, a necessary fuel source for starting fires can be pulled from shrubbery. Iguanas can be hunted and killed for their flesh and their skin, the former being a good source of sustenance and the latter being a necessary component in body armour I said the airline safety guide used for crafting patterns was rather comprehensive. And of course there are also the effigies intended to scare off the cannibals. The main craftingmaterials for these are heads and limbs, making The Forest the first game we can think of that includes dismemberment as a gathering skill. There doesn't seem to be any indication to an optimal ending to The Forest, so survival for the sake of survival seems to be the order of the day.

 The Forest, in its current early alpha state is a gorgeous place at least on the surface. The thick pine forests of the island and the mountainous interior are beautiful to look at, as are the sunrises and sunsets that cast light through the top branches of the trees adding a wonderful diffuse glow to the place. But beneath the glory of nature is a labyrinth of tunnels and caves teeming with the nocturnal cannibals and far worse things besides. The Forest is currently available through Steam early access.

Although we haven’t discovered his significance as yet, the introductory plane crash shows a young boy holding tight to the player. He survives the crash only to be taken away by a cannibal. It’s assumed that this boy is the player character’s son and that rescuing him will play some part of a meta-narrative, but given the basic survival structure of the game and its sandbox nature, how this will be achieved is as yet unknown.

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