The Forest alpha impressions
The Forest begins, not in a forest, but on a plane. An empty plane at that. Presumably flown by a pilot but otherwise vacant, besides from myself and the small boy clinging to my arm. My son? I would imagine so. There’s little else to see bar the clouds outside and the screen on the back of the seat in front. Necklace is the name of the in-flight movie; a horror movie, judging from the slashed neck on its box art. A vision of my not-too-distant future? I wouldn’t rule it out.
Then, a loud, rumbling boom is followed by shards of debris shooting down the aisle. The plane is hurtling towards the ground. My son, well versed in plane crash procedures as he is, tucks his head between his legs. I, on the other hand, must have dozed off during the flight attendant’s demonstration, choosing instead to sit and watch the chaos unfold ahead. It doesn’t take long before the front of the plane is torn asunder, detaching from the rest like a head from its body. Let’s hope the smoke monster doesn’t kill the pilot.
After a bumpy ride we eventually make landfall, the crash landing not as terrifying as one might imagine. It’s actually quite calm considering the circumstances; the rustling of trees along the side of the plane reminiscent of a local bus route down one particularly overgrown road. It’s chaotic enough to jolt me from my seat, however, and upon awakening in the aisle I find an ominous figure standing over my unconscious son. As lights flicker and spark in my periphery I notice a white hand painted on the man’s face, similar to something you might see on an African tribesman. Is he part of an indigenous tribe? There’s no conversing with him to find out. He picks up my son, drapes him over his shoulder and walks into the darkness.
“The rustling of trees along the side of the plane reminiscent of a local bus route down one particularly overgrown road”As I gather my bearings and get to my feet, hunger seems to be my first concern. With an empty stomach and a barren inventory, I forage through the wreckage, picking up every item I see. Cans of booze, pieces of fruit, bars of chocolate, this plane is stacked with tasty treats. With my stomach now full I emerge from the gaping hole in the fuselage, picking up an axe on the way out. I’ve chosen to ignore the fact it was wedged inside a flight attendant’s chest.
It’s a beautifully sunny day outside, beams of light shooting through gaps in trees that seem a mile high. The luscious greens of the forest stretch in every direction, birds fluttering before me as leaves fall from the giants above and into my inventory.
As I walk out further I begin to feel like Snow White as woodland critters gather around me from far and wide. They shouldn’t expect a whimsical Disney song, however, my instrument of choice is an axe! Both rabbits and lizards die by my hand, their meat stored until I need it, the lizard’s skin used as armour. Am I a Spider-Man villain? I won’t argue the logic, especially when I have things to build.
Although I ignored any plane crash safety measures before, I do bring a survival guide with me on every trip. Other than a double page spread advising which berries I should and shouldn’t eat, the innards of the guide are filled with diagrams of various objects to build, from fires, numerous types of shelter, to deadly traps and… human effigies? I’ll figure that one out later.
First things first I need a shelter and a good spot to build it in. So off I head, into the bedraggled foliage of the titular forest, gathering sticks and rocks as I go. I’ve barely taken a dozen or so steps before I spot him, another human mere metres away. He has a similar attire to the one who took my son, wearing only a cobbled together skirt to protect his manly parts. He’s not as fearless as the other one, though, just as frozen as I am and probably as shocked. I’d imagine it’s not every day some tourist comes stumbling through his back garden. After a tense few moments of silently staring at one another, I eventually gain some courage and edge forward, forcing him to back away. I do a 360-spin to check my surroundings and he’s still there, alone.
Then, he darts to the right of me, scampering up a tree before jumping back down and dashing to the left. Is he sizing me up? It’s unclear, but at least he’s still wary when I move closer. This happens for what feels like minutes but was probably only 30 or so seconds, the constant back and forth, the hesitant movements and nervous steps backwards. And then he finally strikes, charging towards me with furious rage in his eyes. I rapidly swing my axe, stopping him in his stride with brutal chops to the torso. Slice after slice after slice, I never let up but he keeps coming. And then it’s all over. Silence befalls the forest once again and I finish the encounter with one final blow, striking down upon his lifeless body, sending arms and legs spewing all over the place. I gather them up – as you do – and head on my way.
“Being the brazen type I pick the biggest tree I can find, hacking away at its base before the beast is felled”It doesn’t take long before I come upon a desolate beach; as good a place as any to set up camp, especially with a rotting great white shark for company. So I plot down a layout for my hunting shelter, building it up with the rocks and sticks I gathered earlier, before heading back into the forest for the requisite logs. Being the brazen type I pick the biggest tree I can find, hacking away at its base before the beast is felled. It’s quite a cathartic experience.
With logs in tow I make my way back to the beach, finishing my shelter and shuffling inside for the night. It’s a restless night, however, a potent thunderstorm drenching my clothes and almost freezing me to death. A fire is what I need and so I build one, a previous smoking habit and the lighter that accompanies it making this an easy process. With my small fire ablaze I throw on some rabbit meat to replenish my hunger, complementing it with a can of soda to boost my energy levels. A feast fit for kings.
When morning finally arrives I’m met by more humans, presumably on patrol. There are four of them in total, walking in a single-file line, almost like they’re marching. I scamper into my inventory, combining a bottle of alcohol with a cloth and my lighter to create a Molotov cocktail. They haven’t seen me yet so I hesitantly move closer, hurling fiery destruction down upon them from a safe distance. Two of them are instantly set alight, screaming in pain before crumpling to the floor. The two who remain – a male and a female – react to their fallen comrades in surprisingly different ways. The male is sent into a fit of rage, charging towards me. I hack him down and collect his body parts, expecting the female to be close behind. But there’s no sign of her. Instead of attacking she’s on her knees beside the men I killed, grieving for her fallen brothers. They may seem like wild savages but maybe she’s proof there’s still some humanity left in this forest.
So I leave her be – to mourn the loss of life – and somewhat offensively use their body parts to create a grisly human effigy right in front of her. Don’t judge me, OK? I can’t have sympathy for these people! Plus I’m curious to see how the effigies work. My theory is that they’re used to scare off enemies, like a warning sign that I’m not to be messed with. So I place one in front of my shelter, hoping to scare off any curious minds.
It doesn’t exactly work.
Another patrol shows up and overwhelms me in numbers, hacking away at my flesh until my lifebar is drained to zero. Another casualty in a rather eventful two days. Or so I thought. I soon awaken in darkness, flicking my lighter on to illuminate the path ahead. I appear to be in some sort of cave, the human bones littering the ground I walk on acting as an ominous indication that I was brought here to be eaten. Escaping seems like a good plan. So I rush through the darkness, adopting the flight method when met by the welcoming committee of bloodthirsty cannibals. Running is not enough, however, as I’m cut down once again. There’s no waking up this time. A stark red fills the screen, the text in the middle reads: DAYS SURVIVED 2. And so ends my initial adventure.
Like DayZ and Don’t Starve before it, The Forest adopts a very minimalistic approach that’s simply about surviving. Maybe there will be more to it than that, or maybe there already is and I just haven’t found it yet. There are certainly hints of a bigger picture here already, even beyond the search for a missing son. The way certain enemies will react, protecting each other, grieving for one another. It might be cliché but the question of “who is the real monster here” is a prominent one that could be explored in some interesting ways, especially with the emergent storytelling potential that already exists. I, for one, am excited for The Forest’s future, and of uncovering its mysteries. It’s an obvious alpha at the moment with bugs and glitches aplenty, so there’s a long way to go yet, but its ambition is clear and its potential seems almost limitless.