The Forest is a great "little" horror game

It’s October. Time to talk horror. I’ll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.

The Forest is one of those games I hadn’t heard much about, but the user reviews were mostly positive and, at $14.99 (Early Access price), it just felt right. I purchased it, downloaded it, fucked around with life for a few hours, and finally got back to find a jewel of a game sitting on my hard drive. It’s a bit glitchy at the moment, so stay away if that sort of thing bothers you. I also debated whether or not I should write about the game in its current state here because the less you know, the funner it is. Feel free to stop reading as soon as you feel like I’m giving too much away.

a mostly spoiler-free trailer

First of all, it’s single-player only, which makes it a different experience from Rust even though it also drops you into the wilderness where you’ll have to gather, hunt, and survive by any means necessary. When the game opens, I’m riding in a passenger jet that predictably hits turbulence and crashes. After I wake up in the wreckage, I begin snatching everything in sight, from a metal axe to soft drinks and snacks. When I’m outside the plane, considering my next move, they show up. The others. The mutants.

They’re not so mutant I can’t recognize them as being human for the most part, but they act more like animals than anything. The AI here… well, if this is just the first draft of what the developers have in mind, then we’re really in for a treat. In the beginning—and this is a good time to quit reading if you want to go into it fresh—the mutants cautiously approach you. The first time I ran into them I ran fast and far, until my character finally had to slow down to eat and rest. The next time I ran into them was when I was trying to complete my first shelter. This time I held my ground.

During the day, the mutants have a tendency to sneak up on you, but they generally keep their distance. They’ll get closer to you if you have your back turned, but they’ll back off as soon as you turn around. Some are more aggressive than others, but you begin to think they aren’t a threat and start pushing back, shouting at your monitor the way you’d shoo a racoon. Sometimes they’ll take a swipe at you, but hey, no big deal, right? You’ve got an axe. All they have, at least as far as you know, is their hands. You, too, begin to act territorial: This is my land. Fuck on off right outta here, pal.

There’s danger in trying to beat an animal at its own game. Sometimes it’s fatal.

One night, one of the mutants took a swipe at me while I was collecting the contents of suitcases strewn across the beach. This damaged my health so, without really thinking about it, I retaliated by chopping her into a bunch of a small pieces. Kill or be killed, right? Well, I go right back to collecting supplies and when I look up, I see a light emerging from the edge of the forest. Fuck this! I think. I drop what I’m doing and take off running, but the mutant who has united this band of hunters is a cut above the rest. He wears faintly ceremonial attire and has a stick strapped to his back, which extends a scavenged light over his head. One look and you know the light’s purpose: for hunting prey.

And you are that prey. When the mutants hunt, in packs, they’re a force you don’t want to fuck with. That’s how they gain their confidence. That’s when they become a lot more aggressive. And dangerous.

A lot of the time the mutants will simply kill you when they get the upper hand, and the way they surround you usually happens so gradually you don’t know it’s happening until you’re dead. Other times they don’t kill you. Instead… well, I don’t want to spoil it. This game is terrifying and it does it in a way AAA titles don’t: sometimes in broad daylight. If you liked Rust and you like horror, you’re going to love this one.

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