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Released this evening.
Released this evening.
Upcoming survival horror Sons of the Forest has overtaken Bethesda’s Starfield as Steam’s most wishlisted game. Let’s take a look at why…
Some big PC games are on the horizon in 2023, not least Bethesda’s highly-anticipated “Skyrim in space,” Starfield. With a pedigree like that, it’s hardly surprising that the upcoming sci-fi opus has long been high up on the list of most wishlisted games on Steam.
Recently beating Starfield to the top spot, however, is a game by a developer with considerably fewer resources – not to mention a smaller marketing budget – than Bethesda. It’s Sons of the Forest, Canadian studio Endnight’s survival horror, due to hit Steam Early Access on 23 February.
A sequel to Endnight’s own 2014 survival horror, The Forest, it sees you (and seven other people, if you’re in multiplayer) crash land on an island teeming with life – some of it harmless and edible, much of it violent and determined to eat you. Like its predecessor, Sons of the Forest draws on the imagery of cult horror movies from the 70s, 80s and beyond – there are hints of Cannibal Holocaust’s infamously visceral gore, while the mutant creatures you’ll see skittering through forests or across cave ceilings recall the likes of The Thing and The Descent.
In theory, your objective is to find the location of a missing billionaire; in reality, that task will come a distant second when you’re faced with the task of creating shelter, foraging for food, or fighting off the island’s population of cannibalistic monsters. We’re all familiar with the staples of the survival genre by now, but Sons of the Forest clearly aims to push such elements as hunting and crafting further than we’ve seen in most games of this ilk. You’ll be able to spear salmon and hunt turtles (the latter rendered in the kind of troubling detail seen in old Italian exploitation flicks like the above-mentioned Cannibal Holocaust).
Multiplayer:Crafting is also pleasingly in-depth, with detailed physics applied to the process of chopping down trees and whittling each log into shape. Players can then build huts and fortresses to their own exacting designs – one trailer even shows you how to sharpen the tops of logs to create a spike defensive wall.
You’ll need those defences, too, because the island’s pale, hairless – and seemingly eyeless – inhabitants will often come scampering out of the forest and swarm all over your dwellings. There’ll be weapons to protect yourself, but the more powerful sorts, such as machine guns and even a taser, will inevitably be in short supply. More often than not, you’ll be waving a sharpened stick or maybe an axe.
One of Sons of the Forest’s most intriguing aspects, though, is its NPC companions, including a soldier named Kelvin. He’ll accompany you on your journey and will dutifully help chop down trees and even fight alongside you. It’s an idea that recalls Far Cry 5, where players could enlist a ‘Buddy’ or ‘Gun for Hire’ to help them during missions or on bouts of hunting in the wilderness. The quality of the AI in Far Cry 5 made this aspect of the game genuinely fun and absorbing. If Endnight can deploy it as well in Sons of the Forest, it could add real value to the solo campaign, with the player dividing up and assigning tasks to Kelvin as they see fit.
Sons of the Forest has seen its share of delays, but Endnight has taken the interesting step of turning its planned launch on 23 February into an Early Access release to avoid pushing the game back any further. It’s a logical move since the game clearly has an engaged audience that is keen to play it – The Forest managed to sell over four million units between its release and 2018, which partly explains why there’s so much anticipation surrounding the sequel. With a potentially huge community like that, it certainly makes sense for Endnight to get Sons of the Forest into Early Access, where it can base any future tweaks and additions on player feedback.
Endnight’s track record also means there’s every reason to believe they can deliver on the sophisticated survival epic promised in its trailer footage, whether it’s the shifting seasons or the disturbingly convincing way its monsters writhe and crawl over each other in dimly lit caves. If Sons of the Forest can live up to its grisly promise, it could give Starfield a run for its money as one of 2023’s most absorbing PC games.