Sons of the Forest Early Access Review: Terrifying Survival Horror

Sons of the Forest, the anticipated follow-up to The Forest, is a first-person survival horror game where players must collect resources, investigate caves & underground bunkers, and combat mutated enemies that roam the island you’re stranded on.

As a self-proclaimed horror fanatic, it takes a lot to get me scared. Even the most highly-touted horrors have a hard time spooking me, so when I picked up Sons of the Forest, I expected it to go how it usually does — boot up the game, figure out the first mission, then the gamer inside takes over as I quickly forget I’m even playing a horror game. 

However — Sons of the Forest does a great job of keeping you engaged and immersed, even if some aspects and character models seem a bit rough around the edges. 

Rather than holding your hand as many modern games do, Sons of the Forest lets players complete the game’s campaign the way they want. Whether that’s building a giant compound with their friends or speeding through the campaign’s story objectives, agency and creativity are part of what makes the game so fun to play. 

Core Gameplay

Without spoiling the story too much, Sons of the Forest takes off where The Forest left off. However, it’s unnecessary that you got through the previous game or even played the previous game to enjoy this title. Players are immediately placed in harm’s way as soon as the game starts and must gather scarce and scattered resources to venture off and reconnect with their comrades, or at least what’s left of them. 

Sons of the Forest Helicopter

At its heart, Sons of the Forest is a first-person survival game where players have different needs that need to be fulfilled, including hunger, thirst, and sleep. To meet these needs, players need to do the obvious — eat, drink, and, well, sleep. Players can construct things to aid in their needs, like building drying racks for food, shelter to stay safe in harsh weather conditions, and a long list of other structures and items to help them through their journey. 

Mountain Sons of the Forest

Beyond that, there’s also the looming threat of cannibalistic mutants that skulk around and attack you when you’re least expecting it, at least that’s if you’re playing on Normal or higher difficulty. Players must traverse this savage island investigating different sites, slowly unraveling the game’s story through in-game items and pre-set scenes.

Discovering how to unlock or reach certain areas is part of the fun and makes the puzzles feel organic, like the player is solving a mystery rather than doing pre-set steps to open a locked door. Most areas are accessible from the start of the game, making each playthrough unique while the story remains linear. 

The Good

Sons of the Forest excels in quite a few areas. The unique take on crafting is unlike other games in the genre, giving a fresh varnish over a tried-and-true game mechanic. It immerses the player as they rifle through their building guide or roll out their inventory mat to select a new item. While some die-hard gamers could find this somewhat annoying, as even swapping inventory items requires some forethought, for others — this will make them feel more immersed in the game world. 

Sons of the Forest Virginia

This also applies to the construction and building of certain structures. The game has two kinds of builds — pre-constructed builds that you place on the ground and then get the materials for, and a modular build mode you can use to create platforms or really any structure you want. While it did take me a few minutes to figure out how to break up some branches to start a fire, this is another point towards immersing you into the game. 

Sons of the Forest also has the ability to creep you out. The claustrophobic caves and reverberating wails and cries fill the player with a sense of dread. Dark and dank, with few light sources, traversing some of the more difficult caves is challenging and horrifying. Come unprepared, and you’re sure to die. 

Sons of the Forest Demon

The way that the game’s creators decided to unravel the story is great and something other game developers should take note of. Rather than boring the player with long exposition or dialogue, Sons of the Forest lets the player spend the majority of their time actually playing the game, save the title’s sparse cut scenes. Players slowly discover aspects of the island and their circumstances through notes, emails, and books — for a somewhat convoluted but interesting story that you’ll need to pay attention to in order to figure out what it all means.

The Bad

The game, as is with most Early Access titles, is a bit rough around the edges. While the environmental graphics are stunning, some of the character models leave a bit more to be desired. This becomes almost immediately apparent as I played on my RTX 3070 Ti and my first encounter with Kelvin, the game’s commandable NPC that you meet at the beginning of your journey. He looked a bit creepy and gave me an uncanny valley vibe, but beyond a few busted models, the game looks great.

Sons of the Forest Kelvin

Some of the combat lacks impact and feels janky. The tension and fear built up from a giant tooth mutant gets wiped away when you poke it with a sharp stick and it makes a squishy cartoon noise. It’s not the worst thing a game has done, but it clashes with the otherwise dark world around it. 

I did drop a few frames, especially when I first booted the game, which seemed to get better as time went on. There were also a few bugs that made me scratch my head as I crafted something, only for it to completely disappear and fall into the void of nothingness. A few of the game’s caves are completely barren or empty — either a red herring of sorts or maybe they are just unfinished areas. Some users complained about being unable to save their game in caves.

However, that being said, most of this stuff is superficial due to the Early Access state. Endnight is known to work on games after its Early Access release, so I’m sure most of these things will be fixed over time.

Final Verdict

Sons of the Forest is a blast to play and continues the quality that the developers, Endnight Games, have been known to deliver. An improvement over the first title, Sons of the Forest, will keep you engaged, immersed, and completely terrified throughout its playtime. 

With unique and fun crafting mechanics, a truly interactive nature with the game world, and horrifying sights and sounds, Sons of the Forest is an instant indie-horror classic that we highly recommend. 

Sons of the Forest Early Access Review

Garrett Ettinger

Sound Design


Sons of the Forest is a chilling, first-person survival game where players slowly unravel the ominous story through in-game discovery and exploration. With multiple ways to play, expansive crafting mechanics, and great replay value, this is one indie title worth investigating.


Sons of the Forest is available on Steam.

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Reviewed on PC with Review Copy provided.