The controls are dead simple for Forever Forest – you move with the left stick and can perform a leaping attack by flicking the right stick in any direction. You can also press A to leap but it will only work in the direction you’re facing, and I found the game sometimes wouldn’t register the button press at all.
It’s also pretty easy to pick up and play, as the core gameplay loop is very basic: you kill, you eat, and you upgrade your abilities. This is possibly best summarised by the game’s 4 categories of Tasks: Scavenge, Hunt, Survive, and Explore. Each task will reward you for completing small objectives, such as eating berries, hunting creatures, or staying alive for a certain length of time.
Your goal is to constantly move north, unlocking and opening temples as you do so, though you’re allowed a wide area of east-west movement to explore, if you desire. Along the way, you’ll find shrines that you can turn into respawn and fast-travel checkpoints by paying Spirit Fire – one of the game’s ‘currencies’, collected by killing special animals, breaking certain obstacles, and completing tasks.
You can also unlock and upgrade your abilities at these shrines if you have collected enough masks from the special animals. The first of these you’ll encounter will be deer, but you’ll soon encounter boar, hedgehogs, lizards and other formidable creatures. Each one will have 3 tiers of creatures, each with more valuable masks, and you’ll need a combination of all 3 to get the better upgrades.
The skills themselves are incredibly helpful, allowing you to deal or receive more damage as well as additional buffs, such as a speed boost after each leap. The frequency of these checkpoints also makes Forever Forest a great game for short play sessions. Unfortunately, the forest foliage doesn’t allow for much positive light to shine on Forever Forest, as the game feels somewhat bare and repetitive. Its simplicity makes it easy to pick up but also easy to master, until it starts feeling unfair, that is.
You see, traditionally, survival games reward you with greater survivability as you progress, but this isn’t really the case for Forever Forest. You still have a meager 100 points of ‘health’ by the time you reach the 5th area, where most creatures will deal this much damage in one bite. Did I also mention that walking into water will kill you almost instantly? The game does not make this clear, and it’s also quite bad at indicating what classes as water. I once died in an inch-deep puddle because I couldn’t tell that it was supposed to be an obstacle I should avoid.
Possibly the greatest frustration comes from the menus, however, but this is exacerbated after death. It’s often incredibly difficult to tell where your ‘cursor’ is because it just marginally changes the colour of whatever option you’re highlighting. Most egregious of all, though, is the post-death screen, which asks if you’d like to respawn in place for a small fee or start back at your most recently visited checkpoint. For whatever reason, there seems to be no cursor on this screen, no rumble indication, and no discernible method for selecting either option. Essentially, I would try my best to select the ‘no, don’t use my currency’ option most of the time, and about 50% of the time I’d get the option I wanted.
This sums up the majority of issues I had with Forever Forest; it feels… unfinished. Almost as if the developers were a month behind schedule but were forced to meet their deadlines. Cleaner menus, framerate optimisation, and better pacing when introducing new aspects to players would significantly help Forever Forest, so I sincerely hope there is a patch coming in the future.
The audio in Forever Forest is somewhat of a high point for the game, when it’s present. I found the tranquil background music fit the spiritual theme the game has quite well, although it did seem to inexplicably disappear during portions of my playtime. This left just the ambient sound effects from the forest and its critters, which were serviceable in their own right, but not enough to carry the experience without any music, I’m afraid.
Visuals & Performance
Forever Forest is somewhat held up by the beauty of its minimalist art style, though it comes at a price. The surroundings are often lush and vibrant, and the creatures are well animated, though you’re often kept in the dark. Sizeable chunks of playtime will be spent with the forest shrouded in gloom and mist, though it’s fortunately not the majority. The UI is also something quite special, with the tribal stylised triangle motif that runs through the menus being particularly eye-catching.
As mentioned earlier, however, the menus themselves are often clunky and unintuitive, which really let’s this down, and some menus such as the Tasks look downright messy compared to others. The main downfall of Forever Forest, however, is the performance. There was regular stuttering throughout my playtime, which really hampered my enjoyment. It was especially noticeable when chasing something horizontally across the world, as it would often cause brief pauses that would mean my prey eluded me.
For $14.99 USD or £13.50 GBP, I really struggle to recommend Forever Forest in its current state. The gameplay is initially fun and enticing, but it lacks significant depth to make me want to return to it after a couple of hours. Though there is probably 5 or so hours of gameplay here, with more available if you just want to explore and progress at your own pace, the game doesn’t evolve much from the first 30 minutes. It really needs something more to pad out the rest of the playtime.
There’s a lot of potential here, as the art style and setting are intriguing and nuanced, but it needs a solid performance and some more depth to really make it worth it. I’d say this needs at least a 50% sale for me to recommend it in it’s current state, unless you love survival and exploration games or are looking for something easy to pick up and play in short bursts.
Fun for the first half hour
UI bugs and stuttering