In Sons of the Forest, you end up marooned on an idyllic, isolated island where you can hunt, fish, swim, garden, and build your dream home with your own two hands. The only drawback is that all your neighbors—no, seriously, all of them—are mutant cannibals who intend to strip you for parts.
There’s a lot you need to know and not a lot of time to figure it out for yourself before someone shows up to eat your spleen. Here are a few useful, spoiler-free starting tips for new players of Sons of the Forest.
A Quick-Start Guide to Sons of the Forest
At time of writing, Sons of the Forest has just launched into Steam Early Access, with a planned roadmap of big content additions every two weeks or so. As such, there’s a lot about the game that could very well change between now and its full release.
For example, the 2/28 hotfix added the ability to set custom numerical hotkeys to various items by mousing over them in your inventory, which is a fairly significant game changer over the launch build. Endnight, the developer of SotF, has also been pretty good about clarifying various obscure in-game mechanics by adding new loading tips.
With that in mind, this article does have a built-in expiration date. If you’re reading this after late February/early March 2023, take what’s here with a grain of salt, as it’s likely that Sons of the Forest will make a few big changes as it moves through Early Access.
You can spawn in one of three places at the start of the game, which appears to be determined by how long it takes you to flip through the dossier on your laptop and close it. Most frequently, you’ll end up high in the mountains in the center of the map.
At each initial spawn point, you’ll initially be surrounded by a number of equipment boxes scattered around the area. These boxes typically contain a small amount of ammunition, some protein bars and/or energy drinks, and some basic crafting materials like duct tape. Anything else, you’ll have to go and find, and that’s where your initial difficulties can start to kick in. Tape in particular can be a hard item to find on your own.
- The can opener is found in an abandoned campsite downriver from your starting point in the mountains, near the small frozen lake. You can find canned food on a fairly regular basis, but it’s useless without the can opener. Despite being a cylindrical glob of unappetizing muck, canned food does satisfy a decent amount of hunger, so it’s worth having access to it even if you have to burn a day on a trek into the mountains.
- Dead game can be cleaned with your knife to produce raw meat. This will spoil after roughly half a day in your inventory and will become useless rotten meat. To cook raw meat, build any kind of campfire, then hold the E key to bring up your inventory. From here, you can toss your raw meat into the fire. You’ll have to watch it carefully to see when it’s done, as it’ll change color; if you simply leave it in the fire, it eventually gets destroyed. Cooked meat (above) restores a substantial amount of both hunger and lost health.
- Your first stop at the beginning of a new game should arguably be to find the member of B-team who’s located in roughly the center of the map. His corpse is dangling off the side of a cliff, and you’ll need to use your axe or knife to cut the rope from above to reach him. You can find the flashlight near his body, and his GPS Locator can be repurposed to mark high-value locations on your map.
- Batteries for the flashlight can be hard to reliably find. They’re generally a common drop from plastic equipment boxes, many of which are located in cannibal camps. I’ve found a good place to hunt for batteries is the kayakers’ abandoned campsite on the northwest side of the island, just off the beach. You can also hole up inside their tent, and score a couple of other useful items like tarps and MREs from their gear.
- You can craft leaf armor very easily from the start of the game, and later move up to bone, tech, or creepy armor. Armor effectively gives you a bonus layer of health, which enemies must get through in order to do actual damage to you. It’s always worth having some on you, and bone armor is dirt cheap to make; the only ingredient that can tricky to find is tape, and even then, only early on.
- Most of the berries on the island can be eaten without incident, with the exception of twinberries, which damage you. Other berries – blueberries, blackberries, etc – can replenish energy, hunger, and thirst, but do so in such slight increments that you have to pound them by the fistful for them to matter. Still, every bit helps.
- Still water freezes in winter, while moving water does not. If you’re going in for the long haul, build your cabins and forts near rivers, not lakes, or you may have a problem once the cold weather hits. At time of writing, there doesn’t appear to be a way to melt ice. It’s also helpful to dress appropriately.
- There is no fishing pole, incidentally. You’re supposed to be spear-fishing in shallow rivers (below). It’s particularly easy in the mountains. There’s also an achievement, I Miss Sushi, for eating 20 raw fish. (Your character gobbles ’em down like they’re Easter bunnies. It’s weird.)
- Many useful items’ blueprints can’t be found in your survival book, such as weapons, and anecdotally, that’s confused at least a few first-time players. Simply combine items with the mouseover menu, then push the gear icon on the center of your inventory screen (below) to craft them. You’ll be informed automatically whenever you first collect enough of the right sort of reagents to make a new tool.
- (Again, this is aimed at first-time players. I know I spent a fair amount of time going over every page in the survival book to try to figure out how the hell to make a torch.)
- In the launch version of the game, you can’t open doors on crafted buildings yet. Instead, face those doors and hold the C key to dismantle them. You’ll end up with an armful of planks and an empty doorway, but you can get inside your cabin without having to break down the wall.
- Seagulls might be the easiest animal to hunt in Sons of the Forest. They’re slow to react and you can often drop one by running up on it with your axe. Not only do seagulls yield raw meat, but drop up to 4 feathers, which are useful for hand-making arrows. It’s not a bad idea to set up shop near the coast and live off birds for a while as you’re getting started.
- At the start of the game, duct tape is in high demand. As noted above, it can be hard to find until you get your bearings. A useful place to find more is the hidden bunker that contains the first available 3D printer, and you can get there right from the start of the game.
- You can have Kelvin harvest sticks, logs, rocks, or fish for you once you’ve built an appropriate storage container for him to put them in. Letting him do your grunt work while you explore is a huge quality-of-life bonus, and it only costs you a few minutes’ work and an armload of sticks.
- Yarrow grows wild in many places on the island, particularly in the brush along the northwest beaches. Eating it by itself restores both hunger and thirst, which can make it a godsend in the field. You can also use it with aloe vera, which is commonly found in or near lakes and ponds, to craft health mix. Lost HP can be surprisingly hard to get back in Sons of the Forest, which makes health mix a useful field option.
- The strength icon in your UI (circled above, lower right) isn’t well-explained, aside from a loading-screen tip that got patched in shortly after launch. It goes up when you exert yourself, whether that’s through melee combat, hauling logs around, or chopping up trees. When it fills completely, your character receives a slight increase to his maximum HP. It’s another excuse to spend a couple of days on building a decent hideout early on, since hauling all those logs will give you a useful health boost.
- Many enemies in Sons of the Forest shrug off basic attacks, which makes it difficult to fight them up close, since they can bulldog straight through a melee swing to bust you in the face. However, certain weapons do rock most enemies back on their heels, such as a gunshot or arrow. More crucially, most of the enemies I’ve fought will at least get stunned for a couple of crucial seconds if you throw a spear into them. It might not kill them (in fact, after Day 10 or so, I’d say it definitely won’t), but it buys you time to pull out another weapon or reload the one you’ve got.
- The pistol is easy to get once you know where it is, but ammunition for it is at a premium. Two useful spawn points for 9mm bullets are on the northwest corner of the island; one is in the front room of the cave where you find the rebreather, and another is on a dead guy who’s set up camp on the coast by the pistol’s location. Make a habit of cruising by either location whenever you’re in the neighborhood, especially if you’re planning to go spelunking.
- A patch on February 28 added the ability to set hotkeys up in your inventory screen, so you can assign certain items like the gun or flashlight to handy buttons. There are a few more items in Sons of the Forest than you have convenient number keys, however, so it’s useful to remember you can hold I to bring up your backpack. Load it up with items you don’t always need, like time bombs, so they’re available in a pinch.