I played 40 hours of Sons of the Forest without the killer cannibals, and it was a blast

Personal Pick

(Image credit: Future)

In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2023, each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We’ll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.

As an enjoyer of survival games, I feel like one of the few people who didn’t play The Forest. Perhaps that’s a good thing as I didn’t have any expectations going into its sequel: I figured that there would be a few cannibal-related scares to accompany what I assumed would soon be a renewed annoyance for certain aspects of survival games. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised—or at least, I was once I discovered Peaceful mode.

I know, I know: it’s a survival game: the whole point is trying to survive in a hostile world. You’re expected to fashion a crude weapon out of sticks and stones and whatever else you find lying around. Then you need to find shelter and warmth, food, and water, all while under the very real threat of being attacked by the local wildlife and, worse, the island’s more monstrous inhabitants. But it can all feel a bit much. Switch over to Peaceful mode and the whole atmosphere changes—and I think it’s for the better.

If I still had to deal with the constant onslaught of the island’s grisly inhabitants, I don’t think I’d still be jumping into the game every few weeks. Thankfully, Peaceful mode removes all hostile humans from the game, while leaving you with the rest of the survival mechanics. 

I’ve come to realise that I like my survival games more sedate and leisurely—cheers for that, Valheim. I don’t need to be constantly reminded that everything’s out to get me. I have enough trouble fending off hunger without having to muddy the waters with external threats too. Just let me build my base in peace, please!

(Image credit: Endnight Games)

There’s still a lot to do in Peaceful mode if you want to survive—it’s not quite as lenient as Minecraft’s Creative mode, for example. You still need to find food, collect water, and most importantly, build yourself a lovely base. You need to gather all the materials you use for its construction, as well as craft the furniture. And exploration is vital too, just as it is in the regular mode, to pick up those tools and other handy items. 

So while Peaceful mode undoubtedly removes the biggest threat in the game (screeching mutant cannibals) it’s not just a case of clicking a button and everything is done for you. You still have to actually survive on an island. What it does is leave you with a perfectly enjoyable (mostly) safe sandbox to properly test out your base-building skills. And if you feel like it’s somehow cheating, don’t. The mode is right there in the main menu as an option: it’s not hidden away behind a bunch of console commands. And even if it were, screw it, it’s your game.  

Peaceful mode scratches the same itch as Minecraft’s Creative mode or Valheim’s early game.

Sons of the Forest’s Peaceful mode scratches the same itch as Minecraft’s Creative mode or Valheim’s early game. It’s a whole world—well, an island—that I get to experience on my terms. If I want to spend all day pottering around my base, making little improvements, I can do that. Or if I’d rather go hiking around the entire island, looking for useful items, I can do that too. The worst thing I’m going to run into is an angry moose.

It might seem like a lonely existence, but I’ve got Kelvin to keep me company—or to get stuck under the house, depending on his mood. Virginia often pops over with a seemingly endless supply of housewarming gifts, and she’ll hang around the fire of an evening before disappearing to wherever it is she goes.

Peaceful mode is the perfect way to explore Sons of the Forest if you’ve been put off playing because of the horror aspect, though you’ll still see the occasional body-part stew or stumble across the odd corpse here and there. It lets you get on with exploring and base-building without being interrupted by horrible freaks who want to ritually slaughter you and cook you up for supper, which I find is always a bonus.

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