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  • Writer's pictureAD Twindad

Review: Black Forest

Can you survive the night? A new indie builder arrives.

Black Forest is the first offering on the Steam store from developer Lemuria and published by Freedom Games. At first glance, it appears to be an indie version of Age of Empires mixed with a sprinkling of Civilization. After I've put several hours into the game, it gives a different feel, and it's quite welcoming for various skill levels, as well as a sandbox world where you can build to your heart's content.

While similar games concentrate on upgrading buildings and raising armies, Black Forest focuses on building a village and defending it using various types of walls and watchtowers. Instead of worrying about an invading army coming in to destroy your village once you finally have it set, there will be a variety of monsters and animals like rats, wolves, and trolls that come through during the night to raid it.

The concept is simple overall, but managing 30-plus villagers and assigning tasks every day as the workday clock repeats can test anyone on time management. Harvesting food, gathering building materials, and creating structures will become challenging when your limited supplies dwindle, and you must choose between food or wood. Managing your workforce includes keeping them fed and healthy, which adds another unique dimension to the game. Unlike similar world builders, you have a small area to build in, and you are unable to clear the land to expand your empire. If you fill up your current landscape, you must decide whether to be happy with what you have or demolish buildings and build again.

Black Forest gives you several modes and difficulty levels to test out. There is a story mode, sandbox mode, and four difficulty levels ranging from easy to doomed. Aside from the sandbox mode, your goal is to survive between 20-40 days and nights without losing all your villagers. For the goal-oriented player in mind, there is a scoring system that tracks your total and places it on the scoreboard against other players in the community. Currently, there are eight starting maps ranging from small hamlets with a few starter houses to fortified outposts that you must reinforce and repair as they're attacked regularly by packs of creatures ranging from wolves, goblins, trolls, and even living trees.

To get a feel for the game, I played two separate campaigns on two different maps, both having a goal of surviving for 20 days. I only had it at moderate difficulty, but I found trying to manage 30 villagers on a compressed time schedule was a handful. In other maps or difficulty settings, I could see it getting very frustrating balancing repairs and material gathering. Black Forest gives a feeling of a simpler world builder and even dips into a cozy game area where if you're looking to kill a few hours by managing a village and trying to achieve a high score, you can get lost in this game very easily. A single 20-day campaign took me around an hour and a half to complete, so buckle in and bring some snacks if you take on the longer-length campaigns.

It can be a labor of love if you have different goals in mind, like maxing out your score or making sure all your villagers survive, but it can appeal to players of several different genre types. Defined in the user tag section as survival, casual, base building, and RTS, it certainly fits most of those billets with a jack of all trades and master of none fitting squarely in the indie developer realm.

Recently released from extended early access, the price point of $14.99 fits somewhere in the middle of similar games, but I think Black Forest is worth a wishlist add, at least if this fits within your usual genre mix. It will certainly give you some quality hours of gameplay at an easier pace than some other counterparts.

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