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Sons of the Forest’s Kelvin is my beautiful son and I will protect him

[whispers to my date] That’s Kelvin

Sons of the Forest - Kelvin, a young man in military gear with ashy hair and a glazed expression, stands on a beach while the protagonist checks his consciousness. Image: Endnight Games/Newnight
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Between the lurking cannibals, crashed helicopters, and grisly corpses littered around the island I crash-landed on, I’m not having a very good time. Sons of the Forest is a very scary open world survival experience. I’m forced to sleep under a tarp until I can build my own log cabin by hand, and I’m eating raw fish and scavenged cereal to survive. There’s just one salve to this terrible experience: my good son, Kelvin, who is trying his absolute best.

Sons of the Forest opens with a dramatic sequence. I’m part of a military squad sent to investigate the fate of a missing family of billionaires. However, our copter is shot down, and the pilot and my companion Fisheye are mulched in the ensuing crash. Kelvin and I are the only survivors, and Kelvin has clearly been injured in some serious way. There’s blood leaking out of his ears, and there’s a glassy look to his eyes.

Kelvin trails after the player everywhere they go, and to many fans, he’s a beloved companion. Players have started to call him Kevin out of fondness, and he does his best to keep up with the protagonist. The player can control him — to an extent — with a notepad and paper by giving him tasks to complete. The animations for this are fairly comical. The protagonist writes down a simple command, like “Go get fish and drop them here,” and then hands it off to Kevin — or thrusts it into his chest like an exasperated older sibling with a little brother. Kevin gormlessly grins, nods, and lopes off to go cut down trees or find rocks.

Kevin certainly does his best, but unfortunately, his AI isn’t the best. Or maybe it’s just the ensuing results of his brain injury from the crash. Sometimes he’s crouched by the edge of a river, speed-snatching salmon with superhuman reflexes. Other times, he jogs right up to a menacing cannibal and points at them silently. Yeah, man, I see that. Thanks.

Not only is this a terrible detection system, but the cannibal usually beats Kevin’s ass and I have to run over to help. Colleague Patrick Gill shared that his Kelvin had cut down the tree supporting his treehouse, leading to just a floating... house. Ana Diaz also asked “Wait, do your Kevins scream?” I don’t think my Kevin screams, but it’s an alarming question to consider. His eager disposition also leads to nearly as many scares as the cannibal. He’s always there. Waiting. Watching.

Kelvin isn’t the only companion players can meet in Sons of the Forest. Early on, a three-legged, three-armed woman in a bathing suit will sneak by the camp. If you treat her gently by staying still and putting your weapons away, you can earn her trust. Soon, she’ll begin to bring you little gifts like fish or berries.

Once you’ve built up a rapport with this strange woman, you can begin to give her gifts too. Like a shotgun and a pistol, which she dutifully dual wields. While she won’t take instructions like Kevin — there’s no notepad with which to guide her — she will follow you around as an extra combat companion, which is a pleasant surprise.

Kevin is a comforting constant in Sons of the Forest. There are ways to dilute or even remove your Kevin experience. In multiplayer, the group shares their own Kevin, so you can simply fob him off on a companion. And if a cannibal downs Kevin, you can finish the job by hitting him with a hatchet.

But why would you do these things? In the scary, bleak environments of Sons of the Forest, it’s good to have a friend. Kevin strikes a weird balance between funny — there’s something inherently comical about watching him wander into the middle of a river and contemplatively sit down, grinning into the middle distance — and deeply unsettling. While the game is still in early access, I hope we get more Kevin content, and maybe a way to help unscramble his noodle a little bit. My boy deserves all the gifts in the world, including some competent medical care.