Endling: Extinction is Forever | Review – There is no extinction, until it is ours

The Innersane

They are boring, those who always speak of an imminent apocalypse, who scream of mass extinctions, of a tested planet, of overheating. Those who want to remind us that we are guests and not masters of this Earth. What do they expect us to do? Evolution has rewarded us, we are at the top of the food chain, we can dispose of the vegetation and other living beings of this planet – the only one in which we have ever found life as we know it – as and when we prefer. Why shouldn’t we?

Final: Extinction is forever

Platform: PC, PS4, SWITCH, XONE Genre: Adventure, survival Release Date: July 19, 2022 Developer: Herobeat Studios Distributor: HandyGames

If you couldn’t, nature would tell us, wouldn’t it? And instead, look at us, we are eight billion. We have not pulled too hard at all, we have not made the planet anemic that literally allows us to breathe and exist, we have not forgotten that we are a microscopic semicolon in the history of the cosmos. We are human beings, we have the last word, we have hidden our own transience under the carpet and extinction does not exist. And if it exists, we don’t care, because it’s not ours.

This is why it exists Final: Extinction is foreverwhich reminds us of something banal that is no longer banal: extinction is irreversible. And maybe that same extinction is just a step in the evolution of living beings, it’s true – but when nature evolves hand in hand with them. When it bleeds, compressed in the times imposed by the human beings who enslaved it, however, it is a different thing.

Endling is not a fun game. You will never play with it at the end of the workday to get away from the frustrations of routine. It is not and it does not want to be. It would be at least disturbing to expect it from a game that subtitles “extinction is forever”.

It’s cyclical, like waking up in the den and figuring out how to survive for another day. At times it is frustrating, deliberately or not.

It’s almost a serious game disguised as a survival adventure video gamewhere the message has more weight than an interactive experience that can be greatly improved. And it is a message that can only be conveyed with a video game.

The wonders and horrors of mother fox

In Endling (you will also find it on Instant Gaming shortly), the player plays the role oflast fox left on the planetwho desperately seeks a safe place to give life to the puppies she carries in her womb. The prologue (you can find it for free thanks to a demo, but we also told you about it in the preview) shows us being able to give light to the four little ones, and that’s where our adventure begins. We will have to take care of the puppies, with survival mechanics.

Each of them will see, on the screen, an indicator of health and we will have the hunger bar: so we will have to leave our den – first alone, then in their company – to go in search of food during the night. We will hunt small animals, rummage through the garbage, catch fish and so on, with the intention of returning to our lair as soon as possible. The light of day, in fact, brings with it numerous dangers and humans could try to hunt us for our fur. Or for fun, because unfortunately they are like that.

Every night you will have to go out of the den and feed the little ones

This means that Endling builds his own mechanics for exploration on playing in cyclic sessions with time limit: an indicator will let you know how long it is until the sun rises and, although you are not forced to return to the den at dawn, you will realize that continuing to wander around makes little sense, because the food you will find is limited depending on the night you are living and you would end up having the puppies return to the den with an empty stomach again.

The fact that the game forcing you to act with a time limit in mind makes a lot of narrative sensebecause it makes you feel the urgency of having to find something immediately, or perhaps having to follow an interesting track while it is night.

On the other hand, however, risks castrating the exploration experiencealready reduced to the bone due to the obstacles that the developers place in the path from time to time, so as to force you to follow the path they had foreseen.

Being a fox in a world like this

The game is structured as an adventure in two dimensions where you come across, as we said, in some food to collect and you can also follow traces – activating the sense of smell of the fox mother – that carry on a mystery at the center of the events, and that we will not reveal here.

There are also other small interactions: you can, for example, recall or reassure your puppies to give them strength when their stomach is crying, or you can pick them up and carry them in their mouths when they no longer have the energy to walk alone because you have not been able to feed them. If it sounds very sad to you, know that the game predicts the permanent death of the puppies and that, therefore, failing to feed them all will lead you to lose them forever.

The exploration in two dimensions includes some intersections where to deviate the path

It is also true that, with a little commitment and ingenuity, you will be able to keep them all with you, also because as the little ones grow up they learn small skills, such as climbing or digging, which could be useful to find food more easily for them and theirs. little brothers.

To the many difficulties of a hostile world, Endling adds a few moments that further cripple the exploration: you will find yourself in front of hunters who will try to catch you and from which you will have to free yourself with some not always very clear QTEsor others that they will fire a shot at you that will kill you in one shotforcing yourself to a hateful trial and error or to avoid passing in front of them altogether, trying other avenues that lengthen the soup, because there is no real way to dodge their bullets with absolute success, apart from trying to run when you see them distracted.

Here too, he expresses himself the double valence of which we were saying for the time limit mechanics: avoid a path because covered by a hunter is very frustrating from the playful point of view and extremely effective from the point of view of the message – you just wanted to follow the trail of the sniffed food, or maybe retrieve a puppy that has remained behind, but you can’t because a human being, for no reason, wants to shoot you.

A screen you may see quite often

The trial-and-error-style dangers become even more heavy, and frightening, even considering that the game only saves at the beginning of the nightand it has no intermission checkpoints: if, for example, you explore for five minutes hunting for food to feed the babies and then follow the track that carries the story forward but you end up being killed, you will restart from the moment you leave the lair.

Nothing dramatic, but considering that the game is already extremely cyclical and inevitably equal to itself, despite the limited duration, a better solution could probably be found – especially for the nights when the paths and trails to follow, aided by a non-flawless map, they will be more extensive than usual.

“Play” at Endling

Controller in hand, Endling sounds almost like a disillusioned daily life simulator of a fox mom: you will wake up every night having to do the same thing, find food and hope that the game will cause some clues to spawn to carry on the story. You will return to the den happy to have kept your little ones safe and do exactly the same again the next night.

You will do it for about five hours of longevity, punctuated by some cut-scenes and by extremely touching moments and successful, at the center of an experience that, as mentioned at the beginning, could not be conveyed by any other means of communication.

Compared to the demo, there is something left to fix in terms of controls: there are no more moments in which the fox mother runs aground during the fight with another animal, but there are others where the input for the interaction did not appear and we had to reload the game. For the rest, from a technical point of view the game is very clean compared to the uncertainties seen in the trial version, and even the little ones follow you in a sensible way, without getting stuck or creating frustration.

Your puppies have fun in the winter

Wonderful the Artistic directionwhich recalls the style already loved in Firewatch works with broad brushstrokes and outlines a world that puts the bright colors of the life of puppies next to the desaturated ones of an Earth that can no longer take it. The result is a recognizable glance that is the flagship of the production, where animations close to those of a cartoon sweeten a message of unavoidable rawness and sincerity.

So, without even a joke, but only with animals and humans using gestures, Endling: Extinction is forever throws our problem of empathy with the extinction of others in our faces and our inability to understand that it is only a matter of perspective and time, before it is ours too.

It is an experience that can be improved in many aspects from the point of view of interaction, from level design to the management of rhythms and longevity, but which counterbalances these edges with the emotional slaps that we all – all – badly need to take.

Version reviewed: PC

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