The theme of the natural and animal preservation it is a subject as complex as it is important. The team of Hereboeat Studios has strongly understood the fragility of the ecosystem that manages life on Earth, and for this reason has created a video game with the intent of transmitting a message (or more a warning) related to the salvation of animal species and the planet. The final result is a work that attempts to demonstrate the selfishness of man seen by eyes of a fox, in a post apocalyptic world that risks becoming our present. Our review then goes to analyze Endling: Extiction is Forevercurrently available for PC, Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
A world in ruins
The narrative does not want to be complex, without any kind of purpose in conceiving and developing characters with a thousand facets and twists. A choice that is a winner for this game because, through a simple story, the script manages to convey its real message. All without any kind of dialogue, since the focus is on the events and the direction.
The game immediately kicks off with a focus on the escape of a fox from a forest in the middle of a mysterious fire. After the initial section, the following video introduces the birth of four little puppies and the joy of a young mother. At this precise moment, the player is emotionally involved, through small but important details such as the movement of the fox, the suffering voice and the ability to choose the color of each individual cub. A further demonstration of how a series of chatter is not always needed to create an emotional story.
Endling: Extiction is forever he even manages to create a balance, still difficult to propose today. The game design and structure want to convey a continuous feeling of cinematic adventure, and to do so they push the narrative forward through the gameplay and movies. The clever use of multiple laws of cinematography further helps that feeling, where the camera angle and good time management can really make a difference.
In this way the incipit evolves hand in hand with the continuation of the game and, for this reason, we prefer to stop so as not to ruin the surprise for possible interested parties. The intent of the development team is to surprise the player, who will face with curiosity a title that he tries to amaze on more than one occasion. However, we point out that the longevity is not very highand it is possible to reach the credits in about four or five hours.
The end of a species
Endling: Extiction Is Forever breaks down its structure into nights, where in each one our task will be to find food for their puppies and possibly continue in the main plot. The developers have tried to build a daily routine, in a sort of survival cycle closely linked with the actions performed in the surrounding environment. It doesn’t take long for the player to look puzzled at the actions of men as they cut down precious trees or run a chicken farm. The attention that the player pays to the game world makes the latter the real co-protagonist of the experience. Simply observing the actions of humans with the eyes of a fox creates unique dynamics and perspectives.
The player faces in the skin of the protagonist the selfishness of man, who wants to destroy an entire ecosystem to guarantee only his own survival, a situation that at the same time even manages to extinguish it in a slow but painful way.
In terms of gameplay, Endling: Extiction Is Forever looks like a survival in 2.5D. The player takes control of the protagonist fox with the aim of exploring the game world to find some fruit and, possibly, donate some prey to their young. The way to participate in the cycle of life is to move from left to right, with specific points where you can change the direction. The hunt begins when the fox notices it presence of a prey and, once its smell has been followed, it must be “attacked” with the appropriate button. In the case of some kind of fruit or human food the speech is clearly simpler.
In general it is clear that the developers have focused on a title with simple game mechanics, in order to open up to awide range of public. However, the choice is not wrong, since the intent of the developers is to create an accessible experience for deliver a message to as many people as possible, and certainly in this sense the work is extremely direct and concise.
Four glimmers of hope
At the beginning of the adventure the cubs begin to follow the fox protagonist, so as to insert a further degree of danger – and familiarity – in the player. The presence of these little creatures with their immature voices, the runs in the meadows and the continuous waste of energy, manages to convey a certain anxiety and joy in the user. This way no one can take their eyes off bar bottom left, which marks the energy of puppiesin an attempt to find enough food to save them all: if the bar runs out, one of the puppies risks starving.
This is not the only way in which one of the children of the protagonist is able to lose his own life, given the presence of predators and humans. Fortunately, using a little caress can heal all kinds of wounds. In this sense, the realistic element is totally absent to seek a more accessible and playful experience.
The biggest danger is, of course, people with their own character and their own paraphernalia. On night journeys it is possible that the fox runs into some situations, where the only way to escape is to make no noise, entering small stealth phases or leave false leads. These gameplay features are also extremely simple, but that adequate sense of danger is tangible.
The downside is the fights, which are extremely trivial, since they use a QTE that never changes its mechanics. The idea is not to give too much emphasis to certain phases, so much so that it is possible to complete without even having a fight. This wants to give further proof of how much the protagonist is defenseless compared to the surrounding world, but at the same time determined to save the lives of their children.
Exploration is an extremely important element for the entire game ecosystem. The player must travel not only to perform the actions described above, but also to assist at events and improve the skills of the little ones. The first are single moments where something particular happens, such as the presence of a kind human child, or an animal to be saved. The second is a prize for discovery and curiosity, which allows you to obtain unique skills for each individual puppy of the team. To tell the truth, it is not mandatory to unlock every single upgrade, but they will allow, for example, to reach foods otherwise unattainable.
However, the mechanics of the nights are not an end in themselves, since in the gameplay it changes with the same passage of time. The different tasks should possibly be completed by the waning of the moon. The penalty is not linked to an immediate death, but to the greater presence of enemies within the game world. A function that gives a further feeling of danger to the player, creating an additional aura of importance to the fox survival routine.
A little touch of class is the look at the den, present at the end of every single night. At certain times the work allows you to closely observe the mother and the little ones intent on sleeping, perhaps surrounded by some toys found around. This manages to further increase the degree of affection that the player feels for the protagonists, much to stop a world that seems to have forgotten the sweetness and the understanding of others.
A surprising aesthetic side
In this review, one of the features we liked most about Endling: Extiction Is Forever is his stylistic side. Through a wise use of cel shading, the developers have created extremely suggestive settings and characters. In the pure technical side, the models may be simple and not very defined, but the style built around them creates an incredible visual impact, with a strong artistic vein. The version for Nintendo Switch does not even present substantial problems, so much so that it is excellent to see both in home mode and in laptop. We still report the presence of long loads and a single crash of the game, but nothing so serious as to corrupt saves or something similar.
The soundtrack composed strongly succeeds in its difficult task, with music it is not present in all situations of the game, but in specific sequences, which amplify the importance of a particular event. These parts of musical silence allow further immersion in the game world, through listening to the noises of humans and other animals. A further advantage that increases the commitment and work invested in the product, so much so as to highlight the vision and passion of each single line of code.
Endling: Extiction Is Forever
8.5 Total Score
Endling: Extiction Is Forever is the first work of Herobeat Studios, a product with a strong artistic impact, with a message of social and environmental criticism. A product with its imperfections, but with a simple and fun gameplay. The work manages to excite, also making use of a direction that contemplates and makes any feature of the video game its own. Strongly recommended for those who want an experience that does not want to revolutionize the industry, but still has a strong originality.