It is not often that video games concern the real world. Still, when they do, they must deliver a message that not just resonates with the player, but also utilises innovative gameplay to bring that message across. For Spanish developers Herobeat Studios and publisher HandyGames, the 3D side-scrolling survival experience that is Endling – Extinction is Forever does just about enough in that regard, with some caveats.
Dropping players into a world that has seen better days, players assume the role of the last vixen trying to save its cubs in a dystopian future. A premise that does not seem too far from reality, the overexploitation of natural resources has basically sent the wildlife plummeting towards doom, and this daily struggle is represented well through the gameplay systems.
Each and every day, players will have to figure out how to find enough food for the four adorable cubs that follow you around, all while dealing with the man-made dangers and that of nature taking its course. The initial areas are just small enough to ease players into the circumstances, learning about the world, before gradually opening up to different segments that hold other challenges and opportunities for life as well as death.
This setup naturally nudges players towards developing a caring bond with the little ones, and even more so when a scavenger scoops up one of your curious cubs, serving as the primary driver of your quest to reclaim the lost family member in Endling.
As the vixen, players have the ability to sniff out nearby food, dig through shallow ground or snow, and even climb obstacles to access areas of interest or get a better view. It is not complicated, but it serves the sole purpose of survival. For the little ones, however, these are almost impossible tasks, that is, until they have the right environment to learn and master skills of their own.
Thanks to the changing surroundings as time passes, certain areas will become accessible, leading to not just progress in the main narrative, but also creating opportunities for the cubs to develop their own skills to survive.
One of your cubs might be adept at digging through the ground to discover items or food; another can squeeze itself through gaps for the same purpose, while a third can help out by becoming a hunter of rats. The way things unfold quite naturally is always a pleasant surprise, especially as the game opens up more for exploration, and players continue to build the bond between mother and cubs in Endling.
Obviously, as a world hurtling towards destruction, there are many dangers out in the wild for a family like this. There are furriers who would want nothing more than a fox pelt to call their own, predators like owls that want a meal, and other assorted hazards to look out for. While it remains pressing to find the lost cub, keeping everyone healthy and alive should always be a key priority.
That said, there are definitely some tradeoffs to consider when Endling is trying to mesh gameplay with the story it is trying to tell. Certainly losing a precious cub is a matter of utmost concern, but the game requires days to be passed in order for the world to change and give players more to do. Once you get the hang of finding food, it may become a tedious process instead, having to skip days until you get to the next major story beat.
What was once an intriguing day-to-day fight to survive becomes less impactful when it feels like a journey that was padded just so the game could be a little longer. We do appreciate some dramatic stopgaps every once in a while, but this is one obstacle that will need overcoming, even if the overall message is worth applauding.
For what it’s worth, what Endling does with those passing days is pretty good on the worldbuilding front, going from season to season, exposing more of the damage that humans have done to the world while giving players more room to stretch their foxy legs. In addition, it brings into focus issues of pollution, destruction, and wanton exploitation that could be hard for some to understand, but becomes easier to grasp as a fox struggles to keep her family alive and safe.
In some ways, Endling is a game we both need and may not want. The overall narrative and message are worthwhile causes, a journey that anyone who has any concern about the environment and what humans are doing to it will want to experience. However, the gameplay is not exactly thrilling, and may not necessarily be the best vehicle to level up the eco-consciousness of a player that perhaps is expecting something different.
Nevertheless, it is significant that a game like Endling – Extinction is Forever exists. For those willing to give it a shot, you will find a uniquely positioned adventure with enough tension and drama to fill its five to six hours of gameplay. Yet, if that is something piquing your interest, then even the cutest of customisable fox cubs will not change your mind.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An experience that is a departure from the norm, Endling – Extinction is Forever is a game that pushes a real-world agenda that could definitely use your attention if you care enough.
- Gameplay – 7/10
- Story – 8/10
- Presentation – 7.5/10
- Value – 7/10
Drop a Facebook comment below!