Endling – Extinction is Forever might sound like the title of the next James Bond movie but in reality, this new family-friendly game is part adventure, part survival, and part eco-conscious messaging that takes place in a ravaged world where you are playing as the last fox on Earth. Thankfully, you have a few fur babies in your belly, and once those are delivered the real challenge begins. Can you keep your pups alive and save your species from extinction?
Endling takes place in a 3D world presented in a continually shifting 2D side scrolling perspective that twists and turns to keep you engaged with your environment. You’ll mostly play at night, making use of the cover of darkness to keep you safe as you scavenge for food and explore your surroundings. Along the way you will teach your cubs valuable life skills so they can survive in this hostile world that man has destroyed. I typically dislike games that put you on a timer, but the night/day cycle of this clock is fairly generous, giving you ample time to complete many tasks during each session. Getting caught in the sun doesn’t trigger immediate consequences, but more dangerous stuff happens in the daylight.
There is a surprising number of things to see and do in Endling, and it could easily take you two or three passes through the game to see it all. There is also considerable and inevitable trauma and loss, and no matter how careful I was there was always something stressful lurking about. Early in the game you lose one of your cubs and will spend several “nights” trying to recover it from those evil humans. Yes, the game is rather depressing throughout with brief moments that spark hope and joy, and while there is definitely some eco-messaging going on here it is no worse than what we got back in 1992 with Eco the Dolphin.
The overall presentation is quite stunning with a unique visual style that combine cel-shaded animation so smooth I would argue it was hand drawn. The brief cutscenes and interstitial videos that bridge your nightly adventures with your daily sleep are expertly crafted and look like old Disney/Bambi clips. There is so much subtle detail in these animations and interactions between mom and cubs it’s hard not to get emotionally attached. Combined with a convincing audio package that mixes plenty of environmental sounds along with a stirring soundtrack, Endling will captivate you for its 4+ hour playtime.
Survival adventures are nothing new to gaming and while most require diligent discovery and collection followed by crafting and such, Endling keeps things simple. Keep your cubs fed and safe while teaching them to become self-reliant. Some material may be a bit much for younger kids; there are some scenes that will stir up feelings in older gamers as well, and while there is a great message underlying this cautionary tale, families may want to play together and discuss how some scenes and events mirror what is taking place in the world today. I could even see this being played in schools as an eco-awareness tool.
It’s hard to say that I had a “great” time with Endling – Extinction is Forever. It was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions and even stressful at times, but that seemed to fit with the post-apocalyptic theme of the game, so job well done. If you’re ready to experience the circle of life and shed a few tears, then look no further than Endling – Extinction is Forever.