Rarely has a game gripped me as tightly as Endling: Extinction Is Forever did.
Through only a few hours of gameplay, I was more invested in guiding a mother fox and her cubs around a threat-filled landscape than I was fighting against gods or frantically diving through firefights in other games. My heart pounded as they narrowly avoided predators or human hunters, and I wouldn't rest until I'd made sure both mother and cubs were as well-fed as possible with the best foods they could scavenge.
In time, this attitude applied to other characters and aspects of the game's world. Though there was never a line of dialogue and scant few cutscenes to be found, the game made me care about almost every person and creature in it, and I was ready to stick it out no matter where it led.
This is the core strength of Endling: Extinction Is Forever, and one which developer Herobeat Studios should be applauded for. Though it may not be perfect in every regard, their title is one that tells a novel story and provides an experience that is easy to get sucked up into.
As for what the story is, it's pretty dire on its face: Following a man-made apocalypse, the last mother fox on earth gives birth to a small litter of cubs. She then has to guide them through a mix of natural and man-made areas, dodging, misleading, or fighting off any potential threats that could endanger her children.
If this sounds like a stressful story premise, that's because it is. Endling: Extinction Is Forever can and does come down on the player with the full brunt of the reality these foxes find themselves in.
The gameplay only compounds this. Utilizing survival and stealth elements, players need to constantly explore and scavenge food to keep the fox cubs healthy. They can only do so in a limited amount of time though, as it's only safe for the foxes to venture out of their home at night. The closer to morning it gets, the more threats there will be that need to be dealt with or circumvented, making it paramount to maximize the limited window of safety available.
Fortunately, the game does offset this lasting tension with plenty of moments of catharsis. As they grow and learn from their mother, each cub gains abilities they can use to help them survive. One can climb trees to reach food up in trees, while others can dig into burrows or weave their way through tight spaces.
The story also provides glimmers of hope to offset the oppressiveness. For every moment where making it through the world is a struggle, there are respites and chances for kindness even in the world's shattered state. Finding an animal-loving girl who provides food to the cubs, or helping a fellow animal who has been snared in a trap, were moments that snapped me out of the high-stress mindset that the game put me in, and allowed me to bask in the beauty that could still be found.
And beauty there is. Endling: Extinction Is Forever boasts an art style that breaths life and color into its dying world. Humans are depicted with a cartoony and exaggerated quality to them, which plays well into the roles they play as friends or hunters. The vibrant oranges and reds of the foxes are matched by the green of trees and vegetation or the soft golden sunlight filtering over the horizon at dawn.
Even the more muted and broken elements of the world meant to hint at the recent apocalypse are shown with detail and liveliness that tells a story - of people who fought to survive and failed, or of places that once were before everything fell apart.
It all blends together into an art piece in motion, making for one of the more visually stunning depictions of the apocalypse out there.
Then, there's the sound design, which is a close second to Endling: Extinction Is Forever's story as its best quality.
Most any time, there's a lovely series of songs, music queues, and sound effects to bring the world to life. Calmer moments are matched with softer orchestral melodies, while the tenser struggles against danger feature cutting screeches or sharper tones accordingly.
And yet, it's also worth noting how valuable the game's restraint when it comes to sound is. There are no explicit spoken lines of dialogue in the game, and while the music and sound effects are ever-present, they're never overbearing. They're also quieted or dampened as the mother fox and her cubs approach dangerous situations, allowing these moments to take center stage without distraction.
This played a big part in my losing myself in the title for its entire runtime. The game didn't try to overcrowd or overstimulate me with a bombardment of sounds at every possible second. It wanted me to take in exactly what was happening and how it was happening, and it succeeded brilliantly as a result.
As for its flaws, most all of Endling: Extinction Is Forever's missteps are minor.
At times, the game did get soft-locked in a way that made progress impossible due to two actions or set pieces being triggered simultaneously. Fortunately, the game autosaves frequently, making it easy to regain any progress that was lost due to these glitches.
On a less technical front, the game can feel short when all is said and done. I could have and would have happily spent several more hours in the world and gameplay loop it provided, which made the eventual ending feel all the more abrupt.
As stated above though, these are minor gripes and far from deal-breaking issues that only serve to keep the game from being flawless.
Endling: Extinction Is Forever Review | Final Thoughts
There's little else that can be said about Endling: Extinction Is Forever other than it's a game worth experiencing. Its flaws are minor while its strengths shine through brilliantly, and it's worth every ounce of joy and pain that it brings before the credits roll.
TechRaptor reviewed Endling: Extinction Is Forever on PlayStation 5 using a PlayStation 4 copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
- Gripping story
- Beautiful Art
- Great Sound Design
- On the short side
- Occasional Glitches and Technical Issues