Looks pretty but says nothing
As the trees burn, a layer of flame shoots through the ground.
No, it’s not fire; it’s a fox. She tries to escape the collapsing house around her, desperately hoping to survive for the sake of the four beating hearts in her womb. Trees that have lived for centuries turn to ashes, and the fox finds refuge in a rocky refuge. With the fate surrounding it, life springs forth. Four bear cubs brought to a dying world.
These opening moments of Endling: extinction is eternal are some of the most gorgeous I’ve experienced in a game. The debut title from developer Herobeat Studios, endling follows the last fox on Earth, struggling to keep her young alive in a world that grows more hostile every day. With a cub kidnapped by a hunter, you must balance the responsibilities of keeping your remaining cubs alive while searching for your missing child.
It’s life in Endling: extinction is eternala side-scrolling survival game from developer Herobeat Studios. endlingThe themes of environmentalism are admirable, but the game’s exploration of the problem never goes beyond the surface. Despite breathtaking visuals, endlingThe simplistic story and restrictive gameplay fail to live up to the promise of the game’s first few minutes, leading to a disappointing and tedious experience.
Day by day
To survive. This is the main objective of endling. Survive the pollution that is spreading day by day. Survive the humans who seek to hunt you down to profit from your hide. Survive, even with a dwindling food supply. The game anchors this instinct in the player using a day-night cycle. Every night you venture outside your shelter to explore the world. As the day approaches, the bigger threats also increase and you must return home.
At the start of the game, one of your cubs is kidnapped by a hunter, while your other three cubs are too young to fend for themselves. The limited time of each day must be split between searching for clues to your lost cub and hunting for prey to feed the three you still have. This dichotomy should add tension to the minute-by-minute gameplay of endlingbut he never delivers on the stakes.
Taking care of the three cubs always by your side turns out to be an incredibly simple task. They can go long periods of time without needing food, and the threat of starvation has no impact on gameplay. Once the bar following the food is empty, a timer starts above a bear cub. If they are not fed before it is exhausted, they will perish. Sounds tense, but it only happened once in my four hours of play. That’s because food isn’t that scarce in Endling, even though humans are actively cutting down forests and polluting rivers. To get the most out of each day, I found myself roaming the map, often leaving my little ones unattended and only feeding them every other day when absolutely necessary.
Exploring the map in search of your lost bear cub becomes the main driving force. You might smell them, which will lead to new areas and clues to where they are. However, search as much as you want, you will not find your little one faster than another player. Clues to your cub’s whereabouts can only be discovered on certain days. endling Literally prevents players from progressing through the story or the map by locking entire areas, which means you’ll be retreading the same few paths for days, spending the time waiting for the next clue to unlock. It might have worked if keeping your other three little ones fed and alive was interesting or suspenseful. Yet for a game that says “extinction is eternal”, there’s no real sense of danger, which leaves the game feeling monotonous.
It finally becomes clear that endling is not a game about the fox and its cubs. Clues to the whereabouts of your lost club come in the form of scents you discover. Each new day a scent becomes available leads to three vignettes that show the journey of the hunter who captured your little one. As you find more clues, you’ll learn more about the hunter. Having outlived his wife, the hunter seeks to provide for his young daughter by any means necessary. A local company (the same responsible for deforestation and pollution in the world) rewards those who bring back fur.
The game looks at the player and says “This villain, he’s like you. It really makes you think, doesn’t it? The game’s themes of environmentalism and resource scarcity are a cautionary tale about the current state of the human species. We are the last of a dying species, we are endlings. Yet this clumsy attempt to pull the rug out from under the player’s feet rings hollow and seems devoid of any real meaning.
Environmentalism is not a new theme in video games. Final Fantasy VII, one of the most popular games of all time, is an explicit story about the need for direct action against morally evil societies that LITERALLY suck the life force out of the planet. “I can hear the screams of the planet,” a character exclaims to Cloud. Final Fantasy VII unafraid of the tough questions that come with an eco-conscious story, forcing each party member to struggle with their own complicity in the demise of the world to bring about real change. Barret even pledges to protect the condors from extinction at the hands of Shinra, understanding that he must act to protect the planet’s ecosystem.
Endling: extinction is eternal hides a monotonous experience behind a striking visual aesthetic and an empty message about the relationship between humanity and the environment. The gameplay never fully engages in building the relationship between the mother and her cubs, which leaves the whole story unemotional and bare. The end result is more “the call of the gentle” than call of the wild.
Endling: extinction is eternal is available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Reverse reviewed the game on PC.
REVERSE ETHOS OF VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Every Reverse The video game review answers two questions: is this game worth your time? Do you get what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or experience-diluting bugs. We care deeply about game design, world building, character arcs, and storytelling. The reverse will never strike, but we are not afraid to strike. We love magic and science fiction in equal measure, and while we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real context in which these games are made.