Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (Played on PlayStation 5 System)
Also On: Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One
Price: $29.99 MSRP – Both Physically and Digitally
Developer: Herobeat Studios
Publisher: HandyGames ~ A THQ Nordic Company
Please Note: A review code was provided by THQ Nordic but does not influence opinions in this review.
Beauty and Destruction are two words that are basically opposites of one another and usually when you talk about one, you don’t typically mention the other at the same time. With Endling: Extinction is Forever, you do need to talk about both things in relation with one another. Endling shows us the problems with multiple different concepts in the actual real world that may occasionally be talked about, but never really acted upon in a meaningful way. The game is portrayed in a way that both hurts you thinking about things, but is also heartfelt at the same time.
The story around this game revolves around you playing as a mother fox who just has given birth to 4 adorable cubs. However, early on in the game one of the cubs gets taken from you and the whole entire game revolves around you getting your missing cub back while protecting the others that are still with you. One thing right off the bat with this game which I loved, is the fact that you can slightly alter the different colors of the cubs that were birthed to a selected array of colors and patterns. Nothing major, but the variety kind of feels like a nice touch in a game about you playing as a mother protecting your own.
Throughout the story, you meet other characters and creatures that offer more in depth than just you and your cubs. You are being hunted my many different characters, some are hunters that will kill you, some are traps on the ground that will damage you, and more. Besides watching out for yourself as the mother fox, you always want to pay attention to the AI controlled cubs that follow you. They can’t do certain things and you have to help them. I won’t give away any of the story pieces besides the picture above, but there seems to be a reason why the fox was kidnapped, and then a change of heart that might have occured from an unexpected source. The story was a lot better than I thought on the surface level, and then the themes that were explored in the game take it overall to a much deeper level.
There were multiple themes that were attached with the game, but I want to highlight 2 and one analogy that may or may not be hiding under the surface, but one I want to talk about. The first thing that I need to talk about in terms of themes is environmental protection. There was a factory that was in the game that basically was polluting the environment around you. The pond and water areas start out nice and clean, but then after a few days, that is no more. This basically is what is occurring in nature currently all the time between all of the oil spills in the ocean, waste being discarded without care for wildlife, and more. This game showcases this so well and it is very impressive on the way it was showcases it. It never felt too pushy on the concept, but it was done in a way that works seriously well.
The other thing was animal protection and rights. In the game, you as a fox are hunted so often without any place to feel safe besides the den. There are dogs that will attack you on site, owls that will go and try to kill your cubs, traps laid on your path, and of course human people. Hunting is a sport that people go out and kill for the fun of it, and while I do think there could be worse things to do, hunting animals and competing to see who got the biggest kill or something else stupid like that annoys the heck out of me and makes me sick. The other part to this in the game is the way in which the factory is portraying a certain industry. In a certain area of the factory, the game portrays a chicken slaughterhouse and it pains me that it still is like this in present day in real life. Themes in games sometimes can overpush its boundary, but I think Endling had the balance for themes just right.
The last thing I want to mention about themes; the analogy that I saw but maybe not what the developers we going for. The thing I saw was the concept of being a single mother and raising kids while also trying to figure out your own life. In the game, you have to find food for your cubs and keep them alive. Not once did I actually see the mother even eat in the game. Kids come first of a lot of people, so some people might wait to see what is left if things are tight. Sometimes in the game, you couldn’t even find real food and you had to settle on scraps or things that might be unhealthy, but for some, that is reality. Again, not sure this was what they intended but it was a thing I thought was noteworthy.
In terms of gameplay, it is actually super repetitive while being intense yet calm at the same time. So basically the game works on a day night cycle. During the day, you sleep in one of the dens and don’t come out. At night, you have to come out and do a bunch of things. One of these is making sure the cubs have enough food to eat and have a high enough health bar. Usually it’s not too hard to find something, but it definitely gets harder later on. The other massive thing you have to do is to find different clues about your fox cubs abduction and figure out who did it and why they did it, and eventually find your missing cub. You know how it happens, but you quickly learn different things about the antagonist that might be surprising. Other tasks include helping your fox cubs find new skills, hiding and running away from enemies, exploring the map, helping other animals, and making sure you make it back to the fox den before sunrise.
In terms of complaints of the game, there are only a few things I need to touch on. The first of these is a small gripe I have for the game. Every time you need to look where you are, you have to open a map. In some ways I wish there could be an option for a mini map, even though it might distract from the world around you. The other small thing that I had a problem with is the fact that I needed to restart a night quite a few times when I made one or two simple little mistakes or if there was a bug and I couldn’t do what I needed to. Normally, if this was in a game, it would turn me off, but because I knew how to correct the error I did or hoped that the bug fixed itself; it wasn’t as big of an issue for me.
Lastly, this isn’t a huge issue, but one that I thought I should mention. There is no option to go and reverse time. You play your night, and if you returned to the den whatever happened outside, happened. No going backwards, only forwards. I missed 1 night for getting a fox clue because I needed food for the cubs as a bigger priority, but it irks me a little I don’t know what it was. I understand why it was done this way as it would throw off the whole point, just wish there was like a menu after you complete the game to see something if you missed it for whatever reason. Besides these things, I wouldn’t change much.
So, I have discussed the gameplay, themes, issues I had, and its story; but what about art, performance, music and all that fun stuff. So in terms of performance, it ran fine for the most part with only a couple of instances of pop in and one crash near the end of the game. I played the whole game on the quality mode but in the menu, I did see there was a performance mode but I did not test it as I wanted to keep the quality up in this one. The art and visuals in the game are very beautiful and well crafted. The music and sound design were seriously crafted with care and had a sense of danger mixed with a dash of beauty with a hint of devastation. Honestly, I expected the music to be good and it definitely was.
So, what is my overall opinion on this game? Well, I can tell you this. I expected a great story that showcases a mother trying to keep her family alive. My expectations with the themes portrayed combined, exceeded it. The gameplay I didn’t expect a huge amount of variety based on the trailers, and I thought it was pretty good. The music, art, performance all made me happy as well. Even though this game took me about 5 hours to beat, it blew me away with that time. I will caveat this and say, if you are struggling with some kind of depression or something sad going on in your life, maybe avoid this one for a while as it can pull at your heartstrings even if you know what the outcome might be, you ain’t prepared for it. I didn’t expect to say this, but my top 10 of 2022 list might be including Endling, it’s really good.