Endling – Extinction Is Forever is an emotional, thought-provoking narrative that follows a mother fox and her cubs attempting to survive in a world that’s been ravaged by careless humans.
In the process of fighting for survival, you’ll work to track down one of your cubs after they go missing, explore and avoid humans and traps, and take care of your remaining three cubs by feeding them and teaching them survival skills.
There’s a lot more to Endling – Extinction Is Forever than fun fox-centric gameplay though, and as you dig deeper into the game’s story, you’ll unearth tragic horrors that’ll leave you reflecting on the cost of human greed and arrogance long after the credits roll.
In Endling – Extinction Is Forever, the gameplay loop of going out each day in search of food and clues is undeniably fun, even with the grim scenery and bleak, heartbreaking atmosphere that surrounds you. Hunting for food is one of your main tasks, with the process boasting a nice balance between not being overly complex or boringly simple.
You’ll need to first sniff out scents, then follow their trail, before creeping quietly up to your prey, and pouncing on them before they have a chance to scurry away. To feed your hungry cubs, all you need to do is drop your catch on the ground near them and they’ll chow down.
Not all food needs to be caught like fish or small animals like rats as there are also trash bags to pilfer through, and other items that have been carelessly left behind. Among these items are clues that’ll help you unravel the mystery of where your missing cub is, what the humans are up to in the ominous buildings nearby, as well as traps and hazards that can make your fox life even harder than it already is by slowing you down.
The things you find along the way also serve as lessons for your cubs, though I feel like the game could do a better job at explaining the “cub skills” system as it’s the thing I found most confusing in Endling. While sleeping in your den, you can press R to bring up and review the cub skills menu, with the first skill listed for each cub being Jump.
However, the game is less clear about how to teach new skills to fill the remaining slots, and different ways these skills can be utilized, as none of this is included in the opening tutorial. Instead, the tutorial focuses solely on movement from jumping to climbing and digging.
Looking at videos of how others were able to unlock cub skills, it appears you need to take your cubs to special locations in order to teach them. I managed to teach a few skills to my cubs, but this was primarily during story scenes where those skills were explicitly required. Outside of these scenarios, I had a very difficult time with the system itself both in figuring it out, and in using it. Fortunately, the game wasn’t affected in any sort of negative way by me not fully using or unlocking all of the different cub skills.
There were other issues that arose outside of cub skills that were a bit more disruptive, such as the game freezing to where I couldn’t move or open up the map or menu, particularly during enemy encounters where running away is needed. Other minor bugs I encountered included a time where one of my three cubs ran off on its own for no reason then appeared later as I was trying to avoid an enemy, forcing me to double back and go pick it up before running off again. It was very strange.
Damage That Can’t Be Undone
While the game is on the shorter side, it certainly doesn’t fail in packing a punch with its story. The overarching message is quite clear when it comes to humans needing to be more responsible and respectful of nature. However, it goes even deeper in emphasizing the permanent, and very real consequences caused by human carelessness.
You can’t just walk back the destruction like it never happened, or the consequences careless actions have on wildlife. Once a species is extinct, that’s it. As the game’s title aptly points out, extinction is forever. The story told over the course of several days works well, as does the slowly expanding map that encourages you to explore every nook and cranny.
In doing so, you’ll pick up on story beats from your surroundings, while also encountering some interesting enemies in the process that further elaborate upon the world and its inhabitants. Obviously I won’t be sharing spoilers, but I will say that Endling gets surprisingly emotional, and will likely wrench out at least a few tears from you by the end.
Cruel, Cruel World
As I played Endling, I flashed back to other games that evoked similar feelings such as Limbo and Inside as well as Ori and the Blind Forest. Setting itself apart, Endling feels more approachable, and easier to connect to in terms of situations taking place in our world right now. It also gives you the opportunity to “walk a mile in their shoes” so to speak as you take on the role of the mother fox, caring for your cubs and attempting to live in an area that grows increasingly more hostile by the day.
The visuals are stunning, and the soundtrack excels at aiding in conveying the gravity of the bad, as well as the moments of light and joy included in the game. Overall, if you enjoy games with deeper meaning hidden beneath the surface, you’ll love Endling. If you enjoy games that make you cry, you’ll certainly find that with Endling. Bugs and minor issues aside, Endling is one of the more moving games I’ve played this year, and I highly recommend it. Just be sure to have some tissues on hand, just in case.
This review of Endling – Extinction Is Forever is based on a Steam key provided by the publisher. Endling – Extinction Is Forever is available as of July 19, 2022 on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.