Foxes have fast become a popular hero across many games throughout the years. We’ve got the fantasy worlds and space wars of the famous Star Fox. There’s the more recent adventure affair of Tunic, featuring a fox and a sword. But there have also been more realistic attempts at delving into the fox world. The First Tree was a beautiful fable about a fox trying to find its family. And now, in Endling – Extinction is Forever, is a game that focuses on a vixen fleeing for her life from environmental fires, attempting to raise her cubs within and around the dangers and perils that exist.
Endling – Extinction is Forever is a stunning experience, but you should be warned that it is a tragic tale of survival, loss, and man-made environmental disasters; something that you might have guessed by the title.
The game starts with a forest fire taking hold, you are playing as a female fox running for her life. You jump, climb and avoid the horrible chaos going on around you, eventually ending up in a safe burrow. That night she has her pups and then the story really starts. What happens next in the narrative is that every night the fox goes venturing out with her cubs to find food and avoid the danger from all types of predators, pollution, and man; anything could attack you at any time. As she progresses further into the story, into the human world of factories and waste, we see the devastation the environment has caused and the stories connected to that through great visuals.
It’s all about the visual storytelling and that means that this certainly isn’t an easy ride. Death is something you will fight with constantly, and keeping your pups safe is paramount. Endling – Extinction is Forever is very clever at putting you deep into the tragedy, as you get to see the consequences of our actions play out; it’s terrifying and very upsetting. But it’s a worthwhile emotive story that I found deeply touching.
Gameplay takes place much like any normal side scrolling platformer, at least in some aspects. You control the fox and can climb up platforms, and run very quickly. A big thing you will be doing every night is looking for food from outside your burrow. This can take the guise of fish in ponds, rabbits on the move, berries or fruits from bushes, or even scraps ripped from discarded rubbish bags. Utilising your scent makes it possible to locate food sources as a green trail line lets you follow the map to get to your place of consumption.
To get fish and rabbits you have to sneak up on them quietly, all before pouncing. You can then carry the food and give it to your pups. Berries can be found in bushes, but be aware scavenging can cause problems as you might get tangled up in plastic from any garbage. The pups have a health bar that needs to be eyed up, as you attempt to keep them healthy. Fail and they will die from starvation. I told you it’s sad, didn’t I?
The rest of the game plays out via story progression that involves kidnappings, your habitat getting smaller and the need to move on because of human intervention. You also have to be wary of humans hunting and shooting you, or owls flying down and stealing your cubs. Traps injure you and slow you down. It’s a hard game – one in which you could survive with your cubs intact, or lose them all. The overall message is very bleak and I fear this could well put a lot of people off, even if it’s an important one to tell.
Visually, Endling – Extinction is Forever employs a beautiful hand-drawn animated style like a high-end film. It works brilliantly. Straight from the off the game impresses with its landscapes and devastation. The vixen and her cubs are well drawn alongside all the other characters you meet along the way; be they animal or human. There’s a great map design too, complete with interesting pathways and places to find. The scent trails are clever well, and the way the fox can see the memories of what happened in certain areas is neat. The sound design is good with some lovely emotive pieces throughout.
Endling – Extinction is Forever is an important game that tells a tale of the environmental and man-made destruction that is happening around us. It focuses on how our actions affect our animal friends, and the perilous state of balance we find ourselves in. As a game, it’s good and well designed, even though it feels relentless in its outcomes; at times, it’s not an enjoyable game to play.
This is a delicate journey that will pull at your heartstrings, hopefully ensuring the change of some hearts and minds as it goes.
Endling – Extinction is Forever is on the Xbox Store