Endling - Extinction is Forever
The world is a vast and cruel place as the circle of life dictates who survives and who is prey. Among animals, the relationships between predator and prey are established. The former requires the sacrifice of the latter for food and sustenance in order to survive. When humans are thrown into this circle, it not only disrupts it but it destroys it and everything within it. The lessons taught in Endling - Extinction Is Forever are very simple; Humans suck.
Endling's story is told without any dialogue, using the actions of the humans and the body language of the fox and her pups to convey a message. The fox is being hunted by humans as she is the last adult fox mom alive, hence the title. Knowing this, she's on the run yet retains injuries from her escape. Eventually, she returns to her hideout, accompanied by four pups she has been taking care of. Each of the pups can be customized via different fur colors and patterns.
Every night, the mother looks for food which is a big part of Endling's early game. Small prey, like squirrels and fish, can be detected by catching their scent. When the fox is close enough, she can sneak and pounce on her prey to give to her cubs. This is determined by a collective hunger meter which also doubles as their health. Endling does not pull any punches when it comes to tugging at heart strings. Failing to care for your kin will cause them to die, not a gory death, but one that is meant to evoke emotion.
Early on, one of your pups is kidnapped by one of the poachers, opening the game's second main storyline in finding your kidnapped pup. This also opens part of the vast open map although some sections will gradually open as events transpire each day. It is also during this part that your pups will follow you, adding another layer of security over them. As they travel with you, they will pick up on skills and traits, including jumping and being able to hunt small game for themselves.
The cutscenes in Endling, as I mentioned, are meant to evoke emotion. Watching the pups play in the snow will make you audibly "Aww" while the ever-looming threat of the poachers is around every corner. The fox cannot physically fight back so it's literally "flight and flight." The player is encouraged to find their kidnapped pup, naturally, but they also must take care of their own pups as well. The game is a survival genre similar to Stranded Deep yet there's nothing to craft, no thirst meter, or any micromanaging.
It's you, as an endangered species vs humans who will stop at nothing to ensure they get their prize. I played through the first handful of nights and out of sheer curiosity I looked up the multiple endings the game has to offer. While the endings are a different variants, they all come to the same conclusion which I won't spoil here. It did confirm several things about Endling that I knew. Again, humans suck, but it's both a mirror and a magnifying glass on how cruel we can be.
Endling - Extinction is Forever is poised to be the way it is as it teaches a story about destroying the environment and harming its residents trying to survive. It does so without words, without dialogue, but the action of the game itself. That's one of the things I liked about the game is that there is no exposition.
There's no guide to tell you "what to do next." It's all about survival and expecting to cut your losses while minimizing your losses at the same time. Endling is not a game for the faint-hearted and those looking for a more "feel-good experience" should turn to Stray. It is still a game I'd recommend for those who wish to see the harsh truth of the state of the world today.
Endling - Extinction is Forever is available on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, and Sony PlayStation 4.