If you thought Tunic would be the only game starring a fox that we would recommend getting your hands on in 2022, you were wrong. Spanish developer Herobeat Studios’ Endling: Extinction is Forever tells the gripping tale of a mother fox trying to survive the destruction of an ecosystem at the hands of humans, all the while caring for her newborn cubs.
Endling is a beautifully presented game that plays out over the course of many days as you slowly explore the world map bit by bit, scavenging for food for your offspring, avoiding traps and other dangers, and ultimately finding out more about the creeping demise of nature all around you.
Every time you leave your burrow, you’re first tasked with keeping your kids fed, by keeping track of their hunger meter. It’s relatively simple finding food: once you catch a scent, it’s a matter of tracking it down and securing whatever is giving off the smell. If it’s a smaller animal, you as momma fox will have to skulk around and leap strike at them before carrying their remains in order to feed your little ones.
Along the way, as you explore the game’s many unique environments, you’ll get to teach the cubs new skills which come in handy when out and about. Due to their smaller size, for instance, they can squeeze through small openings and find hidden clues or even food, and eventually, once they grow some more, can even help you when facing off against predators.
Their constant evolution throughout the game is both adorable and positively fascinating, Herobeat has done a tremendous job in making them very capable and at the same time helpless enough to still require your watchful presence as they develop into adult foxes. In the first few moments of the game, you’ll get to pick their colors, which in my mind helps form a sense of attachment to these minute creatures.
It’s also worth praising how well developed the atmosphere of Endling is. The dark and snowy fields are in constant contrast to the ever-growing industrial park, which as the game progresses engulfs whatever is left of nature. Humans, the awful blight upon Earth that we are, are the real villains in the game, and will chase the fox mother down if they manage to see her.
The overall story of Endling puts your character in direct conflict with them, forcing her to go against her instincts and explore further into the human world than she would otherwise. It’s this drive to see more of the worldbuilding allied with her need to keep her family alive that drives the game forward.
All throughout my time playing this, I was absolutely absorbed by its presentation as well. It’s an overall simple look to the world and characters, but made all the more striking by just how elements contrast from one another. For just how drab the environments tend to be, our radiant orange fox is instantly visible as she crawls around, hunting for her family’s next meal.
The score of the game is very contained, leaving the sound design to do the heavy lifting when it comes to ambiance, which it does quite well through the use of limited voice lines for the humans, the barks and whines of your pups, and the forest noises that are obligatory when it comes to settling us into Endling’s world.
There are plenty of games that approach the subject of the upcoming apocalypse by the hand of humans and their constant influence on Earth’s decay, and although Endling: Extinction is Forever shows but a slice of the effects of our actions upon the planet, it does so in a way that’s sure to leave a mark on you. It isn’t the most action-intensive game you’ll ever play, but it’s fantastic in a way that very few games manage to be with the limited scope that it’s given.