Endling – Extinction is Forever Review (PS4)
I’m getting my pup back no matter how long it takes.
Available on: PS4/5/Steam/Console
Genre: Survival Fox Sim
Endling – Extinction is Forever has you play as a fox, but it becomes a bit more complicated than you would normally expect by the basic premise of, well, playing a fox. After narrowly escaping a burning forest, that was presumably your home, you give birth to a litter of pups in a small cave pretty close to human society. You can actually personalize your pups, picking from a couple colors and patterns, before you all wake up. At first, everything is as fine as it could be. Acting like a tutorial to get you used to the controls, you’re introduced to how you’ll have to keep your pups fed and learn how to find and catch food.
However, this calm doesn’t last forever. It’s not long before a strange object lands within the fox den. At first, I just thought it was a harmless kid’s toy that a poor kid lost, but it soon becomes clear that it was a nasty ploy. One of your pups wakes up to check out the toy, which causes it to be grabbed and taken by a human dubbed as the Scavenger. Sadly, you wake up too late and the Scavenger is already gone. So not only are you trying to keep your pups feed (though weirdly, you don’t eat), but also find your kidnapped (pupnapped?) pup.
Endling is pretty easy to get the hang of. You play during the night and have to eventually return as the day. As you explore this new area, you’ll come across potential food you can bring back to your pups (or give as they grow old enough to follow you). As you smell around, you’ll be alerted of nearby food and you can follow the scent to where it is. Grabbing fruit, human food, or already dead animals are easy enough, but you do need to be more careful when hunting small animals. Small animals, like rats or rabbits, are more skittish, having you sneak up on them close enough so you can pounce on them. If you tend to run all the time here to get around faster, like I did, you’ll soon learn to not do it as much as this will scare them away. Plus, there are traps set up and you can end up getting caught in one. You can escape traps, but these leave you injured and limping for a while. Your pups have a hunger meter and you have to keep it filled with the various food sources you find, or else one of your pups will start to starve and curl up.
The story is progressed by you picking up the smell of the Scavenger that took your pup, as the map tends to open up on or around these days. Distinguished as the purple scents, these lead you to items the Scavenger had/touched, which will give you a picture of what roughly happened as well as hope as you see your poor pup. And with the map opening up more, different dens will also become available as well as different areas that you can go to.
Of course, progressing the story also brings in danger. As days pass, you’ll see the bodies of water you wade through become polluted, see more humans hanging around, and the trees that used to surround you disappearing. And worse of all, as night turns into day humans that pose harm to you will wander around. Some are the humans that will generally shoo you away but will try to chase and grab you, but there is the Scavenger that will shoot and kill you if he sees you, the Furrier which obsessively hunts you down (luckily you can mark certain objects to throw him off), and these guys with hunting dogs that will quickly get you if you run in front of the spotlight. Not to mention traps will pop up more the more into the story you are as well as owls requiring you to sneak past and the occasional plastic bag that has a chance of appearing when looking in trash bags. All these hazards will require you to either find another way around or carefully sneak past so you can stay alive and not have to restart from the beginning of the day.
Luckily, there is a map here so you can find a path back to a den or around the humans (and some event moments also pop up here) as well as where the more dangerous humans are located at.
While you don’t see your pups grow up, which I wanted to see how the babies looked like fully grown, they do get to the point where they can follow you before you leave the first den. This won’t cause you too many problems, as they do walk around traps and the humans don’t seem to grab them, but you do have to make sure to take paths that let them follow you. Or at least make sure to return to them before they starve. This does give you an advantage of being able to explore more and being able to feed them whenever.
Your pups also have skills that they can and will learn. They have two skills they all share, which helps them follow you on/off ledges, with the other two being unique to them. Some of them do unlock as you progress the story, but the others do require you to go to a specific spot to trigger a scene. I do like that your pups learn skills to follow you around better and to help get food you can’t, but it is a bit annoying as you’re just wondering where exactly this skill is unlocked at. Especially since I do feel they could learn the skills anywhere or by watching you do it. Maybe it would have helped a bit if we got a marker on the map for them? I did have to look up a few skill unlock locations and only missed one, the skill associated with traps (which is a bit of an anomaly apparently).
Honestly, I don’t think Endling is a hard game, mildly difficult yes, but not too hard. I was able to keep all of my pups alive, with my only deaths being the couple times I got shot by the Scavenger and the one time I got caught by the Furrier. I also certainly had a few days where my pups’ hunger bar was very low, and to a point where one of the pups had a warning marker on them to show that they’re slowing down and close to dying, but I did end up finding food just in time and keeping them fed most of the time (even if it ends up being trash). Unless you’re putting a challenge on yourself, or not really paying attention to their food meter, you might actually encounter a problem of trying to not drop food while they’re still full more often than them dying from hunger.
Endling’s performs really well on the PS4, though I did have some pop-ins and objects shifting when I run into the area to rightly project where the environment was currently at based on my progress. I did also come across a couple bugs, like my pups randomly not wanting to eat berries, the pup that learns to climb getting stuck when trying to climb down until I pick it up and down again, and my pups falling through the floor over and over again because I didn’t sleep in the last unlocked den a few days before the game ended. Luckily, my run wasn’t ruined by the two that caused me to not be able to feed my pups (as the game autosaves once you go to sleep).
Other than that, Endling is absolutely beautiful. Well, until all the trees get cut down and the humans throw their trash everywhere (like seriously, use a trashcan). You do have to explore before it all disappears (and man is it depressing that it does overnight or you have to watch as it does over a couple nights), but it is beautiful.
Endling – Extinction is Forever is an emotional survival game that challenges you to try to survive and keep your pups alive all while humans continually pollute and tear down the forest around you. It may have just been because I started playing at the right time, but Endling made me cry (mainly at the beginning, as I tried to tell the mother fox to wake up already) and while I did have some annoyances with the game, I did like playing. I was hooked as I was trying to get my missing pup back, hoping that it was fine and alive, I didn’t mind that you’ll pretty much get into a routine, and the challenge of avoiding hunters kept me on my toes (even though they sometimes annoyed me). And oh man, that ending is heartbreaking.
I don’t think Endling is exactly worth full price, but if you like slow-paced, survival games that will get emotional and you find this on a discount, pick this up. The game is fun, but I don’t think there’s enough here to justify the price to those that take it into consideration.