Review: Bleak Endling– Extinction is Forever Is Important, But Emotionally Taxing

I’m not a person that needs to consume only media that makes them feel good, but I’m also not someone who likes to watch shows or play games that would gut me—especially with animals. In fact, people with soft spots for animals are more likely to play a game like Endling- Extinction is Forever.  

Endling—Extinction is Forever is a 2.5D side scrolling survival game. In it, you play as a fox who just recently became a mother. Your job is to survive while keeping your kits alive in a post-industrial hellscape. See, you don’t have just other animals to contend with for survival, you have to avoid humans in a land that is increasingly had to survive in because of their rampant disregard for nature. Endling tends to be a bit heavy handed in its environmental message, but it does a good job of really caring for your kits—and thus, your combined plight.

Screenshot: Endling-Extinction is Forever

Most of Endling consists of heading out at night, often with your kits, to explore and obtain food. You have to avoid other animals that may be vicious, traps, and humans while unlocking new parts of the map and finding new experiences for your kits to get experience and grow.  Your cubs need to learn certain experiences to survive. Teach them by exploring the map with them in tow.

One of my biggest problems with Endling is its finality. Each playthrough is a few hours long, but any mistake you make in that playthrough will follow you to the end—or death. I made a few mistakes early on which made me severely regret my choices, and I ended up restarting the entire game. Watching my cubs die isn’t something I really wanted to do in a video game, but Endling doesn’t sugar coat the realities of its world.

Screenshot: Endling-Extinction is Forever

In a way, that makes Endling the antithesis for Stray—where Stray puts you in a dangerous situation, it treats death like any video game would. Endling treats death as a permanent—and inevitable—outcome. While I’d argue that the foxes in Endling are almost cuter than the Stray cat, you might be forced to watch them die one by one.

It’s not like Endling is a particularly difficult game. In fact, once you learn the ropes it’s not too hard to navigate its world while avoiding dangers and snatching up food. The map itself is a semi-large sprawling 3D area—but you only have access to specific paths. The fork you take determines if you’re travelling north, south, east, or west though your perspective is always sidelong. This makes navigating a little difficult, but you can invoke the larger map at any point to see your exact position.

Screenshot: Endling-Extinction is Forever

While Stray might be getting all of the animal-based video game attention, Endling—Extinction is Forever is an emotionally difficult game, and one that might just be more important. However, I had a hard time playing it, mostly because of the emotional toll of surviving with hungry, vulnerable mouths to feed. It’s a short playthrough at around three hours, but full of hard decisions that made me restart my entire playthrough at least once.

Endling–Extinction is Forever is available now for PC on Steam and the Epic Games Store as well as on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

A Steam key for Endling—Extinction is Forever was provided to us for this review.

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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian.
He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.