Xbox Indie Spotlight: Endling

By Heidi Nicholas,
Endling takes a long look at the terrible realities of extinction and the pollution and corruption caused by humanity. It's an adventure game about the efforts of the last mother fox on Earth to keep her cubs alive as they struggle through a devastated world. Endling launches later this year, and we thought it would be a good time to reach out to Herobeat Studios, with co-founder and programmer Javier Ramello having been kind enough to answer our questions.

What is Endling?

Endling is an adventure game about the last mother fox on Earth. It’s in development from Herobeat Studios and is published by HandyGames.

When does Endling launch?

Endling launches next month on July 19th.

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What’s it about?

Endling tackles serious topics: extinction and eco-consciousness. “The authenticity of the message is what inspired us,” explains Ramello. “We did some research on scientific forecasts about the world's situation in the next fifty to hundred years, from a cultural, social and technological point of view, and the result was terrifying. We are trying to avoid depicting a fantasy or a fictional scenario, but rather the reality that we are headed towards. Endling does not take place in a post-apocalyptic science fiction world, and this is one of the cases where reality surpasses fiction,” Ramello continues. “For us this was a story worth telling, and we wanted to take the chance and provide our own small contribution to raise awareness about this topic.”

The term “endling” apparently refers to the last individual creature of a species. In Endling, everything revolves around the last mother fox and her efforts to keep herself and her cubs alive in a world that is rapidly falling apart. There is no avoiding the destruction caused by humanity, and the pollution and devastation will only become more obvious as you survive from day to day. “The vixen and her cubs are spectators of the destruction happening around them. The last foxes on Earth are just wild animals that can’t understand what’s happening nor do anything to change the fate of the world,” Ramello explains. “Between them, there is not enough genetic diversity to save their species, and neither do they understand this concept. So, their only motivation is to save themselves, however there is always a door open for hope and who knows where their headlong rush may lead them to.” And as for what the player might take away from the experience? “Our goal is to present this landscape in a way that reflects how we think the Earth can end up being in the near future if we don’t act now, and Endling's players will reach their own conclusions.”

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How does Endling play?

We are in charge of ensuring the survival of our cubs — hunting to feed them, finding them shelter, and protecting them from the dangers of the world. According to the Endling Steam page, we’ll use the night to carefully explore the world ahead for safe places to camp out in, which is where we’ll hide during the day while we plan what our next move will be. “Players are encouraged to explore a dying world and unveil the lore and other secondary stories. There are prey, predators, and some allies too! All characters have their own story arcs, and they interact with each other, the environment, and the fox family,” Ramello says. “This will create moments of tension, cruelty, despair and sadness, but also of cuteness, kindness and humanity. Nights are dangerous, but days are even worse, since humans start roaming the world, and their own despair and hunger will turn them into deadly enemies. However,” Ramello adds, “as you overcome those dangers, your cubs will grow up and learn new skills which will help you survive.”

What’s the world like?

We start out in our first lair, but it seems we’ll need to keep moving each day. “At the very beginning of the story, our protagonist, hurt and tired, finds a lair where she can give birth to her kits: a place to call home, where she can explore and hunt down nearby prey,” says Ramello. “However, everything starts degrading quite soon and she will eventually be forced to move and keep looking for a safe haven, this time with her little cubs following her. The surroundings of every new shelter she can find make use of environmental storytelling to address some topics of great impact, such as intensive livestock, pollution of the seas and rivers, the accumulation of electronic waste, overpopulation or climate change.”

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Ramello also discussed the issues faced with Endling’s side-scrolling world, saying, “when we started developing Endling we faced several problems… On the one hand, we were committed to delivering a high production value with a beautiful art style and carefully honed animations. We wanted to have control over everything in the scene, so building a side-scrolling game was the obvious way to go. On the other hand, we wanted the narrative to revolve around environmental issues. For that reason, we really needed players to see how the world was evolving, degrading, and being destroyed by human action as the game progressed.

“However, the very nature of the side-scrolling genre was against us, since everything the player would leave behind was forgotten forever, so there was no room to create that player-environment bond we were looking for, which is easier to achieve in open world games. This is why we came up with the idea of mixing both concepts and developed a navigation system where you are moving on rails but at some points you can switch lanes and move to the background or foreground, allowing the player to explore a fully 3D world and remain in control of the scene composition.”

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Any news on the Endling achievements?

We don’t yet have the Endling achievements, but Ramello gave us some ideas of what to expect. “Some achievements are unlocked if you follow the story plot, so that the player has a sense of progression,” Ramello begins. “We searched for the most important highlights of the game (finding a new shelter, finding some scents, interacting with some specific character, reaching the end of the game, etc).” Ramello also adds that there are “achievements that imply a greater challenge, and were designed for completionist players who seek to unveil all the nooks and crannies that exist in the game. And finally, there are some hidden achievements designed to steal a smile. Those are triggered when very rare conditions are met and usually require the player to insist on exploiting game features to activate them.” So, it seems we’ll have our work cut out for us if we’re looking to complete Endling.

So, what do you think? Will you be helping the last mother fox protect her cubs when Endling launches later this year? Let us know in the comments.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Heidi graduated with an MA in English Literature, and now enjoys writing news, reviews, and features across TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. When she’s not writing, Heidi is usually either looking for her next RPG, or trying to convince the rest of the team to hear about yet another delightfully wholesome game she has found.