PREVIEW: ‘After Us’ Tells A Dark But Hopeful Message (PC)

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After Us — But Why Tho

Numerous games have attempted to give us a different look at our potential future if we don’t change our ways. After Us, by Piccolo Studio, takes a different approach to the post-apocalypse genre. Instead of being a game where we live in the remnants of a broken world After Us promises a more positive outlook. One of hope and second chances. With a chance to play the first 90 minutes of the upcoming adventure platformer, I want nothing more than to play more.

After Us puts us in the shoes of Gaia, the spirit of life, in an abstract world devoid of life, Gaia’s goal is to find and bring back the souls of extinct animals. This path of giving a world a second chance is bleak. Oil-covered devourers are trying to stop Gaia at all costs as she explores burned-down forests and devastated cities and relives these spirits’ darkest moments.

By far, the biggest draw is just how much fun the platforming is. The world created feels like a platforming playground. One area in particular in the part I was allowed to play was a great example of this. I could jump on almost anything within this small sandbox in a deserted city covered in sand. But not everywhere lead to anything interesting. In fact, subtle paths are hidden everywhere, leading to optional spirits to collect. It was just fun to explore these environments. You could get lost and find enjoyment by pushing yourself with a jumping puzzle you stumbled upon.

After Us — But Why Tho

After a certain point, there was a crossroads that didn’t even feel like a crossroads. After completing the first major spirit, you can select which of two spirits you would like to tackle next. It is subtly in how you make this choice is fantastic. Just exploring and going down what you think could be the main path will just lead you to that choice. It’s almost like the game has those choices masked by just how you want to play the game. If I backtrack, I could probably find that fork in the road. It just felt so natural in the way it was implemented that I don’t want to until I go back to complete the rest in the full game.

After Us gave me a taste of what to expect, there was little combat, but there was the promise of grander fights and more enemies to face. The enemies fought in the introduction sections felt more like minor hurdles to overcome. Basic mechanics were introduced for platforming, like a dash or a double jump, which are common in almost any platformer nowadays. The story of the first grand spirit and how Gaia tied into its recovery was beautiful. If that was the first spirit, and if it touched me in the surprisingly impactful way as it did, I can’t wait to see how the rest hit me as I get more connected with Gaia and this world’s journey.

After Us, in its opening moments, was impactful. Its platforming has felt like a joy to play. While other mechanics, like combat, felt overly simplistic, the promise of what they will be added to the other draws of the game. Like its story, for instance, already feel like it’s going to be a deep emotional journey that I know is going to destroy me if the level of dark hopefulness continues to grow as the stakes continue to grow. After Us has a lot of potential to be not only a beautiful story about how one person can change the course of a doomed planet but also be a fantastic modern-day platformer.

After Us is available on May 23rd on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC

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