It may not be long before humanity ravages the planet to a lifeless ball of ash. After Us envisions a world where this has come to pass. Earth is a desolate void bereft of any organic life. However, nature always finds a way to persevere. That's the premise of this latest effort from the team at Piccolo Studio. Shacknews recently had the opportunity to check it out.
After Us opens with a glimpse of what could be. It's a luscious world filled with active wildlife and a beautiful atmosphere, but a cataclysmic disaster soon leaves the world devastated. Players take on the role of a spirit named Gaia who is imbued with the power to restore life. Her quest takes her across the world in search of various vessels that hold the spirits of Earth's last animals. After the vessels have been freed, the primal Mother spirit can restore life to the world.
What stands out about After Us is the way that it establishes its dystopian atmosphere. Immediately contrasting with the game's opening cinematic, players begin in the remains of a desolate highway, where cars have been long abandoned, rusted over, and nearly buried by the sands of time. This is where players learn the game's basics, like dashing and double jumping, before being treated to some truly dazzling visuals, like a red sun hovering out in the distance and offering a glimpse of the dangers ahead and a pseudo graveyard filled with the unsettling visual representations of dead humans.
Platforming and traversal are After Us' key components. Floaty jumps that cover a great distance feel refreshingly intuitive and set the stage for environmental puzzles, many of which lead to the animal vessels that Gaia seeks. However, the game does have its share of enemies, whether they be zombie-like creatures known as Devourers or various environmental hazards. Even in dealing with the enemies, though, After Us has a deeper message. Gaia empathizes with nearly every lifeform she encounters and her expressions of hope, curiosity, and agonizing sorrow are something to behold.
I've only played After Us for a few hours, but its world feels like it's going to be one everyone should experience. It'll be interesting to see how much more this world develops, but Gaia already feels like a memorable lead character who feels intimiately connected to her world. It won't be long before players get to experience this story from the makers of Arise: A Simple Story. After Us is set to release on Tuesday, May 23. Look for it on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.
This preview is based on a pre-release Steam code issued by the publisher.
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