After Us

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After Us


Bringing Life Back To Earth

Bringing Life Back To Earth

In the far future, humanity is no more, and animal life has been wiped off the face of the Earth. All that remains are abstract landscapes filled with sludge, dust, and the shambling remains of what used to be human. After Us presents an inarguably dour setup, yet it manages to tell a story of hope. In After Us, players step into the shoes of the magical Gaia, as she's tasked by a tree-of-life type being to travel the desolate wastelands of Earth and collect the souls of animals that have been captured. Doing so sets their spirits free and slowly starts to repopulate the planet with animal spirits and plant life.

In my preview version of After Us, I was able to play through about an hour and a half's worth of content, which let me journey through a handful of different environments and engage with several movement and gameplay mechanics. While the game doesn't do anything wildly new or novel, it's still a well-put-together experience that I enjoyed my time with.

Overt, But Beautiful

If you're looking for subtlety, After Us probably isn't the place to look. The environments I was able to play through wore their commentary on their sleeve, presenting imagery such as toxic sludge enveloping a gas station, plastic bags floating through the air (that attack on sight), and statue-fied people frozen in time surrounding a large oil derrick. That being said, the overt messages about humanity and our effects on the environment don't make them any less tragically beautiful or engaging to navigate.

In the segments I've played, the specific points of criticism are presented as metaphorical and eschew concrete calls to action in favor of less tangible calls for optimism, which work in the game's favor to make sure it's still a game first. Whether this ends up working in the full game remains to be seen. On one hand, specific political or environmental messages are hard to pull off. On the other, protecting the environment and breaking free of the social chains that bind us are messages I've seen plenty of times before.

Embrace The Flow

As one would likely expect, After Us slowly introduced new gameplay elements throughout the available playtime, and each one was a welcome addition that made the game feel more like I was hoping it would. While the initial platforming is a bit one-note, I was eventually hooked on the fluidity of sprinting, double jumping air dashing, bursting away darkness, wall-running, and skateboard grinding on vine-covered wires. Of what I played, it's here that the game is at its best - the more wide-open areas that let me embrace the flow of movement that Gaia can engage in.

The ultimate goal of the game is to use creative platforming to reach the animal souls - glowing spheres that, after being picked up, populate the map with animal spirits of the specified species. While each segment of the game (at least the parts I saw for this preview) is fairly linear, within these areas of play are the scattered souls that can be acquired in any order. There's no detailed map, so players need to use constellation-like imagery to get an idea of the general location of each spirit. Not every spirit needs to be found before moving on to a different location, and unlockable checkpoints made it so I didn't have to re-run an entire map to get to anything I missed.

More Than Platforming

While platforming is the main focus of the game, there are also a few combat scenarios that I was able to play through in my preview. They were fairly light, and I wasn't only able to get a taste of the combat mechanics that I'm assuming will be more fleshed out in the full version. The large humanoids, the Devourers, have to be "shot" with The Heart, a single projectile that Gaia uses to clear out darkness and grab animal souls. The most complicated that things got was having to dodge some melee hits and get behind an enemy to attack, but it was a solid enough foundation that I'm excited to see where else it goes. After Us isn't a combat-oriented game, but it's a nice change of pace when it pops up.

Overall, my time with After Us was enjoyable, and it will be interesting to see if the environmental designs, themes, and combat continue to evolve in an interesting way when the full game is out. I'm excited to discover the rest of the abstract landscapes and find out what twists pop up in the hitherto simple but affecting narrative.

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