It’s hard to imagine what our world will be like when humans no longer exist. Will we leave it how we found it, peaceful and full of life? Or will we destroy it? This is a topic explored in the latest offering from Piccolo Studios, After Us. A thought provoking and awe-inducing platformer, find out how you can save the world in our full After Us review!
I like big… buildings.
After Us Review – Story
Although humans have turned Earth into a wasteland, all hope is not lost. Gaia undergoes a mission to rescue the last of the animal spirits lost through the world. The Mother, which is unmistakeably the tree of life, requires 8 specific animal souls or vessels to restore all life.
One MacGuffin down…
Gaia must leave her refuge of wildlife and venture out into the unknown. She begins in a devastated metropolis, with crumbling buildings and objects of long ago strewn across the landscape. As she continues her journey through many different types of scenery, Gaia must overcome numerous obstacles to release all eight vessels.
No actual animals were harmed in the making of this game.
Unfortunately, that’s as much story you get until the end of the game. The bulk of the story is found in the terrain you trek across. It tells stories of countryside turned to garbage dumps, forests torn down, and oceans filled with shipwrecks. All left behind by the devourers (humans) on their misguided quest to better themselves.
I’m not sure this is what Ariel envisioned when she collected human items.
As the story continues, it subtly explores Gaia’s connection to humans culminating in a simple yet bittersweet ending. Although not in depth as opposed to some other games, it has some great analogies for how we are treating the world in which we live.
After Us Review – Gameplay
Hopefully you like parkour, because this is 95% of what makes up After Us. Gaia has access to multiple abilities to help her navigate the odd landscapes. Along with some simple, run, jump, and dash she can also glide, wall run, cable grind plus even a touch of swimming.
Even gravity has died in the apocalypse.
Her real asset is her ability to produce life force in the form of energy. This is used frequently in many different puzzle scenarios and also in combat. Holding the specific button for a few moments lets Gaia charge this ability up, when released it creates a burst of energy that can temporarily grow grass, knock back enemies, emit light in dark areas and cleanse oil-soaked platforms.
A small slice of green in the abyss of darkness.
The combat is straightforward: shoot your life energy at devourer spirits covered in oil. Once the oil is gone, the spirit is released and vanishes. Try not to get caught, but if you do, you have a small window to escape their grasp before Gaia is literally devoured.
Don’t take their TV or they will attack!
One impressive feat is how expansive these areas are. Although not all are connected, the individual segments can seem overwhelmingly huge, even though the path is usually straightforward. All is not lost if you venture too far ahead of a collectable or want to jump back to another area, as fast travel is accessible from anywhere. The world map has dozens of fast travel points which you can teleport to instantly.
The map and areas are quite large, offering plenty to explore.
After Us Review – Visuals
If you haven’t noticed already, the majority of this game is all about showcasing how the Earth has crumbled under the control of Humans. Piccolo Studios do an amazing job of capturing the varied scenery with each looking more dangerously beautiful than the last.
Although not super realistic graphics, the combination between realism and almost an anime aesthetic works effectively in what they want us to see. The only issue I had playing through After Us was several instances of screen freezing. Although only last for a second, it was frequent enough to be slightly annoying. A problem that should be easily and swiftly remedied in a future patch.
After Us Review – Audio
Any post-apocalyptic type of game needs some music to match and After Us provides with that in droves. The eerie synth soundtrack (think Blade Runner), courtesy of composer Daniel Elms, complements perfectly to the disjointed and bleak world.
Hear a short snippet of the game’s soundtrack in the official trailer.
However, this is basically all you get in terms of sound, as there are no voice acting and not much in the way of anything else, creating an intentional sense of emptiness.
After Us Review – Side Quests, Post-Game, Trophies
Along the way to find your main spirit vessels, there are only a few other things to find. One are smaller animal spirits, which can be located by blue butterflies as you sing. Some of these can be quite tricky to find which added some extra difficulty. You can see their general location on the world map if you miss any the first-time round.
The green dots are fast travel points and the blue are spirits to collect.
The other collectable are memories relating to each area that you visit. There are around 9 – 12 in each location which tell a story about the environment or people who lived there. One such memory features a young sick girl, whose father must take up a job in a deforestation company to pay for her medical bills. It’s these ideas in the game that pull at the heart strings a little as probably all of us would do the same in that situation.
It’s hard work killing the Earth.
Although thought provoking with gorgeously dead landscapes and fun gameplay, After Us hits the highs way too early. With each area providing little to no new gameplay elements, it can get a bit repetitive. The puzzles and parkour are always great to figure out and the combat adds a bit more variety. Overall, the 8-10 hour story is nice but the game feels like it it’s missing something in its devoid of life atmosphere.
The collectables helped with variety but if you gather them all on your journey, there’s not much else to do afterwards. Essentially, this game is one huge exposition on how we need to treat the planet better and maybe this is the perfect time for us all to experience.
So, why should you play After Us?
- Varied and incredible landscapes are sure to impress
- Enjoyable platforming gameplay
- You enjoy games with meaningful and important messages
But why shouldn’t you play After Us?
- Although important, the story is quite basic
- Minimal variety in gameplay
- Lacking significant replayability incentives
A review code on PlayStation 5 was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of our After Us review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our review for OlliOlli World (also from Private Division) and join our Qualbert Discord to find out more about After Us!