After Us is the latest game from developer Piccolo, creator of Arise, that invites you into a post-apocalyptic world unlike any other you’ve experienced. The age of humanity is gone and the animals have gone extinct. All that remains in this surrealist nightmare are husks of those who came before us.
As you explore this apocalyptic graveyard where life is all but a distant memory, you will collect the spirits of the animals long gone from the world in hopes to revive it. After Us is a beautiful tale about life mixed with complex 3D puzzles and surrealistic story-telling that lingers in ways you won’t expect.
A world forever changed
After Us is a brilliant take on post-apocalyptic adventures. Set in a world that is post-human, the game takes you through various environments filled with dark features that border on the edge of nightmarish. Twisted scenes and humans labeled as Devourers, monsters of the past, litter the world. Stray too far off the path, and you are swallowed by dark tendrils.
The environment of the game stands out thanks to its dark style that evokes similar tones as Little Nightmares. The team at Piccolo designed the world so that it feels familiar to modern society while at the same time showing where we could be headed in the future if we aren’t careful about how we handle pollution and consumerism.
As I progressed through After Us, there were often moments when I was disgusted by the site of animal skeletons and saddened by the horror that humanity has become. Despite this, there were small details that showed glimmers of hope, such as the trail of flowers Gaia leaves behind or the animal spirits shining in the dark. The environmental detail and visual language culminated in a beautiful story with very few words required to get the point across.
Traversing the chaos
After Us is a game that focuses on 3D platforming puzzles as the main style of gameplay and it works well with how the world is built. You can use your dash, glide, and sprint to run up walls, cross massive gaps, and navigate various dilapidated terrains in your quest to revive lost animal spirits.
While you jump from puzzle to puzzle, you will also need to deal with combat against the Devourers left behind after the fall of humanity. They want nothing more than to snuff Gaia’s light. Luckily, you have a spirit cast that you can use to keep these foes at bay.
Combat is simple in After Us; you can launch a spirit ball at enemies and pull it back. There is also a dodge and life pulse that can help you either stun foes or avoid their grasp. This basic combat structure becomes more difficult when you need to deal with hordes of foes as well as enemies that are covered in armor made of junk from the past like broken TVs and cookware. If the puzzles don’t have you scratching your head, the combat will have you rapidly avoiding remnants of the past.
Outside of the straightforward pathways, there are plenty of hidden secrets found throughout After Us that show just how much the team cared about details. As you progress through the game, you can find 100 optional hidden spirits. Finding these spirits will test your problem-solving skills, reflexes, and timing. It’s another layer to the already deep pool that is After Us.
The game truly shines thanks to its obscure pathways and lack of direction. This allows you to really choose your own way and explore the world in a more natural way. The extra paths that can be found leading to the hidden spirits make finding them rewarding. I was constantly looking out for new paths to take and felt a boost of serotonin when I did.
The dark side of Humanity
The only thing I noticed during my playthrough that negatively affected my outlook on the game was the slight stutters and graphical tears that I experienced. This was expected going into it with After Us being a new game, but there were times when it threw me off.
Every now and then, the game’s framerate would drop and I would see strange outlines on the characters. While this didn’t affect my game to the point where it was unplayable, it was quite noticeable after a while and there was the occasional time when a stutter would make me miss a platform.
After Us offers a great mix of 3D puzzle-solving and a dark atmosphere that rivals those of other post-apocalyptic games. The visual storytelling about a world that lost everything due to humanity’s hubris and lack of awareness is something that I believe more games should strive for.
The gameplay is intense and will keep you on your toes as you try to solve puzzles, locate animal spirits, and grant the world a second chance, all while trying to avoid the deadly husks of humanity left behind in this rotting world. After Us feels like a love letter, but also a desperate plea for action, to the planet and all the creatures that call it home.
After Us is a love letter to the planet and a surrealistic tale of how humanity lost its way.
- Intense combat that keeps you on alert
- Great puzzles and use of 3D environments
- Fantastic atmosphere that rivals the dark feeling of Little Nightmares
- Strong visual storytelling
- Graphical tears and framerate drops that slightly affected gameplay