Announced at the Game Awards, After Us is a new game from Piccolo Studios, the developers of Arise: A Simple Tale, in which you navigate through a surreal apocalypse to rescue the souls of extinct animals. Studio co-founder Alexis Corominas explains that it’s inspired by the idea of legacy, trying to find hope for the future when “it’s easy to get very negative and everything goes wrong”. Very much a game for the last few years then…
Corominas continues, “Arise was our flashback and that’s why we had an old man looking back at memories of his life and all of that. We had an age crisis, I had a dream to start a video game company. As a working company, we need to make a second title, [and] We decided to look ahead. We were older, some of us had sons in the process, and that’s how you start to see into the future and… what are we leaving behind?”
At the end of the world
In terms of gameplay, these philosophical reflections play out as a surreal and abstract post-apocalyptic world where you as Gaia, “the spirit of life”, attempt to save the souls of extinct animals after humanity has destroyed the world. That means navigating through a beautiful and symbolic setting while grappling with oil-covered monsters called Devourers, who, according to fellow Piccolo co-founder Jordi Minstral, represent “all the bad things of mankind.”
What’s been revealed so far has an almost dreamlike feel, with hints of things like Journey and even Little Nightmares, while Gaia leaves floral trails and fluidly navigates levels composed of abstract representations of various things that have ruined the world – everything from TVs to industrial towns, forest saws, whaling ships and so on. The Devourers change slightly depending on the sinking in each area, and while you’re technically “fighting” them, combat is more about cleansing and redeeming them. Instead, the focus for After Us is more “exploration, platforming, and environmental puzzles,” according to Minstral.
While the overall concept is that the world is over and we’ve ruined it, the idea is to create a positive game. “When you start thinking about the future, it’s easy to get negative and try to blame someone or something,” explains Corominas, “but we wanted to write a story about hope and bring hope back to the world; we want people to rise “journey”.
That all sounds like nice words, but when Minstral talks about the idea of ”emotional rewards rather than purely mechanical rewards” as you salvage what’s left of the world, it’s worth noting that Piccolo’s final game, Arise: A Simple Tale was an incredibly emotional experience. The studio’s latest title did a great job merging gameplay, music and art to create a powerful reflection on life, death and grief as an old man navigates the afterlife to look back at what what he has achieved. It should have been all over the GOTY lists of 2019, but largely slipped through after the December release (seriously, play it). Based on Piccolo’s recent efforts, After Us’ promise to rise and hope may not just be press release filler. We’ll find out when the game releases in Spring 2023.