After Us PS5 Review – Piccolo Studios has officially established itself as one of the best independent developers on the market. Arise: A Simple Story was one of the most emotional and moving titles I’ve ever enjoyed playing, and when I found out they were working on After Us, it immediately fell on my radar. And now it’s here, I’m happy to say it doesn’t disappoint.
After Us PS5 Review – A Mesmerising Trip Through Humanity’s Destruction
Restoring Life To A Desolate Planet
You take on the role of Gaia, who is awakened by a being called Mother inside the Ark. Mother requests Gaia go out into the world and restore the souls of animals from the planet and return them to Ark. These animals are called Vessels, and after freeing all of them Mother will have enough energy to restore the earth and the animals that will populate it.
Earth, unfortunately, is completely devastated by humanity. As Gaia awakens in an abandoned parking garage, she realizes what humanity has done to the planet with their consumption of resources and pollution of the earth.
Each location that Gaia visits is unique and depicts a different variation of humanity’s destruction. The locations are abstract in design; cars float in the air, and furniture litters the sky. The first area is devastated by oil, and humanity’s obsession with it is evident throughout the game.
Another location sees you go into the ocean and all the garbage that has littered it that Gaia has to traverse. Each location is unique and utilizes unique traversal and skills that Gaia has.
Telling A Story Without Words
Each location leads to a Vessel; an animal whose spirit must be saved to provide Mother with enough energy to restore the planet. Each Vessel represents the last animal of its species to die.
It’s here that Piccolo Studios shines and pulls at every one of your heartstrings, and they do it without any words. Instead, their idea of a picture worth a thousand words rings true here. The location you find the Vessels and the path leading up to them tell the story perfectly.
The first Vessel is of a dog in an ally surrounded by trash. This shows that the animal died sad, alone without family, and starved. Another Vessel is of a whale hunted down and speared to death. The visuals are genuinely horrifying, and some even had me teary-eyed.
After Us is a platformer; you must find ways to traverse prominent locations to reach your destinations. Gaia learns new abilities like running up specific walls and grinding on power line, while isolated areas have you teleporting from one TV screen to another.
Great Platforming And Exploration
Though the platforming works for the most part, it suffers badly at times in helping you determine where you will land. A small circle appears on the ground to help you see where you’re going to land, but it often appears too late, and chances are you’ll miss the landing before the circle appears.
Thankfully every time you fall to you’re demise. You respawn right where you begin the jump. It’s a very forgiving system.
Though some abilities you’ll use throughout the adventure, others are unique to specific locations. In a deforested area, Gaia can bring to life the spirits of the trees that regrow a spiritual image of trees. She can then run up those trees and propel herself like a catapult.
Each location has its world hazards that Gaia must avoid. For the most part, oil will be your main obstacle. But some areas have unique hazards like buzzsaws in the deforested location that pop out of the ground and chase her around.
The World Is A Treacherous Place With Plenty Of Hazards
World hazards are just one of the obstacles Gaia must avoid. The other involves Devourers. Devourers are the remnants of humanity that only know how to consume and devour all that is good. They chase down Gaia and try to devour her life source.
Gaia can shoot out her heart as energy to purify the Devourers. The Devourers come in different varieties. Some are normal, while others have television sets on their chests that act like shields to stop the heart from piercing them and must be struck from the back.
Every time Gaia’s heart hits a Devourer, the oil covering them starts to fall apart until it is all purified and the soul is extinguished.
Facing the Devourers was probably the least enjoyable part of the game. They come at you fast and, in some aspects, in large numbers, and having to fight them off while avoiding them with dodges became a chore. What made it annoying was the lack of a lock-on button to attack them, so I shot my heart in the opposite direction as I tried to attack and move simultaneously.
Gaia’s heart isn’t the only thing she can use to help her in her adventure. Gaia can temporarily purify the land. Using this ability, she can clear oil out of the way and restore plants and trees that are slowly returning to life.
It also has an excellent visual effect, with grass growing all around her and the area it affects. It’s a temporary visual effect but a nice and welcoming one in a dark and gloomy world.
Plenty Of Collectables That Contribute To The Story
After Us features two different collectables. Memories and Animal Spirits. Memories are acquired from purifying Devourors, which build a story of what led to the humans doing what they did or what they went through in the particular location.
In some cases, it tries to justify the reasoning behind their actions, and many people would agree and even do the same. In the deforested area, we learn of a man whose daughter is sick, and he can’t afford her medical bills and hospital visits.
Hence, he begins to work at the logging company cutting down trees and destroying the forests leading to the extinction of multiple species.
Other collectables are animal spirits that are found throughout the world. Using her heart, she can free the spirit of an animal and restore the species to the world. When she acquires a spirit, that animal species will begin to roam the world once again, and you can see it throughout your adventure. Gaia can even pet the spirits and sing to them if you choose to.
A Hauntingly Beautiful Adventure
Visually After Us isn’t anything special, but it’s mesmerising due to the fantastic art direction and presentation. The world though bleak and devastated, features some stunning-looking vistas.
The game’s soundtrack is haunting and fits the world perfectly. Once again, the small things like Gaia singing to the animal spirits somehow blend perfectly with the haunting melodies accompanying the locations you visit.
After Us is another outstanding achievement from Piccolo Studios. Though it doesn’t have the same impact on me that Arise: A Simple Story did, it definitely has a haunting message. I loved my time with After Us; its fantastic storytelling and haunting imagery impacted me in the best ways possible.
After Us is now available on PS5.
Review Code provided by publisher