After Us Hands-on Preview – Bringing the world back to life

Posted on May 3, 2023

When all life has rotted away due to civilization’s thirst for progress, it’s up to you to bring life back to the world. It comes at a steep price, but is a worthwhile endeavour that is the basis of your time in upcoming indie After Us. We had the chance to get our hands on a preview ahead of the release later this month, and this gorgeous game certainly seems to have a lot to offer.

After Us puts you in the role of Gaia, a small spirit who is tasked with bringing the world back to life. Before the world ended, a godlike being named Mother spread her life force to several animals to stave off the decay. To revive the world once more, Mother needs Gaia to gather the life force from the now-extinct animals. It’s not an easy task and it takes a toll on Gaia, but returning life to the world is more important, and you’ll need to explore beautiful yet solemn ruins of the planet while traversing across landscapes with various abilities and learning about fallen extinct animals along the way.

The environment is the greatest strength of After Us, showing the stark contrast between desolate landscapes and the return of life. It’s clear that civilization has collapsed, and ruins are everywhere. The environmental design does a great job contrasting majestic landscapes with fallen ruins. Even if it hurts to see how society has fallen, you can’t help but appreciate the landscapes which perfectly capture that fall.

Gaia isn’t just walking her way to the animals, as civilization’s collapse creates several obstacles you must overcome. Gaia’s abilities develop to overcome these obstacles, such as an air dash or creating a temporary burst of life. Venturing through the world requires a healthy dose of platforming as you try different methods to proceed.

Failure is barely a hindrance, as After Us has an autosave that saves before almost every obstacle. Death doesn’t count against you, and you are always brought back to a location at the start of a puzzle. While it doesn’t cut out all of the frustration, it does allow you to repeatedly try without consequences. Some puzzles can have obscure solutions and there’s no easy way to know you’re going in the right direction. But the ease of retrying means that you won’t suffer any consequences for failure, and allows you to relax more as you explore.

After Us is designed to be a platformer’s dream. You will slide across electrical wires, run up walls, and air dash to out-of-reach ledges. This makes going through surreal environments while solving puzzles fun and engaging. As the puzzles get harder, you must get better with your timing and planning to keep going. It is frustrating at times, but the reward of seeing more of the ruined world is enough to keep you going. There’s always something new around the corner, and you can’t help but want more.

Lost souls take the form of collectibles, and you must go off the beaten path to find them. It’s never as easy as walking up to a spirit; they are often locked in odd angles that require extensive platforming. The challenge is part of the fun as you get to explore more areas that you otherwise would have missed.

It’s not all platforming fun though, as there are enemies that are the byproduct of the world’s collapse. These human-like beings are called Devourers, trying to consume whatever life is left. Combat is simple but has some strategic elements. You are almost a one-hit wonder, and must constantly move to avoid dying. Attacks must be strategic since enemies get harder to defeat as you go through the game.

The real treat of defeating enemies, or even harmless Devourers, is seeing the world’s backstory. Defeat a certain number of Devourers and it unlocks a memory of the world that once was. As you collect these memories, they form a detailed look of the past. The artwork may be simple, but the story they tell is touching and stirs your emotions. You want to find out more and discover what’s next, and it sets up for a potentially great ending.

Anyone who loves platforming and puzzle solving is going to enjoy what After Us can offer. Even if you aren’t big on environmental design, you can’t help but appreciate the work that has gone into each area. The soundtrack is also a perfect mix of soft music and desolate sounds, enhancing the atmosphere even more. Paired with an interesting premise and tantalizing stories, it’s a great way to see the contrast of life and destruction.

After Us comes out on May 24, 2023 on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.