Creatures of Ava Is the Eco-Friendly Take on Pokémon We Need This Year

A kinder creature collector.

key art from Creatures of Ava
11 bit studios

Earlier this year, Palworld had its 15 minutes of fame, but it’s already time to make room for a new Pokémon-like — one that looks like it could have a lot more staying power. If you can sum up Palworld as “Pokémon with guns,” the best summary of the upcoming Creatures of Ava might be “Pokémon with a conscience.”

While Palworld’s shallow parody didn’t make for an engaging game in the long term, there’s a good reason why it caught on. For all the positive points of its narrative, and the work it puts in to insist that Pokémon are happy to be trapped in their tiny spherical cages, it is still a game about making animals fight each other at the end of the day. There’s always going to be something a bit creepy and sinister about that. Rather than play off of Pokémon’s monster-catching premise, Creatures of Ava goes in another direction, one that turns its heroine, Vic, into more of a magical veterinarian than a dog catcher.

Creatures of Ava is an intriguing environmentalist adventure with lofty ambitions.

Coming to PC and Xbox in 2024 from Spanish developers Chibig and Inverge, Creatures of Ava tasks players with saving a menagerie of creatures from a rampaging disease known as The Withering, rather than collecting them. Once you heal them, these critters can help you navigate the world with their own unique skills as you root out the cause of the infection.

Creatures of Ava emphasizes its “non-aggressive combat mechanics,” which focus on healing animals suffering from the withering. Once infected, some beasts fly into fits of rage and attack on sight, meaning you’ll need to be quick on your feet to avoid their wrath as you attempt to cure them. In practice, that appears to mean firing a convenient fantasy healing beam at them like Overwatch’s Mercy to cleanse them of the infection. After healing them, Vic can play what must be the world’s most incredible flute solo to convince the creatures to help her, by exploring their surroundings or helping her get through obstacles blocking her progress.

Making friends with the wildlife is a big selling point for Creatures of Ava.

11 bit studios

Another point for the critter-based Creatures of Ava: the titular creatures shown off so far look fantastic. The game’s reveal trailer shows a lumbering, moose-sized creature that looks like equal parts lion and bird. Smaller animals with equally pleasant chimera qualities sit still to be pet more patiently than my own real-life cats, and a family of delightful pink pig-like creatures that make music with horns on their heads have already stolen my heart. There’s even a bit of Pokémon Snap in the mix, as Vic can document the animals she comes across with a camera.

It all looks great! But the most intriguing thing about Creatures of Ava — and the place where it has the most potential to go wrong — is in its environmentalist themes. Since it denies the idea of collecting animals, it also demands that players “step out of the human-centric point of view” to do what’s best for the entire ecosystem, according to a press release.

If Creatures of Ava manages to pull that off, it has the makings of an incredible game, but that’s easier said than done. When you make a game about an adventurer stepping in to clean up another culture’s mess, and recruit local wildlife to do it, it’s hard to avoid inadvertently emulating the same colonialist and human-centrist tropes you’re trying to avoid.

Creatures of Ava takes place in a gorgeous fantasy world straining under a spreading infection.

11 bit studios

The more recent Tomb Raider sequels fall into that same trap, propping up a white savior narrative at the same time as it tries to knock it down. Other games with environmentalist messages have struggled to keep them from getting lost. 2023’s great Terra Nil is an eco-friendly take on city building, but one without much to say beyond its aesthetics. The Gunk, a flawed but still great 2022 platformer, also had some trouble getting its environmentalist message to land with gameplay that looks somewhat similar to Creatures of Ava.

All of that is to say, developers Inverge and Chibig have their work cut out for them. One trailer is far from enough to say how Creatures of Ava will shape up, and as tricky as its subject matter is to get right, there’s already a lot to like about what’s been shown off. While it’s hard to avoid Pokémon comparisons, Creatures of Ava looks like a genuinely new spin on human-animal cooperation, rather than just another take on the wildly popular series. It also seems to be putting in the work to avoid turning its eco-friendly tale into another glorification of human greed, as difficult as that may be. Creatures of Ava is taking a lot of big swings, and based on its promising reveal, I can’t wait to see how well they land upon launch later this year.

Creatures of Ava releases for PC and Xbox in 2024, and launches on Xbox Game Pass.

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