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Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 16 - 2019

An ape through the ages.

When the creator of Assassin’s Creed, Patrice D├ęsilets, suggests that his new development team at Panache Digital Games are working on a title that will make players responsible for the early evolution from simple ape to early human, well, that sounds great, doesn’t it. Maybe some kind of combination of Assassin’s Creed and Planet of the Apes? However, when the first trailers started to pop up, showing something that looked much more realistic and, frankly, brutal, I think players really started sitting up and taking notice. The final product turns out to be a survival game at heart, but one that will carry through generations of ape over millions of years, as those simple apes evolve into something far closer resembling the creatures we are today. If nothing else, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey shows that we are very lucky to even exist today.


I have to admit, I am not a fan of the title. Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey sounds more like some kind of educational documentary than anything which is supposed to be fun. With that said though, the title is a good fit as players will be taking on a much more epic journey, not involving a single ape, but generations of them through the ages. While players will begin with a single ape that needs do nothing but survive, in an environment with the odds of survival stacked against the ape, players will find themselves not only switching from one ape to the next in the group as one perishes, but they will also be selectively mating the apes in order to carry on the bloodline, taking with them anything they have learned along the way.

It is this learning that, in part, leads to the evolution of the species. The apes begin exactly as players would expect, with limited abilities and everything around them new to discover. As the apes will need to worry about the mundane side of survival, such as eating and drinking, along with getting enough rest, exploring the area will give rise to various types of food. Some of these foods would be positively delicious, while others are perhaps not ideal. The apes reaction is a good indication of what they are more enthusiastic about eating, and to be honest there are far more important things to worry about than a bit of rotting fruit.


The world of Ancestors is a dangerous one, especially in the early days when the player is lacking the skills to defend themselves. To start with, the apes will have to rely on their senses. Entering a new area, for example, will fill the ape with fear and give the view a threatening black and white tone. The main sense, such as sound or smell, are used to guide the player and help them work out what’s what in the world around them. Again, these will evolve through the generations, giving rise to more understanding and a wider range of things that won’t actually kill them.

This evolution is the core drive of the game, not that Ancestors will offer any guidance in that respect. Much like a lot of survival games, part of the joy is in the player discovering things for themselves, and Ancestors is certainly not shy about leaving the player to their own devices. It is an impressively big open world for the player to explore, and everything that they do, time and again, will further add to the evolution of the species. From communicating with other apes, to eating a newly discovered fruit, it can all lead to a species of ape that is better suited to survive. Bringing children into the group is vitally important as, not only does it ensure the continuation of the game, but they are needed to set any new traits into the apes DNA. Also mutations could arise that will give advantageous traits to their bloodline.

Survival would be far easier in a world without predators. However, that is not the case and at the beginning of the game the apes are nowhere near the top of the food chain. From snakes to big cats, the undergrowth could at any moment explode with teeth and scales, and spell a very real problem for the apes. Over time and through experimentation, the apes may pick up sticks and then even learn to sharpen them to a point and then have a chance to fight back with a hope of success, but that will be a long way off. In the early game, getting to safety is the best defence.


Which is where we find the Assassin’s Creed influence. The one thing that the apes have in favour from the very beginning is there ability to clamber up trees, and this movement will be familiar to any Assassin’s players. It works very well, giving the player a great sense of freedom to their movement, even if clambering up a tree won’t always lead anywhere. Eventually, the player will be able to take their group of apes away from the forest and into other biomes, giving rise to new threats and new opportunities to learn and evolve.

The environments really are a highlight of Ancestors. Teaming with life, they really are incredible to see and are a visual spectacle. Obviously the capability of the players PC will have an effect on how the game looks, but even at the lower end of the spectrum Ancestors is impressive and seems to run well.

Ancestors does have a couple of problems that could put players off. Firstly, the game really is quite difficult and if the entire group of apes is wiped out, the player will have to start again from the very beginning, which can be very frustrating considering the second problem. Ancestors is a repetitive game, especially in the early hours. Players will find themselves doing the same mundane things over and over again, which makes sense as this is part of the evolution mechanic, but it does become tiresome, and then having to do it all over again if the player has to restart is very off-putting.


Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is an ambitious game. A survival game at heart, Ancestors takes the million year process of evolution and distils it into a simple mechanic that runs alongside the likes of food and rink as a survival technique. It is a tough game, and can be very repetitive and even frustrating, but there is something mesmerizing about taking some simple apes and watching them evolve through the ages. Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey will not be for everyone, but for the curious survival gamers, it really is something quite unique.




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