Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a game by Panache Digital Games that is the creation of Patrice Désilets who was also the creative lead behind the original Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II. The game is all about playing as the ancestors of humankind and slowly over generations evolving them into humankind. Does this sound too far-fetched to you? Well, this will help you answer that question.
What is: Ancestors The Humankind Odyssey
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a third-person survival game where you play as an Ape Clan and you start off over 10 million years ago from now and have to grow your clan by learning, evolving and exploring the world around you. I was skeptical about this game ever since it was first announced and even before I started the game, I did so with skepticism because of how conceptually crazy the game is.
The game starts off by telling you that it is not going to help you and well, it does just that. It plops you into this unknown world where you have no idea what’s going on and your ape doesn’t really know much about the world or things we humans take for granted like switching objects from one hand to the other.
The game is a survival game at its core where you just need to explore and learn. And this simple gameplay loop is both extremely satisfying and fun but in the long run, can get repetitive and you’ll see why as you read on ahead. The game is packed with “aha” and “eureka” moments as you slowly figure out how to do the various different mechanics in the game that your ape can learn.
And those moments are one of the best I’ve experienced in a long time because there were no guides out there, no videos and no tutorial of any sort so every time I learned something new or discovered something it felt exciting, rewarding and I was already thinking ahead as to how I could use what I had now learned.
Now as you explore and learn, you collect Neurons which can be used to unlock upgrades in the skill tree. These upgrades can then be passed onto the next generation by reinforcing them but only a selected number of skills can be reinforced. The rest is lost when you skip to the next generation which skips 15 years ahead so all the babies you had are now grown up and the grown-ups are now old apes.
You essentially keep doing this cycle of learning, mating and skipping to the next generation until you’re ready to evolve which at a minimum skips 24,00 years ahead. Having kids helps increase the number of years you skip while deaths in your clan decrease it. And when you evolve it adds up your score of everything you’ve done and tells you whether you’re ahead of science or behind it.
Where it Falls Short
That simple gameplay loop is so addictive and awe-inspiring that it drip feeds your curiosity to keep you playing. And that’s essentially what hooks you in. But there are no checkpoints. If your clan dies, you lose all the progress you’ve made. You start again from all the way at the beginning. Which is fine the first or even the second time you do inevitably end up dying but after that, it’s an absolute mind-melting experience because you have to watch the same cutscenes over and over again.
I don’t just mean the opening cutscene and credits which after the “wow” of the first or second time loses its charm but all the other cutscenes in the game. Having a baby is a super important part of the game but it turns into a grind fest as you try to pop out a bunch of babies for the experience and to progress but this turns into a tedious task because of the same cutscene that you have to watch over and over as it gets ingrained into your very soul.
I soon started losing the curiosity that was building up because I started speedrunning the game to catch up to the progress I had lost so that I could continue ahead but the general slow-paced nature of the game makes it hard. Movement and exploration is slow because of just how vast the world is and how careful you have to be. Now, this could be a good thing for some people but to me, it was an annoyance since I just wanted to get to the good part of the game which was exploring and learning new things.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is supposed to be just the first volume of this series. It only goes up to 2 million years ago and at that point, we play as an ape that walks on two legs and has less hair but is not a Human. Patrice says the game is 40-50 hours long and according to him, there is no endgame and it’s up to the players to decide that narrative. And after putting so many hours into it I don’t think I even reached close to that stage.
Hopefully, Volume Two is not too far away because this game has loads of potential that will now be tested by the online community that its bound to create. The vast exploratory nature of the game will create tons of different stories that players will experience and I’m excited to hear people’s time with the game and their reactions to the various little moments that you encounter in the first couple of playthroughs.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is an ambitiously new gaming experience that focuses on learning, exploring and experimenting to evolve your character and clan. Although filled with moments of exhilaration and triumph, it slowly turns stale because of the slow and repetitive nature of the game, especially the cutscenes. As of now, I would only recommend this game to fans of the survival and exploration genre. With a couple of tweaks and maybe some more content, this game could be phenomenal but for now, it’s a mixed bag.
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