Review – Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey drops players into the furry feet of one of our relatives, 10 million years removed, and challenges them to bring on the evolution needed to reach modern day.
Humanity is likely doomed.
This is a challenging game with seemingly endless dangers around you and little to nothing in the way of meaningful instruction. You’re given the basic gameplay and then allowed to learn by doing, even as your on-screen character learns in the exact same way. Jump around, for example, and you’ll earn neuronal energy to put towards expanding your brain – a web of cortex upgrades that power your way through evolution. Early on you can examine almost anything in the world and earn neuronal energy, propelling quick development of skills and proving that early humanoids learn much faster than Browns fans.
Standing in your way is basically everything around you. On one playthrough I went exploring, making a dozen or more discoveries of potential foods and other resources, then was attacked by a large crocodile. I escaped that danger only to be attacked by a tiger, which I avoided and escaped into the trees where I regrouped and decided to make my way back to the small camp that my tribe used as home.
Partway back to camp I came down from the trees to find food and I was attacked again – this time by a boa constrictor. I managed to evade it and escaped yet again, and I even found food but when I reached for the berries in the bush, I was bitten by a viper I didn’t notice… I died before making it back to camp.
The nice thing is that death isn’t an ending here, you spawn back at your camp as another primate and start your learning process anew, and you can’t expect to inhabit one form forever – the game’s goal, after all, is to endure and evolve over the course of 8 million years. Exploration and experimentation drive evolution, and exploiting the lineage system to lock in positive traits like standing on two legs for the next generation is key.
The early sense of wonder as you drive evolution eventually fizzles a bit as later generations start to feel similar, no matter how much you’ve evolved. The hook of ‘explore, experiment, evolve’ can become repetitive, even though you’re doing different things in the later game.
Available now on PC, which is the version reviewed using code provided by the publisher. The game will release on PS4 and Xbox One in 2020.