This game was introduced to me in a really odd way. My partner has recently dived into Twitch, obsessed with watching people play games (although I am apparently so bad that watching me is painful? Feel the love!) I emerged into the living one night to watch him watching a Twitcher playing this game and failing time and time again, completely wiping out the entire family due to disease, malnutrition, failing at the auto swing and plummeting to their death from a high point. After these entertaining moments and the game would reset I was immediately immersed in the idea of this game, the resetting of lineage and heralding back to a time before mankind, the game has finally evolved from PC to consoles so I was happy to be able to get my hands on a copy on Xbox One and fall from the heights of the forest myself.
The game is really hard to describe, it is part exploration, survival, adventure, yet also a simulation. The easiest way to explain the premise is you are a primate ape that must establish a family in a forest/jungle and discover the world around you. As you eat, drink and discover more you unlock skills and abilities to evolve and level up your characters and tribe. Once you master this (and it takes a while!) the game becomes an exploration discovering animals, areas, loads of waterfalls and lush jungle and forest areas that have been lovingly crafted in this game. There is a 50 hour campaign that will keep you extremely busy figuring out how to do what and what you can and cannot ingest. This could be frustrating for fast food gamers, but if you settle in for a good session of exploration and slow down, the game offers a huge amount of replayability with hugely varying options everytime you start a new lineage. Every move that you make can decide your fate and wipe out many hours of progress and you have to start the whole thing over again. Missing a branch on a high tree swing, a predator jumping out at you by surprise and you don’t hit that quick time button quick enough, it’s all over and if your other clan members haven’t maintained their nutrition well, the game resets and it’s back to square one.
The map is extensive and the more your senses are upgraded, the easier it will be to access these areas. When you start to walk into a new zone you do have to overcome your fear of the unknown which once done will unlock the entire area and you can freely move through it. Each area is richly detailed with some incredibly graphics for each environment. The grass looks incredible as you swish through it. The only thing that looked weird was the rain effects, it produced a straight line down that cuts throguh the screen and it wasn’t fantastic. In relation to the other beautiful details on the characters and the effects from the sun sink in, it is easily forgiveable but could be fixed with a patch (please?!) The rocks, trees and sand do all look similar and have a copy paste effect in the later hours of the game which do take away from some of its effect.
Each character is beautifully detailed with individual hairs that ruffle in the breeze and get that matte/shiny look when it rains or you dive into water. Similarly the predators are large and intimidating, particularly when they jump out at you surprisingly and time slows down for you to press the Quick time button to evade. Their mouths open wide and fly out of the screen towards you, quite often giving me a huge jump scare and scream. When you figure out weapons and you can turn around and kill the predators, it does increase your patience when it comes to these sequences. The lighting effects in this game are used well, when the sun is rising and setting and your character is standing in the middle of the forest, the light trickles through with butterflies and birds flying through, there are no words to describe how incredible this is. Similarly the moonlight reflections have a luminescent effect that on the recently released X Box One X are unparallelled graphically.
Gameplay wise the majority is exploration and reproduction. Pairing your clan males with appropriate females who form couples after grooming each other (you know that picking their back and eating it thing?) The goal is to keep them reproducing while you explore the world figuring out what you can and can’t eat, evolving the clans neurons to become more human like. The crafting system is pretty ordainary, as it is the same buttons over and over again, after 20 hours there is no “fast create” option which is very repetitive. The slow pace is a welcome change compared to other games, but it can be a little trying if you are stuck on one particular mission or area. The game gives you no knowledge or helpful hints to show you what you need to be doing. Other games have tried this in the past and been crucified for it, however this game does make it feel natural and once you work out the basics for yourself, the gameplay does flow a lot easier.
A lot of attention has been given to the audio in this game. The music, sound effects and limited speech are complimentary to the game’s smooth tone. There are audio cues that you do need to listen out for when doing certain things so I did end up turning the music volume down in the options after about 10 hours of gameplay to assist with this.
Ancestors : The Humankind Odyssey is a mixed bag, if you enjoy exploration and having your patience tested then this is game for you. I have spent about 60 hours in this world with a couple of differnet playthroughs due to my lineage failing to have the ability to drink water or remember to eat on time and my hilarious mismatched couples that failed to produce children to allow me to explore to my hearts content. It sounds frustrating and when it happens it really is but I am a sucker for punishment and I enjoyed the reset to learn from my mistakes. The large map and variety of missions does give a hefty life to the game that could see it as one to pick up in between other games similar to Minecraft and Dragon Quest Builders. The game’s graphics and music/sound effects do set a new standard for a game of this size from a smaller studio.
Ancestors : The Humankind Odyssey is now available on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.