Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey: The Most Interesting Game in Ages?
There have been many formal reviews of Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey (out now) by critics rushing to their posts out, highlighting a few of the typical grievances about open-world games: how long they can take to get started, how some of the mechanics can seem repetitive...
But wait a moment, Ancestors is a brand new open-world game, and a survival game. Isn’t it supposed to be intuitive, exploratory, and require more time and attention? Why might the title include the word Odyssey after all? Won’t there be some aspects that get ironed out over time, as more players come to experience it? What about 'No Man's Sky'?
So then, you read what many of the actual reviews by players are saying (on Amazon, Google etc) and they paint a much more positive picture of this game. It’s refreshing, it’s highly adventurous and surprising, where the environment is the key aspect: it exerts a deep influence over your decisions and characters, who were once 'us' - the troubled apes of our ancestors.
[Yes, that’s right, we all evolved from apes. Sorry, but that’s just scientific truth. And finally we get a game that highlights this connection and our adaptations since.]
And this is exactly the point of the game: our environment is what made us what we are today. The idea is to play this game, and come to appreciate some very important things - unlike many, many other games being played right now, which are mostly disposable updates of previous games.
So, reading these personal reactions depicts a much stronger picture. We can see just how many game-players seem to be looking for something more real from games today, more relevant, and especially something about nature.
"Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is difficult and opaque in many important ways, but its premise is refreshing and its vision compelling enough to keep the player moving forward. Expect lots of false starts and failure at the beginning, but eventually the mechanics become familiar and the achievement of inching the species forward becomes uniquely rewarding."
So what is this game?
Ancestors has no shooting, no Doom-style demons popping up; no sci-fi setting. It’s a survival game, so that means it doesn’t have to be ‘fun’ all the time, and it does have to be challenging.
You must grow and expand your hardy family of apes. That’s it. It’s an experience to move you closer to nature; to awaken buried instincts and awareness of many key elements that forged our evolution, if you like.
In the words of one player:
"You'll use your time learning about your environment and increasing your capabilities. You will also procreate and grow your clan size for the future. With the options to skip a generation so that certain Genes and skills can be passed on through generations to generations. As an added bonus the games allows you to compare your evolution progress with each evolutionary jump that you undertake, so that you can see how you match up to real life theories of our own evolution."
So this is why the game is more interesting!
If you buy Ancestors you need to remember you’re buying a ‘first’ title, where everything was made from scratch, by a small studio, Panache Digital Games, which has been brave enough to present this whole concept into a grey gaming landscape.
It’s true, it’s still a third-person game and these are what Patrice Désilets (a former Assassin’s Creed developer) knows best, so he’s drawn upon those strengths. [Assassin’s Creed is actually another title which has done history and historians some huge favors.] And this developer also clearly felt that some reviewers had treated the game unfairly, and has voiced similar concerns in this article.
Sometime, a game needs time to evolve, even a game about our own evolution, and it’s somewhat true about Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. It’s a beautiful and at times thrilling experience that deserves our support, attention and time, so it too can evolve and improve over time. Haven’t we learned yet that some games, like 'No Man's Sky', just need… time?
"Embark on the most incredible odyssey of all time: human evolution. Begin your journey “Before Us”, 10 million years ago, and see if you have what it takes to survive your evolution." [the promo reads.]
To conclude, there are some video games that are doing different things, and can they deserve a closer look. Reviews are not always to be trusted, especially with open-world games, where the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the steady digestion towards after-effects which linger on long afterwards. And there are clearly more committed players who are attaining the buzz of the latter part.
Experiences like these can even spark a life-long interest in a subject. Besides, is there no better way to portray our own difficult, evolutionary struggle than by finally making a game that reconstructs it... or demonstrates it?
That means Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is also a title that parents will be happy to see their (big) kids learning from, and discovering. But then, those parents may likely be playing along with them, making the experience a more memorable one and providing shared, quality bonding/grooming time (!)
It’s just lucky the reality depicted in the game is no longer our reality anymore. Although... you could say we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to appreciating the environment (amongst other things).
So will Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey become the next 'No Man's Sky?' Find out for yourself: the game is out now for PC and console, and it may not even need limitless, empty galaxies to power and drive forward its main 'raison d'etre'.
Here at Gaming Impact, we'll certainly continue to support it.
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