Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is the gaming equivalent of Marmite. That is to say, you will either love it or hate it.
There is a whole panacea of games that cater to your particular itch. If you like running and shooting you are covered, racing, covered, um, other game types covered but I think this is the first time I have had my “What were our ancestors actually like” itch treated.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is in many ways completely unique. Sure at its heart, it’s a survival game but the way many of the aspects of survival are handled are very smart, very well thought out and at times, incredibly frustrating.
The frustrations tend to be followed by eureka moments as you finally figure something out and equally I actually liked the lack of a proper “tutorial”. The game lets you discover things by yourself but I can see how that would put some people off.
There have been many times during play that I questioned a specific mechanic. For example, I genuinely hate the combat, I mean it’s just awful, it feels like a quick time event, but this isn’t a combat game and I have seen many others who really like it.
On the transverse of that, the way you learn and discover new things is so organic and natural that you learn quickly to just try the logical thing, it is more often than not the right way to do something.
Eureka moments are some of the greatest you can have in gaming. They come with knowledge, a sense of achievement and often allow you to progress, Ancestors: The Human Kind Odyssey is teeming with them.
There is no real story other than the one you create, that is to say, you must survive, learn, procreate and keep your tribe alive to learn adapt and evolve.
My first experience with the game was completely overwhelming. You start the game as a young human ancestor and are forced to either hide or get back to your tribe.
Here you can elect to switch to an adult and go exploring. As you encounter new things you will experience them for the first time and this can lead to neuron growth, this, in turn, allows you to evolve new traits.
With your new skills, you can slip out into the world and gain an even deeper understanding of the world around you.
Once you have sufficiently increased your cognitive skills and mated to ensure there is new blood in the tribe, you are able to evolve the species into a later iteration of whichever pre-human ancestor is next in the line of almost apes.
In a nutshell that is the game but it’s so much more than this. Graphically it holds its own in today’s world. The character movement and animations are very good. There is a limited amount of “other Creature” animation. For example the snakes, well Titanoboas, appear to have one loop of animation and whilst the pigs graze happily and seem quite lifelike in their goings-on, however, up close the illusion starts to fall apart.
I noticed a fair amount of pop in. My system is an average machine by today’s standards, an i7 4790K, 16GB of RAM and a GTX 980 were enough to do a fair amount of heavy lifting none the less, the immersion is broken when a tree appears from nowhere in the distance.
The negatives as I see them start with the fact that Ancestors: The Human Kind Odyssey is played in the third person, you look over the shoulder of whichever human predecessor you happen to have evolved into at the time and this also comes with a gameplay issue.
I found that when moving through the trees, which is by far the safest way to get around in the early game, it was very difficult to judge distance and I often found myself plummeting to the ground from great heights.
Had I have been less cavalier then perhaps this may not have been an issue but depth perception was difficult.
Exploration is key to learning new abilities and unlocking new neurons, however, I felt this aspect of the game was the least well explained and not as well thought out as I would have liked.
In the first instance when you head towards an unknown area you will start to become scared, fear of the unknown, you will start to imagine sounds and will see flashes of creatures biting, as you focus on areas of this new location you can start to overcome your fear, so far it is a great system and I thought it was a really interesting and different way to handle exploration. However, once you overcome your fears you simply move into the white light and the area will open up, this is where things went wrong.
So often after overcoming my fears the ‘white ball of light’ would be in a location I was unable to reach and so, therefore, I would be unable to open up a new area.
Combat is probably the weakest area of the game, early game you have no ability to fight back and even after you can, it amounts to nothing more than the aforementioned quick time event. I thought making spears and hunting would be far more interesting and so much thought appears to have been put into progression and evolution that combat really pales in comparison.
Even with the frustrations I just outlined Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a really wonderful game but you have to give it a little time.
With great power comes great responsibility
Early in the game I unlocked the ability to switch hands, this meant I was able to manipulate items but something happened, I had picked up a stone and swapped it to my other hand, I was trying to grab another stone from the ground but somehow managed to break a branch from a tree.
Stood with a rock in one hand and a branch in the other I had an idea, I thought, I wonder if I could make a spear. Now I assumed that I would attach the stone to the stick, what actually happened was that I created a spear by smashing the stick with the stone.
The world opened up and I started bashing everything. Before long I was opening coconuts and creating tools. Better still, I was teaching my tribe and children to do the same.
When this particular hominid died, I locked in some of my skills and evolved. It was the same for gathering fruit and honey, eventually, you will die but before then you need to take small steps on the road to becoming a human. Steps that on their own are meaningless, the ability to switch hands does nothing on its own but combine that with experimentation and your ability to remember the location of ingredients and you start to see those small steps have a big impact.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey has no missions or goals for you to achieve. Survive, pass your knowledge on and grow what you were given. This is the game loop, it’s very enjoyable but does get a little repetitive.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a unique game, this makes it niche but I can see that it would also have mass appeal if you can get past the first hurdle of the game being so different to others you have played.
I have to recommend you try the game, it is a really wonderful experience and is a game that should be in your collection.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a really interesting title. I would like to have kept evolving and actually played as Homo Ergaster.
Homo Ergaster was a reasonably human-like creature and it would have been nice to continue the gameplay after Australopithecus Africanus as it did let me evolve to Homo Ergaster but this was the start of the credit sequence.
The fact I wanted to continue was enough to tell me I had enjoyed the game. Sure, I would like the combat to be better and I would have liked the game to be more keyboard friendly but these are small gripes in an overall very enjoyable game.
Fight for Survival
- Gameplay - 74%74%
- Graphics - 81%81%
- Sound - 86%86%
- Longevity - 71%71%
- Value - 80%80%
A really great game for those who have the patience to look past its flaws and work within the confines of your existence.