Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey review: “There is grandeur in this view of life…”

Panache Digital Games
Panache Digital Games /

Live life in the lenses of our progenitors and carry on evolution through means of survival and reproduction. Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a beautiful game that pits you against all odds in the simulated perspectives of our forebears.

Title: Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
Developer: Panache Digital Games
Publishers: Private Division
Platforms: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, Windows
Release Date: December 6, 2019 (console) | August 29, 2019 (Windows)

I want to preface this by saying that Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey review is a very niche title. It’s a survival game at its core, but it is much more bare-bones to emulate the hardships of carrying your genealogy on from generation to generation in a primordial setting. This isn’t the game for the impatient.

Set in Africa about ten million years ago, after a beautifully harrowing cutscene where an elder primate carrying a youngling gets brutally killed in front of it, you assume control of the baby primate who is basically left to die in a forest bountiful of fauna and flora. Tutorials are provided on how to utilize the features in the game. There’s a rundown of the essentials of survival like using your senses to inspect, smell, or hear things in your vicinity.

You start off as that child primate and you can either abide by the game’s instructions to find temporary shelter so a matured primate can come out to get you or you can be a bit cheeky and adventurous and make it back home on your own. This is the beauty of Ancestors; it’s a sandbox game as well. Go ahead and explore and be at the top of the food chain.

Panache Digital Games
Panache Digital Games /

As the intro also tells you “Good luck, we won’t help you much,” it’s really meant throughout. There aren’t full guides to do certain tasks. It’s a trial and error game of sorts. You have to be fully immersed in your environment, meaning you have to be aware of your surroundings. Every event and how you go about it can play a pivotal role in your lineage’s outcome.

As earlier descriptions suggest, you have to venture out, explore beyond and play at your own pace. At least in the first few runs, it is ideal to go at a somewhat slow pace.

Yes, I said runs. But it isn’t like your whole playthrough is over if one primate from your clan prematurely dies. As long as you have a sizable and healthy clan with the ability to reproduce over time, they all won’t be wiped out. In fact, it’s a lesson of sorts so you can prevent that in the future. Your playthrough is only over if there is no way to reproduce and carry on that lineage from generation to generation.

My first few lineages have been wiped out by neglecting certain key mechanics that Ancestors has to offer, like memorizing landmarks, using the environment to my advantage, and knowing how to treat ailments and injuries.

Panache Digital Games
Panache Digital Games /

I had been expanding outward to build new settlements with my clan, giving us better access to different plants, berries, and nearer water sources for nourishment. I was too focused on expansion and exploration that I never really thought about defense. My apes were crafty and resourceful but weren’t prepared to face bigger and more hostile fauna out there.

The startup of the game can be a turnoff, especially when you’re in the most primitive state. You’re controlling apes who have to gradually learn what’s useful to them and how to do things. Oftentimes I found myself repeating certain actions to develop my primates’ neurological development, making certain tasks easier as you go forward in generations.

Once you’re able to make use of both hands and be more crafty, have the ability to fend for yourself against apex predators, and know how to identify curatives along with your food, the game starts to open up for the better. It certainly starts to feel like evolution is well on its way, but the journey there was tedious.

Panache Digital Games
Panache Digital Games /

I don’t mind the monotony of the game too much, given that it’s supposed to be a simulation of the dawn of man. I just wish the AI was more receptive or followed in my footsteps a bit more.

There were times when I came really close up on a hostile animal like this giant python which was the bane of my early game experience. Intimidation tactics popped up on my screen and they only provoked it more. My best course of action was to just climb up and swing away through trees and branches. However, my other clan mates who I took with me decided to get involved which resulted in grave injuries and greatly reduced life expectancies.

Other times, I had some clan mates wander off and either consume something poisonous or get injured from a fall. While the game does allow you to switch off which hominid you want to use on the fly, it’s impossible to look out after everyone all at once. Perhaps it’s intentional but it adds certain stresses that could not be prevented on the player aspects of things.

I want to commend the folks at Panache Digital in creating such a visually and audibly stunning game. It’s not the fastest pace or easily accessible one. It is ambitious and certainly something unique on its own in the gaming sphere.

7. <em>Ancestors</em> is a beautiful game that pits you against all odds in the simulated perspectives of our forebears. Go about through millions of years of evolution, but don’t expect your hand to be held throughout. It’s about exploration, survival, and learning. Curiosity and patience have to be your biggest drivers to get by. Aside from questionable AI choices and oftentimes monotonous tasking, it’s an interesting experience.. Private Division. . Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.