Time for some monkey business. I do like games that put you in control of an animal, it’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual games we have. Ones that are playing as some sort of sentient humanoid or the other. We don’t have enough games that just straight up put us in the feet/hooves/paws of a critter. Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is one that allows you to control an ape. Not just any ape though, your very own ancestors. Let me elaborate.
The game works as the name suggests, it transcends over generations. You play as your predecessors in the evolutionary chain, the primates. In doing so, you embark on a journey to discover, research and create. This means you’re going to be exploring and investigating a lot. Again, it’s an interesting change of pace from fighting and killing. Still, some of what could have been done was executed just a little bit poorly.
You start off with basically nothing. There isn’t even an inventory in the game. All you can carry is physically present in your hands as you roam the vast African map. Off the bat. I’ll say the exploration was my favorite part of the game. The feeling of being a clueless ape with the objective to just explore far and wide is really fun.
The methods of traversal also further added to the fun of the whole thing. You can climb trees, leap from branch to branch, swing from vines and climb nearly any terrain you find. It can get a bit annoying sometimes when your view is being obstructed by the thick greenery but that just adds to the immersion. On the other hand, the blunders were funny when they happened. In fact, my ancestor was the first one to discover fall damage, neat!
The game isn’t all just running around like a clueless jackass though. Although I did spend a huge amount of time doing just that. Still, your goal is to pave the way for your descendants in the evolutionary chain. This means a big chunk of the game is in investigating and discovering more about your surroundings. Breaking open fruit with a rock, checking and eating the berries off plants and making your own weapons off the bark of a tree. It was pretty interesting and fascinating at first but became really grindey and sloggy soon after. It’s like when the first event is exciting, but not the 17th time you do it. Looking at you Destiny…
The combat of the game was a pretty forgettable aspect. The exploration made up for it since I spent most my time staying in the trees to avoid being attacked by the dangerous predators looming around below. The quicktime events in every fight got a little annoying too. Especially after you saw every animation they had to offer. The camera angle to make it cinematic could have been better if the foliage didn’t obscure it every time. I do admit that some of the sudden attacks took me off guard, like being lunged by a sabertooth when I was fishing.
The game also presents you with a skill tree. The way it’s represented is as a neural connection within one’s brain. I really liked that touch, it’s among the really fancy stat screens alongside Skyrim and Fallout. The brain represented not only you, but also your people. Each point put in would not only determine your current effectiveness, but also how your descendants would turn out.
That’s right, while you do play as a literal individual ape, you are technically controlling a tribe. One comprised of a small clan of apes you start with which then translates into recruiting more opposable thumbed companions. The system reminds me of how recruitment in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood worked. It’s kind of funny considering who made these games. An important figure from the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
Anyways, back to my point, every Ape did have a name. But beyond that, there were no discernable traits. They were all pretty disposable and didn’t contribute too much to the atmosphere and ambiance. I did feel a bit for each one that died though. Not that many did of course, I take care of my virtual animals.
Ancestry and descendants don’t just spawn out of nowhere right? You do have to procreate when it comes down to it. Doing the nasty in a game where you play with apes does sound…interesting, but it was the most mundane task I’ve had to experience so far. It’s worse than watching two sheep in Minecraft rub together to pop out a baby. I guess that’s fine since the game’s point isn’t to showcase that but I really wish you didn’t have to go through the same boring QTE to add a baby to your people. The amount of hairy backrubs I gave for the sake of my tribe, sheesh.
Alas, my line of apes, the backstreet boys, definitely did make it pretty far. My hours of breaking open strange fruit and munching away at every herb I found gave us a decent bit of know-how and endurance. The way the skill tree in the game worked was that you could only pick up to five specific branches per generations. After that, you had to skip ahead. The skip wasn’t a year or decade either, sometimes it went as far as millions of years to see where your people made it. Once again, like every part of this game, it’s fascinating to see the first time, but not after that. Then it just becomes mundane.
The dullness of replaying to see a different outcome is made even duller by the fact that you’ll have to start from absolute scratch. This means doing everything the same way again, a grinding process that was already repetitive the first time around. After my first playthrough, I was done with the game. Not saying that it was a bad game, but it definitely lacked replayability.
It was also hard to really find any sense of accomplishment in how your clan progressed. I mean, yeah, they evolved. That’s how evolution works right? I Youtubed and searched around several other people’s playthroughs and mostly found similar if not the very same outcomes. The only accomplishment I felt was in the on hand discoveries and first few kills I made. And well, I guess the first back rub too.
The game is great to playthrough once for a curious mind, just don’t expect yourself to get really sucked into the world, though.