Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a renowned survival game. It is a game in which you deal with problems such as hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, constantly engage in combat with the wildlife, and go after the evolution while doing all this. Since we control the primates, we don’t build big structures like in other survival games. But still, we are trying to hold on to life one way or another in the ancient lands of Africa.
Ancestors fulfills two things well. The first is that it gives the feeling of progress flawlessly. The other is that it rewards you almost in every step. It is really enjoyable to discover new movements, items, food sources, etc. The tutorial or guiding sections are deliberately kept very limited. The main purpose here is to enable the player to feel the sense of primitiveness as much as possible. And I have to hand it to them, it’s a very successful game in giving this feel. We learn many things later, even from scratch. Let’s say that we take a stone from the ground. A new feature is opening instantly. Are we focused on something? We are taking a new step towards evolution. Did we discover a new region? We are receiving another reward, again. Ancestors is based on not being afraid to act on impulse and try. There are some disadvantages to the notion, which does not keep hold of the player, but I will talk about them later.
I noticed that I could not do some of the most basic motor skills in the opening sequences of Ancestors. Of course, we have a grasp of the moves that primates can already do, such as climbing and walking. Ancestors does not start from the protistans 🙂 One may be puzzled at first. This is something we have not seen in any game before. Being able to think but not putting into practice is both strange and interesting. Before you can do it, you have to discover it first. It is entirely up to you to discover what and in which order.
Ancestors starts by leaving you high and dry, so to speak. A baby from our clan is in a difficult situation. We must go and save him. We have to go to the place where the little one hides and calm him down so that we can embrace him and take him back. At this point, Ancestors gives us a hint on how to do it, but it does not completely explain the subject. We have to solve it by ourselves. The little one cries at the hiding point. We go to him and wheedle. After various attempts, we get a reaction from the little one. He responds to the sounds we make but does not calm down in no way. We have to respond to the baby’s voice at the right moment. In short, there is a mini-game here. Finally, I figured out how to do it, calmed the baby and took him back to the clan.
Our clan, just like us, has not yet discovered the skills that we already know. That’s why they welcome everything we do (or discover to do) and can also imitate them. So, another area that we need to improve is communication. The more we progress, the more our clan progresses and gets stronger. Another advantage of communication is spouse-finding mechanics. We can find a partner and extend our clan with new babies. A small note: We do not control a single primate. We can switch between clan members.
Ancestors does not give full rein to you and say, “Go on, evolve.” You always have one main task. The main tasks range from exploring a place to finding a partner. In this way, we perform different types of work and can make progress in more than one area, especially in the early parts of the game. As you progress through the tasks, your character and your clan improve; the number of things you can do and things you can discover increases. So, besides progressing in your way, it also does good to complete the main tasks as quickly as possible.
TOOL OPERATES, HAND BOASTS
Based on Ancestors, the use of dry branches in the form of sticks can be considered as the most important invention of world history. We make use of the branches in many areas from hunting to working. As you know, everywhere is full of trees and bushes. That’s why finding dry branches is not a problem.
Before learning how to use the branches, it is necessary to maintain control on the hands. How do we transform a branch into a stick? Using the right hand, using the left hand, and using both together are the moves that we will discover one by one. As we learn about these, our connection with the universe of the game gets deep and we use nature more intensely to meet our needs.
Working makes us tired, thirsty and hungry just like in real life. There are many food sources around the environment. As you discover, new ones come out. We can obtain the water from clean puddles or other sources. We can sleep in a clan settlement or at a safe point. Apart from this, there is also a stamina bar. Physical activities such as producing something or climbing consume stamina, that’s to say, strength. So, keep an eye on the stamina sphere at the bottom – center of the screen. Don’t be worn out in a “hairy” environment then. Supposing that you get hurt or injured; the solution to this is also in nature.
I do not want to give many details about the use of items, because the real thing the game wants from us is that we discover it ourselves. Be sure that saying “you can use stones and soil like this and combine them like this” will kill all the excitement. Ancestors ewards every step of yours. A carrot is always kept in front of you to encourage you to try.
The most annoying point of the production mechanics is that they repeat to death. We mentioned a mini-game while saving the baby. We repeat mini-games like this in all actions of the game. We always complete the mini-game of similar logic while we are chatting our partner up, breaking or twisting something, etc. It may be interesting to do it for the first few times, but if we consider the need for tools, it should have been designed to be more user-friendly. It could be accelerated or automation could be provided.
There are no unicorns, fairies or princesses around us while chasing the evolution. Sorry, but a very brutal Africa will be waiting for you. The whole prehistoric cats, pigs, or reptiles will come across with you while chasing their bread.
You are not defenseless against threats. Let’s consider escaping first. We can survive against wild animals by running around. Of course, you have to bust out then.
When you start to get a grip on the tools, attack mechanics come into play. By the way, the grudge of other animals is not just against you. They also prey on each other. Frankly, I think the game’s melee mechanics are very shallow. I would expect the overall animation quality and variety of motion to be reflected in the fights. Winning through the fights is fun, but this should have been fun rather “in the sense of game”.
The most serious problem in fights is the interface snippets that cover the screen or the cutscenes that pop up irrelevantly. I lost my character to which I attached the most after a cutscene showing the fight of two animals. Right after the end of that scene, another animal attacked me and I could not control or defend it in any way. Then my clan fell apart. Ancestors is a game where the one who goes does not come back. If all your primates die, you start the game all over again. And the fact that this unpleasant situation is triggered by a cutscene is not cute at all. Considering that these cutscenes frequently pop out, you can easily estimate the “unexpected” tragic consequences of fighting.
Evolution, that is, character development, is gathered under three main titles. You can access these menus by lying down on your bed. Let’s review the Neuronal category first.
Experience points are used in the form of Neuronal Energy. The more neurons, the more progress. If you carry a baby on your back, you will earn more NE.
There are five different branches where you can distribute the energy:
These branches progress one by one based on your actions and new movement discoveries and provide access to new features. You are improving the feature by spending energy as you wish. Push your imagination back enough and think about the most basic moves. We are talking about a wide range from one-step development of the sense of smell to the ability to stand on the feet. The fact that the tree of skill descends to such fine details enables every skill to have a meaning. For example, I learned how to walk fast in shallow water. This saved my life once. The tree of skill is not generated vainly and the idea of further branching this tree motivates the player.
The next one is the Generation category. Generation is particularly essential to gain new skills. By skipping over a generation, you proceed to 15 years ahead. Babies are growing, adults are getting older, and elders are dying in your clan. The number of skills that you can transfer to the next generation changes according to the number of babies in your clan (named as Reinforcement). You cannot transfer all your skills and the ones that you do not lock with the Reinforce option are forgotten. You need to spend NE again to reactivate these skills. That’s why the number of babies is an important criterion. The requirement for having an expanded clan is to stroll around a lot and add new members to your clan and, of course, to multiply. After spending all the NE and completing the number of reinforcement, you can skip the generation. Remember, if there are unborn babies, they die in this process. I recommend you to complete these phases by planning well.
The last one is the Evolution category. There are certain requirements for evolution. Among these requirements, we can count some actions such as making some craft with a certain tool, escaping from certain enemies, killing the X enemy, unlocking the Y skill. In other words, you complete all kinds of requirements in the natural progress line of the game in any case. Of course, these requirements become more difficult in the later stages of the game. You can see the requirements in the Evolution menu. Apart from these requirements, you need to skip at least one generation and have a newborn in your clan to take a new step on the path to evolution. When everything is completed, you move on to a whole new phase of adventure. Remember, evolution means spending a lot more time. You open your eyes to a new place, not in your current location. Your species is also advanced. You are now in a different sub-class. Evolution mechanics represent radical changes in the game.
YOU ARE NOTHING WITHOUT YOUR SENSES
The only way to survive in the African wilderness is through good use of the senses. We use eyesight/intelligence, hearing and smeling senses to detect the threats from the environment in advance or to discover food and materials.
Let’s write an example scenario. You will experience this and the like all the time. Imagine you are on top of a tall tree. You do not know what is there below because both branches and the elevation are closing your view. Then you hear a sound and prick up your ears. You know the sound; you’ve met wild boars before. Then you hear another sound. A “monster” which you do not recognize is fighting with the wild boar. Sounds get quiet and the other animal is moving away from the fight with a victory. As the animal leaves, it starts to rain and suddenly your primate feels chilly. You know which plant is good for cold, so you activate your nose. The scent of the herb is coming by the place where the little war had just happened. You slowly come down, reach the plant quietly and start eating. Suddenly, you notice the pig’s remains. Maybe you can find something useful for you. Discovery awaits you.
We can improve the above scenario for the senses. Your senses come to your rescue in different situations and conditions. As we open new ways to our neurons, we see that there are also things that existed in our environment before but we could not make sense of. Throughout the game, we have to use our senses incessantly thanks to continuous improvement.
Another issue that we can review in sense mechanics is fear and its regions. Fear comes into play if your dopamine level is low. If your dopamine bar is full, you do not fear so easily. If there is anything scares you, which generally happens to be other animals, the dopamine bar is rapidly decreasing. Meanwhile, controlling gets harder and reaction times get shorter against you. If dopamine completely runs out, you lose control and a crisis called hysteria is experienced; you find yourself in the clan settlement. In regions that you have not explored before, fear works a little differently. You see scary sounds and faces around. If you don’t trust yourself, follow the bright blue light and come back and try later. If you say “No, I’ll explore this area,” trust your senses and explore until you see a second blue light. When you reach the second blue light, which is further away than the first, you conquer the region. To conquer, you must explore the environment completely and fill the dopamine bar. The smallest thing you do helps to increase dopamine. You can eat, produce or activate your senses. We can say that fear regions are like the tower logic in the Assassin’s Creed series. Just a little more difficult one.
THE LOST LINKS OF EVOLUTION
Now we have explained our game. We’ve talked about what is it about. Let’s pass on to a little criticism:
Ancestors repeats a lot like I hinted a little above. We constantly repeat similar actions. I understand, this is a survival game and it’s normal to do the same things constantly as the genre requires. However, simple actions are automated after a certain advance in survival games. This is essential to focus on more complicated tasks. The producers made it possible for clan members to do the same things you do and imitate you to make the game easier (which is how it should be logically). Good, but even this feature does not compensate for the repetitive mechanics. Performing the things that are interesting at first in the later parts of the game with the same effort seriously damages the tempo.
I can understand that Ancestors holds the player’s hand minimally. Otherwise, the feeling of primitiveness that the game wanted to give could have been struck. However, this kind of not holding the hand is partly overdone. We can find some actions by trial and error and this is very enjoyable. But it is very difficult for us to think of some things. I would have expected the game to be helpful in these situations. Tutorial messages rarely help that many players consult to Uncle Google instead of discovery. I had to search for it sometimes.
The control scheme of the game does not have any problems. I can even say that it contains creative touches. But in special actions, the game is very easy. Melee mechanics are the most obvious indicator of this. Apart from that, the mini-game logic in the game is always the same. I am not saying how it is because there is only one way of movement that you have to discover. All actions are performed according to this method. However, more diverse and logical mini-games could be added. A great opportunity has been lost in a variety of movements.
Let’s come to the permadeath issue. When the clan is lost, the game is lost, too. You have to start over. From scratch. You have to redo, find and learn everything one by one. Realism is a good thing, yes, but losing your clan for which you spend considerable time (maybe 15 hours) is not a good feeling, believe me. This is also not a game set in randomly created maps and of which sole purpose is to survive. I’m not considering it equal with permadeath in Minecraft. However, there is a certain story course although it seems like there is no main scenario. One cannot help but wonders what’s going on in the next step. Because it is enjoyable to discover. You establish a bond with your clan. You watch and protect them. You even memorize their names; they have names according to the sounds that come out of the mouth. “Ta” for example… A nice detail. However, you get dispirited when your clan falls apart because of a bad war system or a defective interface. Footnote: If only the babies remain in the clan, we can go to an adult primate and include it to the clan, even if it is not a member of the clan. By this means, there is one last chance. Anyway… As I said, this permadeath thing should have been an option. I don’t know what it was called, was it Story Mode, but I would like to see the continuation of this. Maybe permanent savings could be done with each generation skip.
THE COLORS AND SOUNDS OF AFRICA…
The visual quality of Ancestors is literally “adequate”. Vegetation, primates, animals, birds, insects, etc. are as they supposed to be. The animations are fluent and appeal to the eye. I especially liked the climbing animations and facial expressions of primates. Could it be better? Let’s skip to the next paragraph.
I will explain the graphics from two perspectives. I played Ancestors on PS4 Pro and it seems to me that the frame lock is open. It feels like we are playing above the 30 FPS. The console has a vsync setting differently, but I did not see a difference. There is no benchmark on the internet for the game. If my elf eyes (!) aren’t playing tricks on me, using FPS without locking is a nice choice. This preference, of course, reduces the overall quality of the graphics a bit and partly blurs it. That’s why adequate performance was not reached in fog and light effects. If I have to make a choice, I am included in the group of players who choose fluency. But the group that prefers quality also has very valid reasons. I wish there was a choice between FPS or quality. Because, as I said, the visual quality of his game is at an adequate level. I would also like to see it with sharper and more beautiful graphics. These consoles could offer the better.
Ancestors is a bit better in terms of audio. The sounds are fluent and clear, especially when we use the senses. Sound effects were used to highlight the game mechanics. You can understand what is there around you by listening. This comes in handy when you need to move quickly.
For Turkish review, please click the link.