Ancestors: The Odyssey of Humanity is not afraid to throw you into the depths. My first foray into the survival game of Panache Digital began with a young monkey alone in a dark forest, the imaginary laughter of hyenas and rumblings of tigers that resonated in the trees in a confusing cacophony. Before I could finish reading the message detailing my very first goal, a warning appeared and asked that I move away from the path – of which I could not be sure. Not knowing what to do, I could not answer in time and my monkey remained alone, scared, hallucinating, bleeding and poisoned, my screen became a milky screen of dark green and changing shadows. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do or where I had to go. I started wandering and, happily, about 30 minutes later, I found the rest of my clan.
At first I thought that this whole ordeal was just a bad start. In the end, this first trip into the confusion of a dangerous jungle, limping blindly in different directions in the hope of finding someone to help me, is a pretty accurate description of what your trip to Ancestors will entail regularly. My experience with the game has seen me suffer equally disoriented destinies, testing me to understand what I had done wrong, and then doing my best to adapt myself. Ancestors is proud to give you as little information as possible and allow you to rely on your ingenuity and resourcefulness to survive. Although the game holds its promise to play the first game, it does not provide any compelling reason to take on the challenge of the game.
You play the role of a member of a clan of monkeys in Africa's 10 million Africa, and you try to make sure that your lineage goes on for up to two million years – the archaeologists of that period say that the evolution of our ancestors has finally transformed us into a new, more human species. To survive as long, you need to manage your food, drink and sleep while avoiding predators and taking care of your injuries. As your life continues and you interact with more aspects of the world, you develop smarter and acquire new skills that you can then pass on to your descendants. At your death, you take control of another monkey from your clan and continue the process by striving to become a new, more humane species before your clan completely extinguishes.
Every second of real time translates into a minute in the game – except during sleep, which speeds up this equation. Your progress in the game creates opportunities for the subsequent evolution of the clans, which will allow you to advance in time by month, by decades or by millennia. If you or any of your teammates becomes pregnant, for example, giving birth to a baby will take you 15 months forward. Exploring an adult with a baby on the back will allow you to accumulate energy to further improve your neural network and unlock new abilities, which will then allow you to move forward from one generation to the next and earn more money. time. years. A build break can be followed by an evolution, which moves you to a new calculated location on the timeline that depends on the progress you have made. Adapting your metabolism to new plants does not give you such a momentous boost, for example as learning how to use rocks as tools. Evolutions move you tens of thousands of years, providing the most efficient way to spend 10 million to 2 million billion BC.
This is really not easy, however, especially since your clan needs to survive for these eight million years in a single lineage. Although your fellow clans are learning what you are doing in real time, losing an entire clan means you have to start from scratch in a brand new lineage and relearn everything you've discovered before. If, for example, your clan dies after you get used to eating fish, you will not only have to follow the whole process of reclaiming your diet, but you will also have to teach your new lineage how to make javelins for fishing. again. When you lose a few minutes of knowledge, the problem is not so serious. But when you lose hours of progress, it can be very discouraging.
Instead of backing up your skills and knowledge between races, Ancestors records your progress by keeping track of distance traveled. Initially, you can only start a new lineage on a cliff in a jungle. However, you can discover and unlock other starting points in the jungle, and even access other biomes, such as a swamp filled with lakes and an arid savanna. Unlocking these new starting points offers a welcome variety – each environment containing its own ecosystem of creatures and plants, as well as its own set of weather-related challenges – but your primates always start in the same senseless state. Even if you already know what to do, you will have to retrace your steps and repeat the same actions to recreate the same conditions that caused your monkey's neural network to evolve where you were in the game before your clan was erased. ideally with more of your clan intact to be able to go further.
This game loop can be extremely frustrating, and it gets longer and longer as you play. In my fourth line, it took me nearly two hours to retrace my steps and redo everything that I had had to relearn several times. Nothing in the game allows you to recover from a failure and quickly rebuild what has been lost, which is demoralizing when your loss is your fault and downright frustrating when it comes to bad luck. I've lost whole clans because of my own pride, certainly, but I've also lost a clan because, after an evolution, the game spawned my clan at random near a den of tiger and there was no equipment nearby to make weapons. . I spent the last 15 minutes of this eight-hour race watching without doing anything to eat all my clan before having to start all over again.
I could not go back and try a different approach to escape the slaughter of this unfortunate race because there is no manual backup feature in Ancestors. The game automatically registers when you discover a new location or you fall asleep, each line being linked to a backup file. You can manually back up your backup to your PC, but there is no simple or easy-to-use solution in the game to help you avoid a punitive death.
The small satisfaction provided by the game is systematically ruined by violent predators, although the threat diminishes once you are sufficiently advanced in the extensive skills and strengths of the neurological network.
Having to redo everything you have already done also prevents you from discovering new things – which is essential to survive and be one of the few good parts of Ancestors. With virtually no tutorial, Ancestors requires you to experiment to succeed. He is happy to be able to combine different elements to see what is going on, then to compile and test hypotheses. Even though I was frustrated with the need to redo the whole process of creating the aforementioned fishing spear during repeated passes, I felt really happy to have discovered it for the first time. Most of the Ancestors puzzles can be solved with a logical sense. The challenge is to determine where to find the equipment you think you need. While this is a game, there are sometimes arbitrary obstacles that you must overcome to create certain tools, but you will usually find them associated with more advanced tasks at the end of the game.
However, you do not enjoy much the satisfaction of discovering new things and evolving regularly. Predators sneak around and interrupt your efforts, which usually requires you to give up everything you do. It is disheartening to want to explore and create new tools, then have to put your odyssey on hold in order to limp your clan and heal your wounds – and then be attacked again almost at the exit. Yes, the jungle is a dangerous place. But when a tiger jumps reeds to help a crocodile that tries to devour me, it's a stark reminder of how Ancestors insists on the need to meet the challenge of survival beyond from the experience of evolution. Historically, this makes sense, because our ancestors monkeys have undoubtedly lived more years as prey than predator. But in the context of a video game, the constant barrage of enemy brokers hampers the learning, responsiveness, and evolution of gameplay – an obstacle that can only be reduced and eventually overturned once you have acquired the necessary skills and tools. that your entire clan can work together and put in place an adequate defense against the creatures that chase you. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to get to this point, so confronting bigger predators – especially the collection of deadly feral cats that are harassing you and jumping at any time of apparent calm – is unfair from the start, especially in areas where there are no trees to escape. Managing their near-constant attacks or the injuries they inflict can make discouraging the opportunity to experiment and evolve.
When you play Ancestors, you feel safe when you are in the trees. You spend a lot of time in the branches, but unfortunately, there is no easy way to travel between them. You can climb virtually anything in Ancestors provided you have stamina, so climbing into a tree is a quick and painless process. However, with no way to easily fix your trajectory – and as trees are rarely placed in a straight line – you can usually only enjoy a few seconds of energetic and fast movement before breaking down, of course. collapse on earth. and possibly break your legs if you were too high. And it's a shame, because it's actually quite fun to jump from branch to branch once you're riding high. There is simply not a lot of opportunities to use what you have learned once you have mastered the mechanisms. Leaving the forest, your chances of losing even more, because the monitoring areas are rare on large trees characteristic of the first environment.
Ancestors: The Odyssey of Man lingers too long on its most painful aspects. The game rewards initial experimentation, but then asks you to repeat the process again and again, with no way to preserve your heritage. Achieving the closest possible goal of the Ancestors – surviving for eight million years – is a daunting task. An expensive mistake, whether the game or yours, can erase everything you have accomplished. The small satisfaction provided by the game is systematically ruined by violent predators, although the threat diminishes once you are sufficiently advanced in the extensive skills and strengths of the neurological network. But in the current state, investing in the journey of ancestors requires too much effort for too little reward.