A new take on the survival Genre is here in the form of Panache Digital Games latest title, Ancestors. The title is being published by Private Division and will be available on PC, PS4 and Xbox one, and sees you travel back in time to prehistoric Africa and guide the evolution of our ancestors. Is this our new survivor fix or more of the same? Well I got to take a look so let’s delve in!
Ok so right of the bat I feel its only fair to warn you if your coming into this expecting something akin to the big survival titles such as Ark, Rust, The Forest etc you’re going to want to put a break on that for a second. Ancestors is a whole new type of beast in more ways than one. For starters No ‘Story’! No hand holding! And No first-person! And No humans!?
Ok so the games title may give you a hint and I’m hoping most people see at least one image of a game before they jump in, but Just in case this review happens to be your first find when looking into this title you cant say I didn’t warn you!
That’s right in ancestors the first person gives way for third Primate view as you are flung back in time to the shoes of your great great great gre….. (Ok look its a lot of greats and I’m not THAT good at math) grandparents shoes! You’re given the reins of your clan of primates and sent forth to guide them to the position at the top of the food chain, expanding your territory, remaining fed and birthing a new generation as you explore the land both above and below your hidden oasis.
High in the canopy of the African jungle your adventure begins as the opening cinematic draws to a close, annnnnd you died, welp! Guess that wasn’t your ancestor after all! More like a distant uncle? Right from the start the game lets you know that survival of the fittest is the only rule of the jungle. Just in case any doubt remained, the second you get control of your first prehistoric family member it doubles down as you embark on a visual representation of fear and anxiety in the equivalent of being hunted by a pack of lions after eating some dubious tree mushrooms. Honestly at the time while getting to grips with the controls I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly was happening as I moved forward in confusion, but looking back at it with a clearer understanding of the game, having the visual representation of emotion the young primate was going through visible to the player I found to be a brilliant move.
To be fair this should have been the first sign that this was not to be a smooth ride and that I should possibly spend some time growing accustomed to the game. Alas I did not and quickly fumbled my first attempt at experiencing as much as I could with no knowledge of what was happening before calling it quits and starting over from scratch.
After reassessing my usual play style and with a little more understanding my second attempt felt somewhat more manageable, albeit far from easy, as the blind panic gave way to the understanding that I need to find shelter and take things one step at a time. After all evolution doesn’t happen overnight and the human empire wasn’t built in a day. As I felt less overwhelmed I began to notice the vast and beautiful natural world that I had come to inhabit as I stood atop a tree and saw the lush forests, mountains and swamps before me. So long as you don’t look too close, the world of ancestors can offer some visual treats. The world offers a well blended variety of environments for the player to explore with the canopy of the trees offering spectacular views.
Even the forest floor feels worlds away and as beautiful as the branches above as you traverse the natural environment and wade through rivers or hunt for food while avoiding threats. Honestly the world feels alive and full with almost all areas I encountered having a natural life to it. Admittedly the finer details of the environments leave some room for improvement, but overall the game isnt bad to look at.
To continue the theme of the living world ancestors uses some systems that I haven’t seen in the genre thus far that will bey key in surviving the ancient world. By utilizing the intelligence system you are able to identify objects or locations in the world dependent on your skill tree progression, this will be to varying degrees of effectiveness. However the two points I really want to mention are the use of your senses, both smell and hearing, By using these senses you will slowly be able to identify the scents and sounds around you. Overall these 3 systems are not only key to your survival, but continue to build on an extra level of immersion as you begin to hone in on a variety of sounds in the jungle.
Once you finally get a hand on the basics of the game, something that will likely come after a lot of trial and error, you’re free to start the process of guiding your clan. Truth be told this will likely take a fair bit longer than most would expect due to the game giving only the minimum of explanations, requiring experimentation as you learn to manage your clans need for food, water and sleep. I don’t for one second believe I experienced even half of what this title offers, and honestly until you get some playtime under your belt this is going to be overwhelming and require a lot of guesswork. All of this is made more daunting by the many beast that inhabit the world with you. In fact almost everything in this game is trying to kill you, making that learning curve extremely steep, yet incredibly satisfying when you finally get crafting an item down to a fine art or defeating the giant snake that ate half your clan.
Overall Ancestors is a brutal survival game that takes the term survival and runs with it, and runs far. Despite my use of the term brutal I also feel I need to say its fair, all the missteps that you can make could lead to the reason evolution failed. The challenges you have to overcome could or would have been faced by our ancestors, be that due to learning or the elements. In my limited time with it there is no way I could have experienced it all, and I wish I could have, as though it differs from my experience within the genre – its one that’s interesting and I’m hoping to find more time to go back.