Putting himself in the skin of primates so that humanity in the making can flourish is at the heart of Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. Overflowing with ambitions, this UFO requires questioning of its gamer automatisms in order to draw all its richness. Unfortunately, his radicalism will leave more than one behind.
At the dawn of humanity, a little monkey, newly motherless, finds himself lost in the middle of a terribly hostile jungle at nightfall. He is seized with panic such that it alters the perception of his close environment: his field of vision is distorted and makes him appear in multiple maddening super impressions of carnivorous jaws and reptilian heads, like releases from silent German expressionist films.
Should we find a hiding place for this little one and wait for an adult monkey to come to our aid? Or do we try the slow return to the fold by being guided only by our very limited senses making orientation difficult? We think back then to the last title that appeared before launching the part of Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey: “Good luck. We won’t help you much. “. At least we can’t say that we have been taken to a traitor…
Once the rescue is done (laboriously), a question appears on the screen: “Will your lineage evolve more quickly than that of our ancestors?” ” . This question alone contains the highly immersive intention of Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey : to let the player survive in the midst of the unknown with the limits of his character’s prehistoric primate, and to learn from his environment in order, in fine, to evolve and pass on his teachings to subsequent generations. Extensive program. So vast that at first it leaves haggard.
How do you survive?
In appearance, Patrice Desilets’ game looks like a third-person adventure game, a kind of Assassin’s Creed in ape mode. The family link is obvious since the Quebecer is at the origin of this superstar franchise when he worked at Ubisoft. Except that Ancestors …does not include any scripted mission and almost none of the known automatisms of the genre. What to do? With what means? How do you survive? The first hours of the game are crucial to test the openness and patience of the players who are sure to be overwhelmed by this game which refuses to take us by the hand.
The indications are therefore sporadic, not to say vaguely. The player can take control of any member of his tribe with a single button. But this feeling of omniscience is quickly counterbalanced by the observation that our subjects cannot do two things simultaneously.
Death manifests itself quickly in multiple ways: shredding by the many predators lurking around the bivouac, poisoning, and fatal hemorrhage from a bad fall from the top of a tree. Individual fate does not matter in Ancestors… Death is inevitable, beyond just managing sleep, hunger and thirst to keep our subjects healthy. The only real “game over” is that of collective extinction when all the members have been struck down by adversity and the kind nature of the weakest and the most undecided.
In the event of extinction, we will therefore simply have to say to ourselves that our way of considering survival was not the best suited to our environment. So we have to start over and hang on to get back to the essence of what we were: biological machines to learn.
It is only once we get rid of our player reflexes and Homo sapiens that the domestication of Ancestors occurs. When you understand that you have to take your time while reproducing quickly. It is thus essential to let oneself be won over by boredom because it is in the risky wandering that the association of improbable ideas can emerge which will favor the creation of an essential tool. And transporting his offspring during necessarily dangerous expeditions is not a clear proof of irresponsibility – oh so human concept – but a necessary prerequisite if we want to transmit what we have learned to future generations.
Ancestors… is a survivalist UFO whose richness we do not immediately perceive. It can be just as irritating with the repetitiveness of some of its tasks as it can be fascinating when one touches something that allows future humanity to take a great leap forward. An essential element of the classic role-playing game, the skill tree here takes the form of a cerebral system in which neurons can be activated against the experience accumulated in our peregrinations.