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Review

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey Review - Devolution Of The Species

  • First Released Aug 27, 2019
    released
  • Reviewed Aug 26, 2019
  • PC

Curiosity may get you killed by a very big cat.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey sure isn't afraid of throwing you into the deep end. My first foray into Panache Digital's survival game began as a young ape alone in a dark forest, the imagined laughs of hyenas and snarls of tigers echoing in the trees in a confusing cacophony. Before I could finish reading the message detailing my very first objective, a warning popped up and demanded I dodge out of the way--of what, I couldn't be sure. Not knowing what to do, I couldn't respond in time, and my ape was left alone, scared, hallucinating, bleeding, and poisoned, my screen a milky display of dark green and shifting shadows. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do or where I should go. I began to wander and, thankfully, about 30 minutes later I found the rest of my clan.

At first, I believed the entire ordeal was simply a poor start. As it turns out, that first journey through the confusion of a dangerous jungle, blindly limping in different directions in hopes of finding someone to help me, is a fairly accurate depiction of what your journey in Ancestors will regularly entail. My time with the game saw me suffer similarly disorienting fates over and over, testing me to figure out what I'd done wrong and then do my best to adapt. Ancestors prides itself on giving you as little information as it can and daring you to rely on your ingenuity and resourcefulness to survive. Though the game fulfills its promise to do the former, it fails to deliver a compelling reason as to why you'd even want to rise up to the challenge of the latter.

You play as a member of an ape clan in 10 million BC Africa, and you try to ensure your lineage continues through to two million BC--the time period archaeologists say our ancestors' evolution finally transitioned us from ape-like beings into a new, more human species. To survive that long, you need to manage how much you eat, drink, and sleep while also steering clear of predators and taking care of injuries. As your life continues, and you interact with more aspects of the world, you grow smarter and acquire new skills, which you can then pass on to your descendants. Upon death, you take control of another ape within your clan and continue the process, striving to evolve into a brand-new, more human-like species before your entire clan completely dies out.

Every second of real-world time translates into a minute in-game--except during sleep, which speeds this equation up. Your in-game progress produces opportunities for further clan evolution to then jump ahead in time by months, decades, or millennia. If you or one of your clanmates becomes pregnant, for example, giving birth to a baby will cause you to leap forward 15 months. For significantly larger jumps in time, exploring as an adult with a baby on your back will allow you to accrue energy to further improve your neurological network and unlock new abilities, which then allows you to advance a whole generation and move time forward a full 15 years. A jump in generation can be followed by an evolution, which moves you to a new, calculated placement on the timeline that's dependent on which advancements you make. Adapting your metabolism to new plants doesn't give you as huge a boost, for instance, as learning to use rocks as tools. Evolutions push you ahead tens of thousands of years, providing the most efficient way of getting from 10 million BC to two million BC.

It's definitely not easy, though, especially since your clan needs to sustain itself throughout those eight million years in a single lineage. Though your clanmates learn what you do in real time, losing an entire clan means you have to restart from a brand-new lineage and relearn everything you've previously discovered. If your clan dies after you've adapted to eating fish, for example, you'll not only need to go through the entire process of reacquainting your diet, but you'll have to teach your new lineage how to make fishing spears all over again. When it's a few minutes of knowledge lost, it's not that big of a deal. But when you're losing hours of progress, it can be quite disheartening.

Instead of saving your skills and knowledge between runs, Ancestors records your progress by keeping track of how far you travel. Initially, you can only begin a new lineage on a cliff within a jungle. However, you can discover and unlock other starting points in the jungle, and even reach other biomes, such as a lake-filled swamp and arid savanna. Unlocking these new start points provides welcome variety--as each environment contains its own unique ecosystem of creatures and plants as well as its own set of weather-based challenges--but your primates always begin in the same clueless state. Even if you already know what to do, you'll have to retrace your steps and go through the same motions over again to recreate the same conditions that pushed your ape's neurological network to evolve to where you were in the game before your clan was wiped out--ideally with more of your clan intact this time so you can go further.

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This gameplay loop can be immensely frustrating, and it's one that gets more drawn-out the more you play. By my fourth lineage, it was taking close to two hours to retrace my steps and redo everything I had already had to relearn a few times already. There's nothing in the game that allows you to recover from a failure and quickly rebuild what's been lost, either, which is demoralizing when your downfall is your own fault and downright frustrating when it's just bad luck. I've lost entire clans because of my own hubris, sure, but I've also lost a clan because, after going through an evolution, the game randomly spawned my clan next to a tiger's den and there were no materials nearby to make weapons. I spent the final 15 minutes of that eight-hour run helplessly watching my entire clan be slowly devoured before needing to start over.

I couldn't go back and try a different approach to escaping the massacre of that unfortunate run because there's no manual save feature in Ancestors. The game saves automatically when you discover a new location or go to sleep, with each lineage tied to one save file. You can manually back up your save to your PC, but there's no easy or straightforward in-game solution to help you avoid a punishing death.

What small satisfaction the game does provide is consistently ruined by violent predators, though the threat does lessen once you make it far enough into the neurological network's expansive skill and perk tree.

Having to redo everything you've already done also keeps you from discovering new things--which is paramount to surviving and one of the few good parts of Ancestors. With practically zero tutorials, Ancestors forces you to be experimental in order to succeed. There's joy to be had in bashing different items together to see what happens and then compiling and testing hypotheses. As much as I was frustrated by needing to redo the entire process of creating the aforementioned fishing spear in repeated playthroughs, I felt genuine accomplishment in figuring it out the first time. Most of Ancestors' puzzles can be solved with logical sense, so the challenge comes in figuring out where to find the materials you think you need. Granted, this being a game, there are occasionally arbitrary hurdles you need to jump through to build certain tools, but you'll typically only find these associated with more advanced, late-game tasks.

You don't get to enjoy much of the satisfaction in discovering new things and regularly evolving, though. Predators repeatedly sneak up on you and interrupt your efforts, which typically causes you to drop whatever you were messing with. It's disheartening to want to explore and forge new tools, only to then have to put your odyssey on hold to limp back to your clan and deal with your injuries--and then be attacked again almost immediately upon heading back out. Yes, the jungle is a dangerous place. But when a tiger leaps out of the reeds to aid a crocodile that's trying to eat me, it's a stark reminder of how Ancestors upholds the need to rise to the challenge of survival above the experience of evolution. Historically, it makes sense, as our ape ancestors undoubtedly lived many more years as prey than predator. But in the context of a video game, the constant barrage of spawning enemies gets in the way of the gameplay loop of learning, responding, and evolving--a roadblock that's only chipped away at and eventually toppled once you acquire the skills and tools so that your entire clan can work together and put up an adequate defense against the creatures that hunt you. Much has to be done to get to that point, though, so contending with larger predators--especially the collection of deadly wildcats that stalk and pounce on you at seemingly every quiet moment--feels unfair early on, especially in areas where there are no trees to escape up into. Dealing with their near-constant attacks or the wounds they inflict can make it discouragingly difficult to actually experiment and evolve.

The closest you come to feeling safe while playing Ancestors is when you're up in the trees. You spend a lot of time in the branches as a result, but unfortunately there's no easy way to travel between them. You can climb practically anything in Ancestors provided you have the stamina, so scrambling up into a tree is a quick, painless process. However, with no way to easily course correct yourself--and since trees are rarely positioned in a straight line--you typically only get to enjoy a few seconds of fast-paced, energetic movement before you run out of branch, plummet to earth, and possibly break your legs if you were too high up. And that's a shame, because it's actually pretty fun to leap from branch to branch once you've got the swing of things. There just aren't many opportunities to use what you've learned once you've got the mechanics down. Upon leaving the forest, your chances slim down even more, as the follow-up areas are sparse on the first environment's signature large trees.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey lingers for far too long on its most toilsome aspects. The game does reward initial experimentation, but then asks you to repeat processes over and over again without any means of securing your legacy. It's an absolute grind to reach the closest that Ancestors has to an endgame goal--survive for eight million years--and one costly mistake, whether the game's or your own, can erase everything you've accomplished. What small satisfaction the game does provide is consistently ruined by violent predators, though the threat does lessen once you make it far enough into the neurological network's expansive skill and perk tree. But as it stands, investing in Ancestors' journey demands too much effort for too little reward.

Back To Top
The Good
Experimenting how to better explore, care for yourself, and evolve in new ways is a rewarding experience when you're not being interrupted
Traveling through the trees is fun while it lasts
The Bad
Near-constant threats from predators get in the way of the better parts of the game
Having to relearn everything with each new lineage is a frustrating way of pushing back the endgame goalposts
The repetitive nature of the gameplay loop offers diminishing returns with each playthrough
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jordan has spent about 35 hours in Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey and can probably give you a dozen reasons as to why trying to fight the game's dangerous wildcats is a terrible idea. He played Ancestors on PC using a code courtesy of the publisher.
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TheGnasher

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The review is very well written and that's where its merit ends. While it is totally understandable, even desirable, that people have different opinions, who publishes reviewes should have comptetence beyond being a good writer, as his work influences the decision of other possible players. And a bad review can be misleading, especially in a case, like the present one, when it is driven by an absolute inability to play or even to understand the game.

I agree only if you claim that it should have a more detailed tutorial about commands and interface, but after that, it is perfectly within the game's logic to leave everything else up to you. The game is meant to create the highest possible level of immersion, within the obvious game-based limitations, by setting you to the point of view of hominids trying to figure out how to both exploit and defend from the nature around them to survive. You can't blame a game for not being idiot proof: if you're the typical Minecraft player googling every resource he comes across, this is not of course the game for you.

A common complaint I see in the few negative reviews is "taking too long to find the clan". It seems that you people didn't even try to use the intelligence button to scan the surroundings. You have 3 ways to scan the world around you. And if you scan the world with the baby you start with, you will notice a place marked as "hiding spot". Yeah, the game doesn't tell you, but you can get it. What purpose a "hiding spot" might have? Maybe hiding? It is a mystery indeed. The beginning of the game perfectly sets you to the point of view of a little monkey who barely escaped with his life, left alone in a dangerous jungle with no clue on what to do. That's how you create some immersion, the darkness, the fogs and the hallucinations perfectly represents it. Yet it seems that you wanted some phosphorescent green arrows on the floor pointing to the direction of the clan.

It also looks like you have no experience whatsoever about open world games in general. Common sense suggests that you shouldn't leave the initial area before raising your skills (in this case in term of neurons). The fact that the game allows you to pick from different starting points doesn't mean you have to, especially when you still have to figure the game out, a concept you made abundantly clear through both your review and video. The default starting point leaves you plenty of room for experimentation. You can find nearly all the crafting materials you find in game and you can do all the experiments you want in the total safety of the camp without worrying about any attack, as well as you can practice with the audio cues mini-game for later encounters with animals. The immediate surrounding area is not that much dangerous either, presenting only snakes and boars, none of which can oneshot you, so you can get controls practice and neurons to prepare for more dangerous animals later on. You can earn plenty of neuronal energy just by scanning the immediate surrounding and by engaging in some fights with easy beasts. Being in savanna by year 33 is just foolish, unless you're an expert player. You wander about the world as clueless as a headless chicken and then complain that the game has too many predators attacking you.

Also, a tiger attacked your camp and you couldn't find any object to defend it? Seriously, what were you looking for? A tranquilizing dart gun? You always find plenty of objects to defend from predators in all the camps. Literally all camps have, at the very least, granite stones and dead branches. If you're lucky you can also find obsidian and basalt nearby, but even the former two can be used. Even the raw dead branches can be used to defend yourself from an attack, you don't even need to modify them. It won't kill the cat, but it can buy you time to craft a basalt chopper or a sharpened stick (yes, it is the most powerful weapon you can make, not just a fishing tool).

I'm neither an expert player nor a genius, but I just had few casualties in the learning process. How on Earth could you manage to exterminate the entire clan four times? Then I see how you venture with 4 adults and only 1 baby, you start in savanna because you can and after 35 hours you still believe that the sharpened stick is just a fishing pole. You got everything wrong and couldn't figure it out. The problem lies on you, not on the game. Basically it is like you try to hit on girls wearing jerseys in clubs and by talking about football tactics and then write negative reviews about all girls telling they all suck because you couldn't figure them out.

Very nice writing style, I'm not ironical, you can be a good journalist. But for God's sake abandon the gaming subject.

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deactivated-5d8d6c6e927af

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A lot of people struggle with the concept of differing opinions, especially about something they like. But I personally try to remind myself that everyone has different perceptions and experiences, and their opinions about a game wont always align with my own, and thats ok.

With that said, review score is a little low but not by much. I feel this is a 5/10 game, tops. I played it for maybe 20min, hated the controls and terrible movement system, refunding it and uninstalled. Well written review, covered most of the issues I noticed myself.

Took me about 20min to find my clan because the game tells you nothing, intentionally obscures the screen with an egregious amount of floating eyes, fog, effects to simulate fear... and you haven't been instructed where to specifically go. Not sure if its always the same or randomly generated but the clan was at the top of some cliff hundreds of feet above where I spawned, I wandered in the trees and forest floor for way too long until I finally stumbled on it. Stupid design.

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Hoffymann07

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Pretentious game gets a low score. Not surprised.

Pretentious gamers who think the game is good blast the reviewer with name calling, and provide straw man arguments for how good the game is and get owned. Also not surprised.

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timthegem

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I think Ill insult this review errrr while also make spelling errors that aye aye should have work ed thru by age 9. Yeah. Yeah, thats the tick'et!

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Emptynoggin

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I haven't logged into this account in ages, and probably never have left a comment, but after reading this I just had to.

This Jordan Ramee doesn't seem to understand anything about this game, and doesn't have the basic common sense to get through some of the easiest parts without major problems. This game is one of the best of the year if you just put a little thought into it. Maybe people need their hand held these days with perfect little quest markers, I don't know, but pretty much everything that you do in it is fairly straightforward.

It's true that curiosity and discovery are a big part of the gameplay, and so there isn't really any kind of tutorial and a lot of trial and error, but none of it is hard to figure out. Grab a stick. Scrape the stick. Bang on the stick with a rock. Bang on a rock with another rock. How hard is that? The most difficult thing I've found so far was getting new babies, and that was still relatively easy to figure out.

This review should be taken down and rewritten by someone that knows how to play games.

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Manakel

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Bro, are you retarded? It took you 30 minutes to find your clan??!!?? I mean are you exaggerating because if your not you shouldn't be a game reviewer your not cut out for it. This game isn't that complicated nor extremely difficult. It gives the perfect balance of difficulty, not so easy it's boring, and not so hard you get frustrated and want to quit. The reviews by major gaming publishers on this game have surprised, I feel politics may be at play, maybe only high major funded games get good reviews nowadays. This game has been the best I've played in 2019 hands down. Kind of reminded me of the initial stages of SPORE but more in-depth. But if you have no intellectual ability or common sense I guess the game is really hard.

Either way regardless of reviewers being retarded at best/dishonest at worst, the game will be a success because the players are what makes the determination. Maybe go into another career bro, honestly if it took you 30 minutes to find your tribe you're probably dumber than the monkey you were playing as.

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KenshiSaan

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Edited By KenshiSaan

Obviously this review ís BAD. it's one of the game I like the most in 2019. like other comments said you weren't sufficiently smart to get the point of the game.

it should be review again.

what a shame.

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Senying

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i'm registering just to say this...
this is one of the worst reviewer ever,
just because u sucks at this game doesnt mean the game is sucks too..

this game is about survival and exploration, u're a monkey so u need to learn things before u go out into the dangerous jungle..

the control is a bit hard at first, but u can adapt.. see the key mapping 1st, read the help section in the game to understand things better..

this game brings a fresh kind of feeling that i dont get often nowadays

it's a good things when a game dev trying different things

well the game is not perfect, but it's not as bad as this review said..

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Chupert

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Edited By Chupert

This is one of the worst reviews I've seen in a while, I had to login and comment which I rarely do, took me longer to recover password than to write this but it has to be said.

The biggest problem according to reviewer was that when your clan dies you have to start all over again and predators, I've been playing for 2 days A LOT and that has never happened to me, it's just a matter of common sense, strategy and resource management, if you have a couple loses, just breed more, and by the time I felt comfortable leaving my origin zone I had learnt enough to deal with most predators.

To put an example it's like someone complaining an RTS it's bad because he took the few workers he started with and sent them to die all at once at the enemy base instead of building his base and make units to deal with enemies. That's just stupid right? Exactly, that was my reaction when I watched this. I'm not saying the game is perfect but's it's not a 4 at all, at least not for the reasons this guys mentions.

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NaturallyEvil

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You can save a lot of time by stopping when you see the word "survival" in the first paragraph and knowing the score will be low at Gamespot.

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HesamB

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Edited By HesamB

I have played for about 30 minutes, can't really tell you about story or anything. what I can say is this:

controls, are really, really really BAD. it is so frustrating moving the camera or even walking.

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wiegraf2195

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Not my ancestors xD

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crono71

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Edited By crono71

@wiegraf2195: That's not what Mitochondrial Eve said!

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cetaepsilon

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Assassin Creed The Missing Link ?

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PlaystationZone

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There go AC Creator makeing Games .lets hope don’t come to PS4 because this creator hasn’t made a great game since AC and he should never left Ubisoft because this creator lost it .

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realguitarhero5

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@playstationzone: why do you care if it's on PS4 or not? just don't play it...

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face76

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@playstationzone: he wasn’t the sole creator of AC. He was one them that created AC. Jade Raymond was another.

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off3nc3

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Expected , who in their right mind thought this was a good idea for a video game ? Zoomers probably.

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02050muh

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good idea but not fun. the end game should be all clans going for war using guns for domination and then apply democracy system to vote for their leader

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TxuZai

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So what im getting from this reviewer is that the game is to hard for them;...ok, got it.

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leageno

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If your smart and like challenges then this game is gonna be great for you, its a survival game with realistic features that would have challenged you if you were our primitive ancestor.

if your hot-headed, if you get frustrated easily about little things that happen to you in your life then when you get your head pecked off by a big ass bird then maybe you realize the little things you're making a huge deal out of might worry you a little bit less.

I feel like the person who wrote this review is stubborn in a bad way and a little bit arrogant about learning to be creative.

I don't only speak facts, if I say something it's not set in stone and I might be wrong, people who dont realize that they don't know everything suck.

I personally think that this reviewer got a lot of stuff wrong about the game, that these problems aren't a problem of the game it's his problems playing the game with his skill or mindset.

hopefully, you can adapt to the game and flow with it and learn from it.

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artiebuco

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@leageno: "if your smart". Stopped reading at this.

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SsangyongKYRON

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@artiebuco: ????

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murekkep

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@leageno: Yeah it's so realistic you can cure your wounds and broken bones by sleeping.

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JimAbadon

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Game probably should have included a mechanic to at least tag all the work you did when you went extinct so you can analyse what to change and what to reinvest in. Other than that, maybe they went a bit overboard with the unforgiving jungle idea, I suppose.

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OsirisDiscordia

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Edited By OsirisDiscordia

I'm sorry but there is absolutely no way the author could have possibly played this game long enough to qualify to review or rate this title. It's not even out yet, for one thing, for another, this game would take a lot of time, way more than they could have invested, regardless of time zone, and a lot of trial and error to even begin to scratch the surface of what it can be.

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artiebuco

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@osirisdiscordia: You realize that reviewers get advanced copies of the game, right? 35 hours of playtime seems like enough time to me.

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bobbo888

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@osirisdiscordia: It literally says he spent 35 hours playing this game.

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OsirisDiscordia

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@bobbo888: I've played Patrice's games before. 35 hours is only about half the game at least. So many variables to test and hidden corners to explore. I'll bet this reviewer would say something similar about a game like the surge lol

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bigcrusha

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@osirisdiscordia: You do realize members of press get early review copies right?

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The dodging mechanism and its animations - man. They look rather familiar.

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gamingdevil800

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Apes together strong ?

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Nomplay

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Edited By Nomplay

Yeah this review hasn't convinced me yet. That middle vide was incredibly frustrating to watch and not because of the game but because of the guys playing it. Why were they climbing a waterfall at one point? And they seemed to think they were poisoned when the icon was clearly a shield? xD

I honestly think some of the issues are going to be patched out pretty quick but it is really interesting how half the reviewers are yes brilliant and half are no terrible! I'm thinking I'm going to buy and see if I can handle the controls, if I can't I'll get a refund and just watch someone who's better at that sort of thing haha!

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Cappy

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Edited By Cappy

I am so sorry to read this, it was such an intriguing concept. Though it seems, maybe, if they tweak a few annoyances, that could save it, like speeding up the reacquiring of knowledge upon death, or reducing the number of predators.

EDIT: I should add that, as with any game that takes chances like this, I will have to watch/read reviews on both sides before making up my mind.

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k41m

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@cappy: You should probably check out IGN's review, they explain it better.

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Nomplay

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Edited By Nomplay

@cappy: I agree, especially as there's the fact we as humans know what they are, fun the first time but after a while it's like come on now :P

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Yea, was never sold on this.

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xxmavr1kxx

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But you didnt answer the most obvious question.....

Can you throw feces?

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odolwa99

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So if they were to patch in a way to retain all your skills following death how much better would the game be?

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Cappy

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Edited By Cappy

@odolwa99: I was wondering/hoping this too. Having to redo activities over and over only works well if the activity itself is super-fun. Otherwise, they need find a way to reduce that repetition. So hopeful this might be tweaked to save it, as the concept is refreshing and the ambition admirable.

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OpenMind23

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Edited By OpenMind23

I think that "the bads" within this review might be simply personal opinion likes and dislikes. Some might like a constant threat and like a grind from a repeating loop if they love the gameplay enough.

That being said, I will wait for a sale as despite looking forward to this, it is not the most wanted title on my everlasting wishlist. The Outer World's is at the top with Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and Greedfall close behind - will be looking forward to those games reviews :)

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JimAbadon

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@openmind23: likes and dislikes are always personal opinions of the reviewer, it's always been like this. Reviews are just singular opinions, I don't understand why people in this site and elsewhere have such a hard time realising this.

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OpenMind23

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Edited By OpenMind23

@jimabadon: I obviously did not have a hard time realizing it, as that's what I wrote and have known this fact since I started reading reviews 20 years ago lol.

That being said, I precisely meant that these "specific" bads are very bias per each persons tastes and not really a pure negative towards this particular game.

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bigcrusha

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@openmind23: Well, not that reviews could ever be purely objective but from a general criteria of what "most" consider fun and engaging gameplay, having to redo hours of progress over and over again could classify perfectly as "frustrating" and "tedious" as a detractor to your average gamer. But if thankless grind with real risk is the readers thing, the review will serve as promo for the game rather than a negative review.

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OpenMind23

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@bigcrusha: I accept this because yeah, some people do really hate a grind and consider it a tedium. Although I don't think the game deserves a score of nine out of ten, I am one of those players who loves a good grind as I like to get the most out of an open-world game.

I should think from a lot of mediocre reviews; especially this one, that some things will be adjusted by the devs in the coming updates :)

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hushed_kasket

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Interesting how they used modern-day apes as the model for apes from 10M+ years ago... even though the premise is that these are what we humans came from.

Kind of silly.

Pass.

I'll be playing Control instead.

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OpenMind23

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@hushed_kasket: Yeah, Temperance Brennan might have something to say about this lol :D

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Reuwsaat

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I've seen this coming since I first saw the first video of the game: "where's the fun in this?"

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Cappy

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@Reuwsaat: yes, that is the question with any non-combatant focused game. It seems the main fun is exploration and the learning of new skills which would bring new gameplay mechanics. But both those things are hampered, one by too many over powered predators and the other by losing all progress upon clan death. Perhaps if they could reduce the annoyances with those things it is savable, but it’s not clearly so.

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SofaJockey

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I was looking forward to this, but repeatedly losing all your progress may make this a hard pass.

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Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey More Info

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  • First Released Aug 27, 2019
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    A third person action-adventure survival game. Through each episode, we want the player to relive the greatest moments of mankind with a documentary twist. Humanity is one idea away from evolution or extinction...
    5.5
    Average Rating13 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
    Developed by:
    Panache Digital Games
    Published by:
    Private Division
    Genre(s):
    Survival, 3D, Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen