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It is 10 million years ago in Africa, Neogene, the third partition of the Tertiary period following the Miocene and Pliocine eras. It is (almost) the beginning of mankind, but not the beginning of life as we know it. 

At the beginning of the game on Steam we are privileged to watch an amazing few minutes of superb animation as the jungle comes to life and introduces us to many of the species surviving within it; at this moment in time the meaning of life is . . . . survival!

When the controls are handed to you, it is as a small Primate, not far from baby status, and from here you embark on an exciting journey to explore the evolution of mankind. But first you have to survive, and there are a lot of antagonists in the very dangerous jungle who are opposed to you doing just that.

Created by the genius behind Assassin's Creed, Patrice Désilets, and developed by Panache Digital, this is not an all-action game. Instead it is an incredible, open-world adventure based on instinct, puzzle solving, knowledge, intelligence and evolution.

Until the 5th November it is available on Steam from Epic Games for just £16.49 (https://www.epicgames.com/store/en-US/product/ancestors/home), a saving of £16.50p.

It is supposed to be played using a controller, but for reasons unknown to me my controller isn't picked up by the game and so I have had to play using Keyboard and Mouse and to be honest it hasn't been an easy ride so far. There are PS4 and XBox ONE versions which of course will have sharper visuals and hand controller commands.

There are four options of play, these being a paired mix of; Full Hud, Full Tutorial, No Hud, No Tutorial. Evolution is described in the opening scenes in a simplified version that put everything into perspective: Bird kills Fish, Crocodile kills Bird, Panther kills Crocodile, Primate (with stone-sharpened stick) kills Panther . . . . .

Using the heightened senses of a Primate the player has to dodge and hide from predators, find food, sleep in safety and discover other primates, most of whom have been rejected by their own clan or are surviving members of a clan massacre. Gaining the trust of these loners will eventually allow you to build up your own clan, eventually discovering new tools - even a simple stick can be useful - and gaining intelligence through learning.

There is no one single objective, except survival, that drives a player forward. You are not looking for anything specific, there is no magic chest or teleport, though you can climb trees at a fair rate, leap from branch to branch (though this took a while to get used to doing) and heal your wounds (generally gained by falling or being attacked) once you have the necessary skill to understand Botany. 

This is a game that increasingly asks the player to think before acting. You need to create a clan, no matter how small to begin with, as early on as you can, because if your character dies you take control of another clan member and carry on. If you have no other clan members then you have to begin the game again.

Doing all the things you have seen primates do in Zoo Parks comes naturally but it takes time and patience to literally learn to stand on your own two feet. Using the fingers on both hands, using rocks and wood to create tools, leaves and twigs to create bedding and hideouts and, as you progress, accessing the primates skill tree while it is sleeping to learn new skills (like you do in many games) so that slowly but surely you evolve. 

Bringing babies into the clan ensure that it grows in strength and numbers, plus genetically the knowledge genes are hereditarily passed from Mother to Babe, again ensuring evolution in future generations.

This all sounds easy and straightforward but it isn't. You are living in fear for your life and for the lives of your clan members and this fear can be overcome by seeking out the bright lights while dodging the glowing eyes and neon red fangs.

For review purposes I can only allot so many hours to each game and I have put in way over the amount of time on Ancestors, and keep returning to it whenever I take a break. Even so, I haven't got very far and with no map or means of saving my journey (so I am not always going round in circles or returning from whence I came by an alternative route), and it often being so dark in the dense jungle, all trees begin to look the same and my senses only give generalised help, they don't pinpoint my direction, until I reach the lights.

Quite often I think I have reached safety but then I second-guess myself and run off into trouble again. This is one heck of a massive game and it gives only minimal assistance to the player, it is all on you.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is going to be my go-to game for many more hours. Anyone saying they have completed it in a few hours has almost certainly hacked into it somehow or hasn't reached the true end, whatever that is - I am nowhere near finding it. 

Truly a free-roaming game, more than just a Sandbox, when you purchase Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey you are taking on a new life-mission yourself, the evolution of the human race.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015