Ever since I saw Ancestors at Gamescom I was very excited and impressed, to my surprise the game got some really bad PC reviews. Luckily the game got many changes for the console release! I’ll be brutally honest, Ancestors from Panache Digital Games was a pain in the ass to review. It required so much devoted time, so much learning effort and much patience because everything in the freaking jungle kills you. In this game you control primates and your tasks are evolving and… trying to survive. Ancestors is very complex and a hard to learn game but with enough motivation and time, this one-of-a-kind experience becomes something very special. Let us find out why in this review!
What we liked!
- Inventive and original: How does one come up with the vision to implement a smelling mechanic? Panache Digital Games has some creative designers, that’s for sure! While designing playing as primates might seem like an easy thing, it is far from that. I honestly respect the time and effort that the devs did for giving us this unique game. Comparing this to God forbid Minecraft isn’t that far-fetched, crafting tools, for example, a comfortable place to sleep is done by collecting and crafting with things you find in the world.
- Beautiful open world: By far the most realistic, dense and visually stunning jungle environments. You don’t have a map-option so you are forced to use landmarks and plain old memory to find your way around. Exploring and discovering new places is one of the addictive parts of the game. It manages to surprise you and seeing things change when you evolve your clan and skipping million of years remains impressive, even after playing it for hours and hours.
- Animations: While there were many times that I was impressed by some animal animations, alligators or simply moving around as your character it does have some issues too. Weird glitchy movements through objects are common and things do get even weirder when you are carrying little ones. It is a shame that clipping through trees and the ground happens so frequently, eliminating the impressive visuals and believability.
What we disliked
- Rhythm and sound mechanic: Making others feel safe, grooming and other typical primate routines are done with a rhythm mechanic that requires timing. When I had to use it for the first time, trying to make a baby-monkey feel safe, it took me minutes before I could accomplish the task. Even to this date, I haven’t nailed down how to do this mechanic, making it a little frustrating. I don’t really understand why they had to make this so difficult, like almost everything with Ancestors it lacks any decent explanation and guiding.
- Fun fades away by complex gameplay: Learning how to play a game can be a fun thing, look at Dark Souls. I feel that Ancestors crosses the line with the complexity, there is only so much that a player can learn and the game literally throws you in the jungle and even finding water that isn’t poisonous is a colossal mission. Eventually, the difficult trial & error gameplay reduces the fun you have.
Ancestors might be the most innovative game of this console generation, but along the way, it simply became too complex. Controlling your primate and exploring the impressive world, using smelling and the available tools show that the developer has a lot of talent but they have to find a way to make it an easier experience so everyone can enjoy it.