Prehistorical proto-human sim Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey now has a release date, a little earlier than I expected. Players can start monkeying around this summer, starting August 27th, though it'll be a one-year exclusive to the Epic Games Store. Ancestors is developed by Panache Digital, Patrice Désilets's new studio. He was the creative director on the original two Assassin's Creed games, so knows a thing or two about games where you climb tall things. Below, a new trailer about conquering your ape-people's fear of the unknown, plus the previous one about exploring the jungle.
There have been games about cavemen and their lives before, and a few wildlife simulators over the years, but it feels like Ancestors is splitting the difference. You've got social systems that are just close enough to human to be intuitive, and some very basic tool use, but you're still not quite playing as humans. You scamper up trees, swing from branches and do all of those monkey things (or Ubigame things, for that matter), while trying to avoid all the bigger, stronger, hungrier things that think you look tasty.
In the new trailer, they explain how you go about expanding your territory. You're not playing as a single character, but rather hopping between members of the tribe, breeding and recruiting new family members as you bump into them in the wild. There are soft-ish limits to where you can roam, determined by your character's fear of the unknown. Venture further out and you'll literally be blinded by fear (and fog effects), until you've tested the area enough to build up confidence, let out a mighty howl and claim the territory as yours, insofar as a prehistoric ape-person can.
It feels like an interesting blend of now-familiar elements taken from modern open-world games, wrapped around a more high-concept wildlife survival sim core. I feel that in order to really hit the mark, it's going to have to feel difficult and oppressive without being unfair, which is a tightrope act others have failed to pull off. Whether it hits the balance required to make it work, or plummets from the first tree is a question I'm eager to see answered as it approaches release this summer.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey lands on Epic on August 27th. No price has been announced, but it'll stay Epic exclusive for a year.