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Ancestors: the Humankind Odyssey is about evolving “to beat science”, but “it’s not Spore”

Here's what you're trying to do and how in the ambitious new game from Assassin's Creed's creator

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is a bit of a tough sell. Not because a game about the evolution of our species doesn’t sound interesting – it does – but because it’s hard to imagine such a complex, iterative process working as a game. At E3, we caught up with creative director Patrice Désilets – former creative lead on the first two Assassin’s Creed games – for a bit more insight into this ambitious project.

“The game starts at ten million years ago and it ends two million years ago, so from the last common ancestor of all the big apes up until Lucy, the Australopithecus”,  Désilets says. Ultimately most players will finish with something a bit like Lucy – as with so many things, it’s all about the journey rather than the destination.

You’ll guide your tribe through multiple generations, unlocking a choice of traits at each generation depending on how you play: “If you’re more into hunting, then all the skills attached to that will unlock”, Désilets says. “But you need to choose with each generation. If you don’t have enough babies, you’ll lose some of your abilities – so even after you’ve gained them, you need to choose the ones to lock in when you make a new generation. Maybe you’ll think: ‘Oh, I’ve put a lot of my points into Observation, but I don’t really use it that much. Next [generation] I’ll spend them elsewhere.”

Choose wisely, and you might find your tribe is ahead of evolution’s real-life curve. “Eventually you go into the evolution review, which is where we look at what you’ve done, and we attach years to what you’ve done.

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“So if you discover crafting way before science tells us it actually happened, we give you 125,000 years, plus a bonus because you did it before science, and eventually the goal of the game is to beat science. It’s to beat the pace, the speed, at which evolution happened.”

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“You’ll transform your characters,” says Désilets. “At first you won’t walk on two legs, but eventually, depending on how you play, you’ll evolve into this biped creature. It’s not Spore – you won’t suddenly have four arms and five eyes. It’s still about the story of us, on this planet. We started by not being us, and you go through different species, and you go through time.”

Interested? The Ancestors PC release date is August 27 (a console release follows in December). It’ll be exclusive to Epic Games Store for one year, after which “it will come to additional PC retailers”.