by Matthijs Knebel
previewed on PC
Ancestors is an upcoming squad-based, tactical RTS that really caught my interest at this year’s Gamescom. I tried three missions and what really struck me in these was how well-balanced the learning curve and the buildup were.
I started off with a tutorial mission to get the hang of things. My first assignment was to flank an enemy unit with a single unit of soldiers of my own. The level was designed in such a way that you couldn’t possibly fail to move your troops behind enemy lines so I did without any surprises. Next, I was to take over the enemy’s base with three different units, each with 6-8 soldiers. The enemy’s base was overrun and with only a few minor hiccups. This was all too easy but it got me curious about what the next missions would bring.
Things got interesting in the second mission which revolved around stealth. With only 3 soldiers I needed to discover what the enemy was up to without getting caught. When troops are selected, a circle appears around them that represents their range of vision, and that of the enemy troops as well. Using these, the game had me carefully move my soldiers around the map and avoid enemy soldiers. If it were just range of vision it would have been easy but there is line of sight as well. Walking into the woods my soldier’s line of sight changed for every tree and bush they came across or hid behind. After walking for some time I saw signs of civilization and found a small town.
I needed to stay out of the light to carry out my objectives and not be discovered. One objective was to plunder some wagons and steal resources, the other was to burn the enemy base. While I was plundering my second wagon I was discovered. The soldier called for his buddies and attacked. I panicked slightly when I realized I wasn’t able to disengage from combat. My plan had been to make my soldiers retreat, but that was impossible and I had to fight. I won, though for what reason I don’t know. Maybe my tactics were better or my soldiers were stronger. I completed my plundering, burned their buildings and set out to the location marked on my map. Job well done!
I celebrated too soon. Suddenly, a large army appeared, too large and they were not friends. I hid my troops in a grain field and waited for the enemy army to pass by. When it was safe to move I sent my troops into a small forest. Coming out I discovered another village, which was quite a bit bigger and I realized it would have been a lot more difficult to stay hidden there. There were many more defending soldiers and they all carried lanterns that would have made spotting mine a lot easier.
I was short on time and wanted to see more gameplay so I moved onto a different mission. It was quite clear from the beginning that this one would be more complicated. The UI gave me much more options, including the ability to build things and recruit new troops. My new goal was to take over the enemy base and my hands were itching but time ran out – there were more appointments in my Gamescom schedule.
The graphical detail in Ancestors is absolutely stunning. The leaves of the trees rustle along with the wind which moves branches just like it does in real life. The buildings, the fires, everything looks amazing. When you zoom to a fight you can take in every detail of the soldiers plying their trade and bloodying each other as the battle progresses. That same level of detail can be experienced in the subtle guidance during these early missions that kept the learning curve manageable even in the noisy surroundings of Gamescom.
Ancestors looked truly promising even in this early stage of development. I can’t wait to conquer that enemy base but it appears that I will have to: the game is scheduled to come out in Q2 2018.