Few video game industry firings make the headlines, and fewer still get to sound as dramatic as the tale of Assassin’s Creed co-creator Patrice Désilets getting the boot from Ubisoft, six years ago. Relieved of his services mere months after rejoining the company, Désilets was escorted out his office by security without being able to clear his desk or say goodbye to his team. I’ve heard the story several times over the years, as well as accounts of what may have caused it, but now I’m hearing the highlights first-hand, as Désilets introduces himself and his new game via a potted history of past escapades.
I hadn’t expected Désilets to dwell on the past but he is, as he says at one point, known as “the historical guy”. These war stories are his lineage. Désilets talks excitedly of being shut out on the Montreal pavement, and how some of his former co-workers came down to meet him. In the weeks following Désilets’ firing, a couple of close allies would join him to found Panache Digital, a studio he named after his own initials. Désilets spent time preparing a legal challenge to regain rights to his big budget project, the now-mothballed 1666. And he began work on another idea, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. Now, five years after Ancestors was first announced, Désilets is readying his first game in nearly a decade.
Désilets takes us through Ancestors’ opening: an entertaining cut-scene which shows the kinds of awful prehistoric creatures that will happily murder our cuddly ape heroes and chomp them up for lunch. It’s 10 million BCE, and evolution has got us to the point where we can swing through the trees and scamper about on all fours. You play as a succession of apes from a tribe with a finite number of individuals. It’s your job to stay alive as long as possible to learn new skills, make new ape babies to grow your group’s numbers, and survive.