Writings On The Cave Wall – Why 2016 Could Be The Year Of The Caveman

by Ben Reeves on Feb 22, 2016 at 08:00 AM

When Medal of Honor first stormed the beaches of Normandy, it didn't take long before dozens of WWII games were storming retail shelves. When fans grew tired of World War II shooters, it wasn't too long before we were overwhelmed with sci-fi shooters. Gaming trends come and go, but they're always fascinating to see take form.

In 2012 there was an overwhelming trend of protagonists with bows, as games like Assassin's Creed III, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3, and Far Cry 3 launched alongside Pixar's Brave. This led many to label 2012, "The Year of the Bow." This year we could see a similar collision of a different theme. We've already seen announcements for several games set around the stone age, and there could be more on the horizon. Let's take a look how cavemen will soon be invading our consoles.

[Note: Portions of this story were first published in October of 2015]

Far Cry: Primal
Studio: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release: February 23

Ubisoft's Far Cry franchise is known for its exotic settings, dangerous wildlife, and first-person open-world shooting. However, the series' newest entry brings a wildly new spin to the action. Set in 10,000 B.C., Primal ditches the traditional gunplay and vehicles of previous entries. Instead, players will take control of a hunter who has to hunt for food, learn to create fire, and scavenge for materials to build new weapons to fight against the wild mammoths, dire wolves, and woolly rhinoceroses that surround him. (Read our review.)

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
Studio: Panache Digital Games
Platform: PC
Release: TBD

Patrice Désilets helped create Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the Assassin's Creed series. Now he's leading a smaller team that is working on an episodic third-person survival game. We don't have a lot of details about the game at this point, but we do know that one segment of Ancestors takes place hundreds of thousands of years in the past, during an era when humanity's predecessors were first learning to walk upright and create their own tools. Ancestors is an opportunity for players to experience the "greatest moments of mankind with a documentary twist."

Studio: Wild Sheep
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release: TBA

In one of the game's sample missions, one of your clan members is bitten by a snake, and it's up to you – the tribe's shaman – to journey across the wilderness and visit the temple of the snake to seek aid. This new project from Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil creator Michel Ancel will allow players to call on the spirit of every animal in the environment in order to complete their journey. For example, your shaman can command eagles to fly over head, ride a bear through a forest, or summon a murder of crows to attack his enemies. Ancel's new studio, Wild Sheep, hopes that each time players pick up the game they discover new things in the environment, even if it's a place they've visited many times.

ARK: Survival Evolved
Studio: Studio Wildcard
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release: June

Ark takes a page from Bohemia Interactive’s DayZ. At the start of the game, players wake up in their undies on a mysterious island and must scavenge for materials and craft supplies that will help them survive in the wilderness. The twist here is that players will also have to contend with an ecosystem full of wild dinosaurs; developer Studio Wilcard looks to include more than 60 prehistoric beasts in the final game. You can jump in and playin early access right now, but the official release should be sometime later this year.

Horizon: Zero Dawn
Studio: Guerrilla Games
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release: 2016

While most of the games on this list actually take place in or around the stone age, Guerrilla Games' takes the concept of a primal band of hunters and gives it a sci-fi twist. Aloy is a skilled hunter and archer who lives in a world several thousands of years from now – a post post-apocalyptic world ruled by gigantic mechanized creatures that look a lot like dinosaurs. Players will set traps in this open world and hunt many of these creatures in order to collect their component and create new tools and weapons. Guerrilla has said that Horizon also features an RPG-like leveling system similar to Assassin's Creed and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Studio: Facepunch Studios
Platform: PC, Mac
Release: TBD

Last year, Facepunch Studios announced this cute little survival game that will let players shape history as they control a band of tiny cavemen. This little band of humans has to contend with wild animals and the harsh element of nature as they hunt for food, build shelters, and care for their young. As your little tribe grows, it will begin to develop a culture of its own, found religions, and even settle into hierarchies.


In case you didn't notice a theme, many of these games center around the hunting/gathering mechanics popularized in games like DayZ, Rust, and ARK: Survival Evolved, which in turn were all born out of a genre pioneered by Minecraft. So, it's entirely possible that this current rush of primal titles is thanks, in large part, to Mojang's uber-popular sandbox. Or perhaps many of these designers were inspired by some Nova special (or maybe a Radiolab podcast). Or perhaps all of these designers slipped on a banana and started dreaming about cavemen. Or maybe this is all a strange coincidence. Whatever the case, we hope that games are soon ready to relive our ancient past.