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Curious Expedition

Posted by GG Goblin On April - 7 - 2020

Tally ho, chaps and chapettes. Prepare your provisions, it’s time for a jolly good expedition.

 
Developers Maschinen-Mensch would like to challenge players to head out into the unexplored 19th Century to recover treasures from around the world, all in the name of fame and fortune. Curious Expedition is a roguelike expedition simulator that launched only recently on consoles, promising to challenge players not only to outdo their fellow explorers, but also to keep their sanity.

 


 
Upon starting up the game, the first thing players should probably take a look at would be the tutorial. While not the most complete tutorial ever to appear in a video game, it will do a sterling job of introducing the player to the basics of setting out on an expedition and raiding shrines for shiny treasure. Curious Expedition is by no means an easy game, and the player will be faced with risk and reward type options at every step, but the tutorial will at least give them a fighting chance.

 
Going into the game proper, the player gets to choose their explorer from a selection of well-known, and not so well-known, names. At the beginning, this list of potential explorers is limited, but there are plenty of new names to unlock along the way, each with their own perks. Once an explorer is chosen, we get to the whole point of the game. The Adventurers Club will be erecting a marvellous statue in honour of its most successful explorer in only six expeditions time, and of course the player wants that statue to be of them. So, they have six expeditions to raise their fame and gain that reward. However, they will be competing against other explorers, and so will have to work hard for the chance. While each individual expedition has its own goal of finding some important treasure loosely pointed at by their compass, it is that overall goal of beating everyone else that will drive the player to take risks.

 
The players will be greeted by a map of the world, showing where each of their opposition have headed for their expeditions, along with their own choices. Once a destination is picked and preparations made, its off to their destination. Each expedition will be made up of a procedurally generated hex map, which will mostly be covered until the player actually starts exploring. The screen will also give the player access to things such as their team members, their inventory, and the most important thing, their sanity.

 


 
Sanity is the single most important aspect of Curious Expedition, as almost everything in the game will consume it. The sanity is displayed at the top of the screen, and moving the little pixel team across the map will consume sanity. The further the player moves, the more sanity is used up, and running out of sanity will not be good for anyone. Different types of terrain presented on the hexes may be more difficult to pass through, or take longer, or be completely unpassable unless the team have the right equipment in their inventory. Planning a route will be important to the teams sanity.

 
This will make up much of the game as the player moves around the map and opens it up, finding points of interest which will be displayed as question marks until the player gets close enough. Once close, these could be anything from a cave, hidden shrine, to a native village or abandoned camp. Each of these will offer possibilities to the player, but they will have to weigh up whether visiting these places will be worth potentially not reaching their goal. As the sanity runs low, the possibility of replenishing it, either through various items in the inventory, or through resting at a friendly village, will also have to be weighed up, especially as the compass only gives a rough idea of where the goal is to start with. It’s an interesting conundrum.

 
But there are more choices for the player to make along the way. Villages will offer the chance for the player to not only rest or trade, but also to increase their standing with the natives, which is also displayed at the top of the screen. A good standing will give certain benefits, while a bad standing could result in a hostile reception. Come across a shrine and you might find some sparkly treasure that will work towards your overall goal of fame and fortune, but taking it will reduce standing with the natives. It may also trigger traps that will leave the player running for their life. All about the choices.

 


 
There are also combat encounters that the team will face. This is perhaps the area of the game that was explained the poorest. Battles seem to be turn-based and involve rolling a set number of dice covered in different symbols. The idea is to combine the dice rolled into combos, depending on what symbol is on the top face, and is very dependant on what equipment the player has in their inventory, and the members of their team. Even now I don’t really get it, but the combat encounters are not too frequent and the player can always run away.

 
Completing an expedition, the player will be able to turn in their treasures for fame or fortune, either by selling them or donating them to a museum. Along the way, the player will also have to manage their team, levelling them up along the way for various bonuses. Each member of the team will bring something to the table, from more capable combat to extra inventory slots. Money made can be used in better preparing for the next expedition with more equipment. The player will also be offered side missions for their expeditions, but failing to complete them will result in a drop in fame. With the main goal being to out-fame the other explorers, it’s another difficult choice to make.

 
Presentation-wise, Curious Expedition is serviceable. The pixel visuals are very dated, but have a nice nostalgic feeling. Everything is presented well and easy to navigate, even with a clunky controller. The audio is fairly minimal, so playing Curious Expedition benefits from having some tunes playing in the background or something.

 


 
Curious Expedition is certainly an unusual game. It has the feel of a digital board game at times, includes roguelike elements, and presents quite the challenge. It will take some time to work out all of the mechanics, and the subdued gameplay and retro visuals will fail to charm some players. But overall it is quite compelling, and while it may be a while until that golden statue of the player is finally built, the progression towards that is solid and satisfying. Curious Expedition is an interesting game that harkens back to a time when the world was much larger and more mysterious. Do it for the fame and fortune.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 



 

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