Renowned Explorers + More to Explore Expansion Pack Review
Release Date: September 2, 2015 (Original game), May 31, 2016 (More to Explore Expansion)
Developer: Abbey Games
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Renowned Explorers is a fascinating blend of genres that comes together in a stylish, yet challenging experience. While the experience overall can sometimes be challenging and repetitive, sometimes bordering on frustrating, the payoff is a varied narrative that offers a range of story endings and lore backgrounds that really flesh out the universe and give it some character. If you are willing to work through the learning curve, this game offers something to love for the wannabe explorer and lovers of strategy games.
The first thing that jumps off the page about this game is its unique gameplay. Before diving into the nitty-gritty, let me first outline the basic gameplay elements. The story is this — You play as a group of three explorers looking for gold, knowledge, and glory. There are more than 20 different characters to choose from, each of whom has different abilities and skill sets. Your traditional gaming archetypes are present here whether your team consists of tanks, glass cannon attackers, or well-balanced characters. What sets Renowned Explorers apart are the stats themselves. As players of traditional role-playing games, we are used to attack and defense stats. Renowned Explorers changes this mold by incorporating not only physical attack and defense, but speech power and defense as well. Still confused? Let me explain more about the basics of the game.
The objective of the game is to acquire renown, a currency of sorts that indicates the amount of valuable artifacts and treasures you've acquired during the campaign. Your main rival is an arrogant French treasure hunter named Rivaleux, who always seems to be standing in your way from finding the riches you seek. He and his cohorts attempt to prevent you from attaining the main treasure located on each map that grants plenty of renown.
Traversing the overworld of a map is reminiscent of the old school Super Mario World games where you choose a new area to travel to via a top-down map littered with dots representing different levels. As you click on each dot, a new part of the story unfolds. Depending on what part of the map you choose to visit, you could experience curious villagers willing to help you in your quest, wild animals trying to attack and kill you, or survival challenges that can either reap fantastic rewards or spell disaster for your expedition. There's a ton to experience in Renowned Explorers, and it will take multiple playthroughs to experience everything this game has to offer.
Encounters, or combat instances, are where things get interesting. Combat in Renowned Explorers can best be described as an elaborate game of rock-paper-scissors. There are three different modes of attack: Friendly, devious, and aggressive. By choosing to take on an encounter in a friendly manner, you will basically sweet talk your opponents into standing down from opposing you. Similarly, going the devious route will have you manipulating and tearing down your enemies emotionally. Finally, you can choose to go the tough-and-rumble route and fight things out physically, which boils down to you punching, stabbing, or shooting your opponents.
Depending on the encounter, your approach to the situation will dictate the outcome. For example, some encounters warrant a gentler approach and could wind up yielding more rewards. On the other hand, trying to sweet talk a group of rabid wolves likely won't get you very far. But wait, there's more. Within each encounter are also six moods, each of which provides stat buffs or debuffs. Each move you make in an encounter will have an effect on the mood of your opponents. For example, if you choose to shoot an enemy that will make them angry. Making an enemy enraged will lower their armor. On the other hand, being friendly to an opponent might do more damage, but it will also increase their speech power. There's a lot to measure in each encounter, and how you choose to approach each scenario will ultimately change the rewards you receive.
This leads me seamlessly to the negatives of Renowned Explorers.
I won't sugarcoat it — this game can be brutally challenging at times. Once you decide to play on anything other than the easiest difficulty, you will likely experience moments of the game that make you want to pull your hair out in frustration. While enemies and bosses do scale in difficulty, which includes better AI strategy and health/armor, it also includes the sheer number of enemies you will face in any given encounter. As I progressed in difficulty, the number of enemies I would face during encounters would grow significantly to the point I struggled to hold my own in basic fights. Now, to be honest, this could very well be my lack of skill at the game, but it does at times seem unrelentingly punishing at times, especially on lower-tier levels. It's one thing for a five-star encounter to be challenging. It's another for a two-star encounter to make me want to put a fist through my monitor because I'm squaring off in a three vs. 15 battle.
Another issue I could see arising with Renowned Explorers is replayability. While the More to Explore expansion added a significant amount of content, including campfires that add more narratives and stat buffs to your characters, as well as levels, the base gameplay doesn't really differ too much. After two or three playthroughs of a particular map with different characters, some of the wonder and excitement disappears. Once you experience some of the highlightable moments of a level once, there's really not much that entices you to return for more. Sure, it's fun to experiment with different character loadouts and items, but how long can that really keep a player's interest? That wonder and desire to keep replaying maps was relatively short-lived for me. Perhaps other players will feel differently, but this is simply what I experienced.
Renowned Explorers continues to come out with more expansion packs for the game, which improves the replayability of the game. At its core, the game is fun to play and provides an interesting twist on the traditional top-down strategy gameplay. I question the longevity of the game, but for those who find replaying levels to 100% a game rewarding, I encourage you to pick up Renowned Explorers and the More to Explore expansion.
- The artwork for the characters, worlds, and items are crisp and detailed
- The combat is unique and provides an interesting twist on the traditional top-down tactics mechanic
- The More to Explore expansion pack adds more maps and gameplay depth, which provides a deeper, more fun experience
- The learning curve is pretty steep and can be absolutely brutal for new players on any difficulty other than beginner
- The game has the potential to get repetitious after playing through multiple campaigns
Many thanks to Abbey Games for sending us a review copy of Renowned Explorers: More to Explore!