Much like the assorted treasure that players uncover in Renowned Explorers: International Society, so too is the game itself both a surprising and welcome discovery. A turn-based tactical adventure that really wouldn’t look out of place as a tabletop board game, Renowned Explorers is a title which is supremely easy to like with its deft and entertainingly light-hearted take on exploration all the while packing a metric ton of replay value into the bargain.
Before anything, the very first thing that you’ll notice about Renowned Explorers is just how wonderfully colourful and charming everything looks. With richly vibrant cartoon style characters and brightly designed menus, backgrounds and maps that are easy to navigate, Renowned Explorers is incredibly easy on the eyes and does a commendable job of appealing to both older and younger audiences alike.
Renowned Explorers takes players all over the world as they seek out new cultures and discoveries
Whisking us all back to a fictionalised version of the nineteenth century, Renowned Explorers tasks players with going off on expeditions to unearth relics and other assorted treasures in a bid to become the most famous explorer in the world. Starting at the beginning players are able to choose between Discovery and Adventure modes, with the latter introducing roguelike elements such as providing a single life and preventing reloading, while the former enables less confident players to make discoveries unhindered by failure and generally continue through the game unimpeded.
Once you’ve decided how you want to play the game (Discovery mode being a great way to get youngsters into the experience), a captain and crew must be chosen before you’re able to set off on your grand adventure. Pleasingly, it actually really matters which captain and crew you hook up with as each of them have unique traits and abilities that in turn match up well to different playstyles. In particular, expedition members originate from one of four distinct backgrounds, namely scientist, scout, fighter and speaker with each having particular uses in assorted situations. While you can only pick one character from each discipline, other more advanced crew members and captains are able to be unlocked through protracted play.
After your captain has been chosen and your crew assembled, Renowned Explorers wastes no time in getting players stuck in right away, opening up a map of your first expedition and offering helpful tutorials on the game’s exploration and encounter mechanics. Essentially how the core of Renowned Explorers works is by having players scoot about a game map, from point to point, stumbling into encounters or triggering events. The kicker though, is that for each point on the map you move your group to, you consume a single resource point with a state of depleted resources leading to some pretty unpleasant negative status effects to deal with in the game’s encounters. So naturally, a bespoke risk and reward dynamic comes into play early on in regards to the resources that you have at your disposal.
Speaking of encounters, when triggered, Renowned Explorers shifts from its overworld map to a more intimate, turn-based affair. Where the game freshens up this otherwise seemingly regular scenario though, is by allowing players to resolve these encounters through aggressive, devious or friendly means with a variety of abilities available to the player which play into each of these categories.
The three different means of approaching encounters actually plays into a rock, paper, scissors style mechanic where certain attitudes work better against others. Friendly opponents for example, can be exploited by aggressive actions while devious foes can be undone by leveraging friendly abilities. Aggressive enemies meanwhile can be sent into an enraged and clumsy state by inflicting devious attacks upon them.
Assembling your crew and getting the right variety of skills is pretty much essential
Furthermore, rather than merely leading to the usual end of vanquishing your foe, some of these actions can actually have further reaching consequences too. For instance, it’s actually possible to make your foes so angry that they storm off the battlefield by using devious speech based attacks, or, you could alternatively convert them to your cause by being friendly and showering them with compliments and politeness.
Compounding this refreshingly neat system is the fact that you’ll be rewarded for taking certain approaches in particular encounters, too. An encounter with weary druid and his pack of wolves might be remedied with a friendly approach which yields extra resource tokens, whereas an aggressive tact will provide nothing but depending on your group composition, it might prove to be an easier strategy to apply.
And really, that’s the great thing about the conflicts in Renowned Explorers (and something which further reinforces its suitability for younger folk) as many conflicts can actually be resolved without any application of violence. This actually brings to mind an encounter with the henchman of another explorer and a group of his thugs. Here, the situation basically turned into an insult throwing contest where no violence was ever used and thus, the conflict ended up being resolved with sharp tongues rather than sharp blades.
Away from such conflicts are event based activities or discoveries which help in providing further variety to the proceedings. Again, much like the aforementioned conflicts, these events require special traits and skills from members of your expedition and, in keeping with the expeditionary theme, run the gamut of such activities as cataloguing local wildlife, writing journals or using language skills to interact with the cautious locals. Whether its the accrual of resources or research and insight tokens to use later on, these events aren’t just interesting to take part in, they’re also quite beneficial to your expedition pursuits at large, too.
Speaking of these tokens, once you’ve completed your first expedition and the game pulls out to a wider world view, you can then invest them in completing various tasks to further improve both the abilities of your crew and the gear that they take out with them on their adventures. Research tokens can be piled into writing different types of research papers which in turn result in better gear and abilities, while insight tokens can be leveraged to take part in a number of different side activities such as giving lectures to bolster your research and status tokens, for example. The status tokens are especially useful too, as they can be used to obtain an entourage which can then provide extra research tokens, status tokens or item-purchasing gold depending on the type of individuals which have been assigned to its ranks.
The turn-based combat is familiar, but the plethora of non-violent ways to conclude an encounter feels wonderfully fresh
Between the substantial scope for character advancement, the sheer wealth of content available and the procedural nature of the expeditions, Renowned Explorers is simply a game that just keeps on giving. If there’s one complaint, albeit a small one, about Renowned Explorers it’s that some will find the cycle of going on expeditions, engaging in the encounters and then upgrading their crew before doing it all again, a little samey. Certainly too, the strategy required in these encounters won’t be especially groundbreaking for tactical savants who might typically be accustomed to a great depth of strategical nuance seen elsewhere.
Audio visually, Renowned Explorers combines charmingly whimsical characters with colourful environments and cheerful music to great effect; fashioning a wonderfully vibrant look and feel to the whole affair which will go over well with both adults and younger folk alike.
RENOWNED EXPLORERS: INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY VERDICT
So whether you’re off finding lost forgotten celtic artefacts in the Scottish Highlands, delving deep into ancient Egyptian tombs, or scaling the heady heights of Shangri-La, it’s clear that Renowned Explorers has a lot to offer. While in truth, it’s possible that some might tire of its regimented systems and board game esque beats, the fact remains that Renowned Explorers still stands as one of the best surprises of the year so far that wannabe adventurers of any age can enjoy.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Encountering some thugs but instead of fighting, it just turns into one great big insult throwing contest where the loser runs away, foaming at the mouth. Brilliant.
Easy to get stuck into with a huge amount of replay value.
Audiovisual presentation is refreshingly colourful and vibrant.
Might become samey for some.
Not quite enough tactical depth for strategy veterans.