MSRP: $24.99 (complete) / $19.99 (base game)
Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux
Steam rating: 93% positive
Since I was both a huge fan (to the tune of over 90 hours played) of Reus, the first title made by Abbey Games, and a sucker for any kind of game about exploration, picking up Renowned Explorers: International Society was a no brainer. Judging by the time and attention the developers give to this game, not only in regular updates, but in things like weekly community challenges, they’re still just as excited by it as I was. It draws ideas from a myriad of genres to put together one of those most unique strategy-adventure titles available.
When you first start out, the game will overwhelm you with choices. For folks who are used to diving into higher difficulties and permadeath, this may make things pretty frustrating from the get-go. Initially, you are limited to a handful of the 20 characters to lead your expedition, and due to the limit of three explorers per crew, you will always be without one of tho four “classes”, which can have a pretty profound effect on how you need to proceed.
Each potential crew member will excel at one of the three means of resolution (friendly, devious, or combat), and although you may be tempted to build a balanced crew, the game will actually play smoother if you heavily favor one resolution style over the others, although each expedition location favors a certain type. On the easier difficulties, it may not matter much what you choose, but as soon as you start moving up the difficulty scale, it will become clear very quickly what kind of composition works in certain places, and what kinds do not.
I’ve put more than 10 hours into the game at this point (most of it on discovery mode and the lowest difficulty setting), and I know I have barely scratched the surface of the complexities of the game. For me, there’s very little more delightful than a game seems like it should be simple enough, but has layers upon layers of things to learn. It allows you to keep playing, and to keep being challenged, long after other games have been completed and put away. Taking notes wouldn’t be a wasted endeavor here.
The main objectives in each map don’t change, but the things that happen along the way, as well as the treasures you might find, vary from game to game. Even though it might take many hours to discover everything the game has to offer, it may not feel that way since the end goals are always the same on a given map.
If I had to pick one thing to complain about, it’s that this game desperately needs a demo of some sort – it’s not going to be for everyone. Since there is no playable demo available, watching a good Let’s Play (like the one below) will give you a good idea if you’ll be charmed or very very annoyed. Some of the information here is technically incorrect, but it’s a pretty good showcase of how the game works.
I personally think Renowned Explorers: International Society is a fantastic game with a whole lot of depth and replayability. It combines tactical combat, RPG-like character development, risk vs. reward gameplay, and wacky stories. The first DLC, More to Explore, adds two additional expedition locations, treasure-related perks, and more backstory than you can shake a stick at, and in my opinion, this makes it completely worth picking up the complete package.