For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with history, and the expeditions to discover the new worlds. I loved hearing about Christopher Columbus, it always intrigued me to think that people would risk their lives just for fame and fortune. So much of the world has been discovered and claimed, that I have had to spend most my adult life following in the footsteps of others. Curious Expedition by developers Maschinen-Mensch allowed me to realise my dreams, no longer will I have to wonder how it felt to be the first to walk on that beach, to discover that tribe, or to claim that land. I now have the chance to do it all for myself. This roguelike expedition simulator is set in the late 19th century. You must venture to the 4 corners of the globe, exploring never before seen lands all for; fame, fortune, and science. An array of world famous explorers, and scientists are at your disposal, and they will form the head of your team. You must go in direct competition with 4 other teams to identify who will lead the way and become the most famous explorer of all time.
The main premise of this game is extremely simple, survive 6 expeditions of varying difficulties, across a number of unique and challenging locations. You must load up your team with all the supplies to last each trip. Failure to plan correctly will result in the death of your followers, and possible failure. If you happen to return alive your competitors will gain fame, while you fall behind in the race. Each new world has; tombs, shrines, caves, and other areas to discover. Your ultimate goal is to arrive at the golden pyramid first with as many rare treasures as possible, if you manage to achieve this you will return home to a heroes welcome, the crowd will love you, and your fame will rise.
You start the game with what I can only describe as a retro Atari style menu. This sets the scene and the tone for the whole title. You are given the option from here to; continue, start a new game, or start the tutorial. I certainly recommend the latter, though the game itself isn’t difficult to play, without receiving any advice you will be fumbling around in the dark for some time. You will complete this mode in approximately 10 to 15 minutes, and it really is well structured, it gives you an understanding of the basic gaming mechanics without giving away too many of the brutal surprises that will be in store for you. Once you start your new game you must select your explorer, you start with around 8 to choose from, they are all famous personalities from history, each has a slightly different loadout to begin with, and unique perks. If you can’t decide you can randomise it, but there will be one that will suit your gaming style more than the others. You are introduced to the explorers club, and given the explanation of the competition that lies ahead. Ultimately the winner gets a massive statue erected in the main square, and all the fame that goes with it.
At the start of each quest you are given the opportunity to take on a side mission, this will start a dialogue, where your decision will have an impact on your goals for your upcoming voyage. If you are successful you will earn additional funds, these are then spent on supplies, upgrades, and weapons. You are given 2 to 3 choices of location for your next adventure, you are provided with basic information such as: environment and the number of special areas to search. This enables you to select the best area for the equipment you have purchased, vastly increasing your chances of survival.
The main action takes place on a 2D board, you are given a limited area of visibility, and you must wander towards the edge of the fog to unveil new areas of the map, as you explore, points of interest are revealed. You can explore them to gather treasures, speak to natives and shamans, and a number of other interactions are experienced. The removal of any sacred items that you find risks a curse. This has a catastrophic effect on the surrounding area, and can risk a premature end to your playthrough, so I advise thinking twice before stealing from the dead. To make things harder, any movement around the map comes at a cost to your sanity level. If this drops to 0 your crew will become irrational, they may decide to run off with your loot, attack you, or even decide to eat your animals. Sanity is restored through the consumption of food, and resting. Keep the funds rolling in, so you can replenish your much needed supplies, and ensure you take a break whenever the option arises.
As you would expect with exploring new unchartered worlds, danger is always just around the corner, every animal appears to hate you. The attack system that is utilised reminded me of a classic adventure board game. You are given a mixture of attack and defence dice depending on the skill set of your team, these contain a combination of symbols; swords, shields, guns, and other images. These must be combined to set up a better defence, or attack in order to defeat your enemy, if you fail to obtain a matching pair, you leave yourself wide open to be slaughtered, all encounters are risky, and very rarely do you leave unscathed.
Navigation around the world is simple. You are pointed in the direction of the golden pyramid using your compass. The developers have created an extremely clever mechanic by allowing you the freedom to be as greedy as you wish, you can explore as much or as little of each land as you like. The further you push, the more risk you have of losing it all. Do you gamble or play it safe? Ultimately the choice is yours, and the outcome will be your burden to carry. When returning from a successful expedition the crowds will flock around, you are given the opportunity to select a game changing perk. Choose wisely as they can be the difference between life and death.
It’s rare that I say that the graphical presentation of a game doesn’t matter, but with Curious Expedition this is absolutely the case. The gameplay is so addictive and enthralling, how it looks doesn’t matter at all. The graphics themselves are akin to those that you’d find on a SNES, but perhaps slightly more polished. I loved the simple and vibrant colours, and the earthy palette used for the environment sets the scene perfectly. Though the approach was basic, it worked exceptionally well. For lovers of retro titles, you will feel perfectly at home playing this.
Maschinen-Mensch has done an amazing job with the audio that they have chosen to use. It’s not an overpowering emotive driven score that will be stuck in your head for days, no, it’s an 8 bit treat that is reminiscent of the glory days of the Mega Drive. It instantly transports you to the environment you are traversing, it fills you with a sense of excitement and danger. Its simplistic approach is a joy to listen to. The sound effects are equally basic, but work just as well.
The gameplay is as straightforward as the control setup. All the actions are labelled on the screen. The response rate is quick, and the movement around each stage is smooth. The port over from PC to console has been well thought out, and there are no submenus to flick through. I did however manage to find one bug. While using a laptop to stream, I found that the vibrate setting on the pad wouldn’t stop. The only way to solve this was to press the Xbox button on the controller, not a game breaker but pretty annoying nonetheless.
On paper, a run through of Curious Expedition could be seen as quick and repetitive. Yes, you can fly through each stage if you wish, and ultimately the end goal is the same. I personally never felt this way. I was guilty of rushing a few stages, but with the lands always changing, and the challenges rarely staying the same, I found each expedition new and fresh. A challenging title that will have completionists quaking, the large achievement list is brutal, as is the task of returning 1st at the end of the competition. Anyone wishing to attempt a full completion is looking at an easy 50 to 60 hours of game time. It represents amazing value for money, as well as an extremely enjoyable gaming experience.
This is an addictive title that will get under your skin, and make you convince yourself that just another 20 minutes is acceptable, heck, even while I write this I want to put down my laptop and pick up my controller and begin playing. It’s a glorious example of where a simple approach really can work. A retro title that is basic to look at and listen to, but I found that it just works. The game’s premise will make any gaming history buff jump for joy, this is something that I will be playing for a long time to come. It’s only drawback, is it could have gone into more depth in each continent of the world. Maybe I’m just being greedy, but a bit more detailed adventuring would have been warmly received. I absolutely recommend this, and my only regret was not trying it on PC years ago. So set sail and explore the new worlds. Adventure and the unknown await you. Risk your life, all for the chance of fame and fortune.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Curious Expedition Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Take on famous personalities from across time to be crowned the number one adventurer at the “Explorers Club”. Only 6 expeditions stand between you and ultimate glory.
Simple gaming premise.
Glorious retro graphics.
Extremely well ported from PC.
Excellent value for money.
8 bit audio
A few minor bugs.