There’s nothing quite like heading out on a journey of discovery, where you uncover new lands, people, and, of course, riches. That’s exactly what you’ll be doing in Curious Expedition, the rogue-like discovery adventure from the team at Maschinen-Mensch that has just made its way to the Nintendo Switch. With a classic aesthetic and some neat gameplay ideas, it does make for a fun experience – just expect it to get a little bit repetitive after a few hours play.
Curious Expedition sees players taking on the role of an adventurer who is part of an esteemed Explorer’s Club, with the club members setting a challenge to see who is the greatest explorer of them all. How do they determine this? By seeing who has the most fame and riches following six dangerous expeditions across the globe, with the winner awarded a statue within the club.
With a multitude of globe-trotting locales to explore that span across multiple continents, your journey will be full of dangers and surprises aplenty to really keep you on your toes. Being an explorer isn’t meant to be easy, you know – just ask Charles Darwin, who just so happens to be one of the playable characters you can choose. All of the characters in the game are real-life historical figures, so you can expect to see a few familiar faces as you progress through the game.
Each has their own starting perks, supplies and crew for their adventure, so it’s worth playing around with them to see which one brings the advantages that best suit your playstyle. There are an assortment to start with including Marie Curie, Richard Francis Burton and Grigori Rasputin, but you do unlock more as you progress through the game that bring something different to the table. You’ll actually learn more about how the game plays as you progress too, so you can better establish which perks of these additional characters will prove most beneficial for further playthroughs of the game.
Each expedition takes place on a randomly generated hexagonal map, with the ultimate goal being to work towards the elusive Golden Pyramid. A lot of these tiles are made up of different terrain for you to travel across, but there are also some that bring with them random encounters. A lot of these encounters will see you interacting with the inhabitants of the locales and forging relationships with them, encountering traders to swap supplies with, or simply uncovering some special treasures. Some of these encounters might end well, some might end badly – it’s the chance you take if you decide to visit one of those tiles.
Whilst travelling is at the forefront of the experience of Curious Expedition, you also have to make sure you have everything you need to survive. This includes things such as food and water or just animals to carry your supplies, so trading plays a vital role in the success of each expedition.
However, it’s not just supplies you need to be wary of, but also the sanity of your entire party. You have a sanity meter that is spent with each and every action you do in the game, whether that’s in one of the many interactions you have or even when simply traversing the land. There are different terrain types across each map, with some costing more sanity to travel across – it’s up to you to decide whether the extra cost is worth it if it means the route is shorter or if it gets you to an inaccessible area.
As for the random encounters, you’ll often have to make choices which will also affect your sanity. Whilst there are no right or wrong choices to make in the game, there are those that’ll give you rewards at the expense of something else. Do you get extra supplies from a village at the expense of the respect of one of your party members, for example? Do you take the treasure hidden in a mysterious temple or do you leave it behind? It’s in situations like these where you can see your overall sanity drop, but it does introduce a juggling act where you balance out the different factors that affect your adventure. They’re all entertaining to see unfold and definitely made for Curious Expedition’s more exciting moments.
Of course, it’s not all decision-making and supply-management in Curious Expedition, with the player also facing off with enemies in dangerous encounters. These encounters are all dice-based, with rolls affecting your success or failures as you battle. Your party members have different equipment that can change up the dice rolls too, with weapons naturally giving you a better chance of success.
It’s an interesting system, but the random nature of it didn’t always sit well with me. I felt like I didn’t really have much control, and whilst dice-based RNG systems have been used in plenty of games before, it never felt all that satisfying in Curious Expedition. It’s not game-breaking by any means, but it did leave me dreading combat encounters as opposed to looking forward to seeing showdowns unfold.
At least the overall gameplay experience of Curious Expedition is enjoyable, though even that can get repetitive after some time. I’ve put a good few hours into the game and my initial few were full of fun surprises as I discovered more of what the game had to offer. However, during latter expeditions and subsequent playthroughs, I just found I was doing a lot of the same things over and over. Again, it’s not necessarily a bad thing since the game mechanics are sound, but it’s just a little bit difficult not to find it a bit repetitive.
Curious Expedition offers an enjoyable and novel approach to strategic-adventuring, though it can get a little bit repetitive over extended playthroughs. It’s not that anything is bad at all (and that includes the iffy battle system) – there just isn’t a whole lot of variety to the overall experience.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC