Review: Renowned Explorers (PC): International Society – Tally Ho!

Renowned Explorers is an attitude-driven turn-based strategy exploration game. This strategy-with-a-twist title from Abbey Games is bewildering at times, but endearing and addictive.

Included in my review version was Renowned Explorers: More to Explore, which has a number of additional expeditions, treasure bonus choices and a new campfire mechanic.

Story
At its heart, the concept is simple; recruit a crew and go on a fabulous adventure spanning multiple expeditions across the globe, with the intent of becoming the ‘most renowned explorer’, beating your popular rival, Rivelaux. As the expeditions are procedurally generated and there are several locations and multiple paths to take, each playthrough will be slightly different, peppered with various events along the way. You might, for example, embark on a quest to find the burial site of saxon kings, climbing mountains, exploring castles and fighting the locals to get there. Or, you might not.

In many ways, in Renowned Explorers you create your own stories throughout your adventure, developing your crew and carving your way through the wilderness.

Graphics
The art is bright, colorful and crisp, with a cartoony style. The sprite animation is smooth and brings the characters to life. Speaking of the characters, there are many and they’re both interesting and distinct. The enemies in particular are quite delightful (although killing monkeys made me a little sad). The art is high quality and the game is, all in all, quite the looker.

Audio
The trumpety, exploration-themed music that comes with the starting menu shows that this game really means business when it comes to its soundtrack. The old-timey musical snippets that come with the starting loading screens are an especially nice touch.
The music to accompany your encounters is suitably rousing, as are the battle sounds that emit from the characters – ah hi! Hoo yeah yeah! It’s extremely endearing.
In summary, there’s plenty of appropriately themed sounds which do the job well – overall, a treat to the ears.

Gameplay

The gameplay mechanics in Renowned Explorers are really quite complex and challenging to start off with. However, there’s a nice choice of difficulty settings, so you can take the easy route if you wish (like me).

To become the most renowned explorer, logically you must garner the most renown. To get renown, you collect treasure, gold, status and research. In addition, gold will buy you better equipment, status will let you buy helpers for your entourage and research will allow you to unlock new bonuses. To get these resources, you find tokens along your journey, which earn you renown and can be spent between expeditions.

Expeditions each have a simple goal which involves traversing a map with your crew. A lot can happen along the way, including encounters with the locals (and even the local wildlife).
Encounters are basically battles, but it’s your choice as to whether you use violence or not. Whether it’s aggressive thwacking, friendly speeches or devious behaviour, ‘attitude’ is critical and provides a number of ways to get you out of these tricky situations.

The three different attitude work much like rock, paper, scissors; friendly has an advantage over devious, which has the upper hand on aggressive, which in turn can be effectively used to beat friendly. The attitude you’re displaying most is combined with the enemies attitude to create the current ‘mood’ of the battle; different moods have different buffs and debuffs. Losing a crewman in an encounter means you lose resolve – and if you run out of resolve, it’s game over for you.

Other events you’re likely to come across involve a dice roll for your selected crew member – choose a rogue, for example, for a mission to steal some gold, and you’re more likely to be victorious. You can’t explore forever, of course – your small stock of supplies will limit how far on the map you can go.

Even outside of the map mechanics, five expeditions and you’re done. You can continue, but after that point, all achievements are disabled. There’s achievements in abundance when they’re not turned off – 148 of them, in fact.

There’s a lot to discover and unlock here – more places to explore, different characters to captain your crew and secrets to find. There’s a lot of everything, in fact; a lot of rules and stats, and things to balance. It can feel a bit difficult to get your head around. There’s a great tutorial which takes you through the main mechanics, but when you’re thrown into your first adventure, it’s a little daunting. That feeling continues to the next run, since there’s virtually nothing that you carry on from one adventure to the next. With the exception of the occasional new bonus card to be used at a campfire, you’re essentially starting from scratch, with everything back to zero..

Still, there’s enough here to keep anyone’s interest for quite a while, providing you’re prepared to invest in learning the ins and outs of the game.

Verdict
Did I beat Rivelaux? Yes, but only on easy. This is a tricky game. There’s a lot to like about Renowned Explorers; it feels quite vast, it looks and sounds great, and there’s continually the temptation to have ‘just one more go’ to beat your previous score.

The developers are clearly passionate about this game. A number of additional (free) content patches have been released since launch in 2015. For a modest sum, DLC in the form of ‘More to Explore’ came out in 2016, and May 10th this year saw the release of a further expansion – ‘The Emperor’s Challenge’.

All in all, if strategy, tactics and exploration are your thing, Renowned Explorers does deliver.

 

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