The thing I love about Indies, is when you think you can’t find another game experience you’ve not tried before, one comes along and takes you by surprise. That is wholly the case with Curious Expedition.
I have of late made a conscious decision to go into more games blind, so as not to be swayed by anything before playing. I won’t bore you with how I cone to my decisions and how I find these games. But it is working thus far.
Curious Expedition is intriguing, in that I have never really played a game like it. It has elements of other games in the way it does progression and story telling, but manages to be different in how it plays.
In terms of how the story is presented, imagine the likes of Oregan Trail, FTL and the likes. As you encounter various situations, you are presented with some dialogue that will influence how the game progresses. It requires a fair amount of reading, but the writing is really good and enjoyable. I don’t want to ruin anything, as there are some really cool surprises dotted throughout.
If you have any clue about history in any shape of form, you’ll recognise the names. The non-spoiler ones include Charles Darwin, Marie Curie and many more. Each having their own attributes and skills which will change up your approach each time you play.
One thing I generally dislike in games is having to manage meters for things like health, hunger and such. They are mostly skewed in a way it never feels fun. Now it isn’t fun here, but it is integral to the experience and balanced well. You’ll mostly be needing to concentrate on two meters. Firstly the Sanity meter, then also the standing meter.
Why are these so important? Well, every action you take costs sanity and depending on the action you take, the sanity will drop in differing amounts. So for example it is better to make longer moves across the map, rather than short hops, but in doing so, you could miss out on vital things.
The Standing meter is vital to the relationships you will build as you come across various characters and settlements. It can effect what you get from them in terms of resources, as well as the ability to recruit.
You’ll want to recruit members to you expedition, as they can be very useful in many senses. One being the effect they have on battles you can come across and this is the one part of the game I really loved. Great in a game where there is a lot to like.
Battles are done using dice rolls, where you roll your set and try to make combinations to attack, defend, etc. Your team can have an effect on this and you can either find yourself doing some devastating damage, or left open and vulnerable. Unlike some games that use card mechanics, using the dice adds the depth, but still feels easier to get to grips with. I didn’t feel the overwhelming nature of trying to build a deck.
Battles are semi-random, but can be avoided, plus you can always attempt to flee. You’ll mainly come up against multiple enemies in a battle and you do get to choose who you attack, adding to the tactical nature. I feared it would be complicated but it works wonderfully.
So the map I mention is essentially how you progress, you are in a race against other explorers to reach an expedition goal. You are guided by a compass, but the map which is split into hexagonal (wait…1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 -6… yep hexagonal) spaces and covered by a fog of war. As you move deeper inland you will uncover more of the map and discover many locations.
The temptation will be to explore, but this is where another meter comes into play. You are in a race against another explorer and every move you make takes them closer to the goal. So then the temptation is to race straight to the goal right?
Well, remember those sanity and standing meters? You need to keep those positive. You’ll need to get supplies, so having a good standing helps here. Supplies can help you in various ways, but the main way is boosting your sanity. Let that hit zero and, well don’t let it hit zero.
You really have to balance your approach with every play-through and because of the different characters and the traits they have, it really does never play the same twice. How you play with Darwin, will be very different to the approach you take with Feihong for example.
I usually bounce of games like this, as they either get too in-depth for me, or I get bored by the long winded nature. Here though, Curious Expedition strikes an excellent balance, especially as it offers up three difficulty levels and caters to all.
The roguelike nature may put some off, but in this case it works, as going on an expedition should feel fresh each and every time. Know what is beyond the fog of war would get boring, so to keep you in suspense is vital.
Curious Expedition is a fantastic addition to any library and there is plenty to discover from the very first moment you start playing. You’ll struggle to put it down once you set off.