Review

Renowned Explorers: More to Explore Review – See The World, They Said

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It was a long trek through the Andean wilderness, made even longer by Anna’s insistence on rambling on about her insane experiments. The other two explorers under her charge – Charles, the rough-and-tumble Manchester butler, and the gentle giant Ivan – patiently listened to her rambling (Ivan furiously flipping through his Russian-to-English dictionary) while secretly hoping that the end to their wanderings through the treacherous mountain trails would soon come to a fruitful end. 

One can only ride a llama for so long before becoming fed up with that particular method of locomotion.

It soon became apparent, however, that the trio – moderately renowned throughout the explorers circles as more than a bit violent – had become embroiled in more than an archaeological expedition; they had been caught up in a delicate political struggle between the peaceful Incan people and their oppressive dictator, a brutish man with a penchant for equally-brutish weaponry and cigars. It became clear that this would be no quick in-and-out trip. Their violent tendencies in a way mislabeled them in the eyes of the oppressed Incan masses as freedom fighters. If the group wanted the legendary emperor’s garb, they would have to deal with the tyrant.

And deal with him they did. With great prejudice.

For all the locals’ fear of the man, he seemed all too keen on letting his loyal guardsmen do the fighting for him, but they proved no match for Charles’ proficient fisticuffs and Ivan’s massive size and sheer brute strength. In the end, the foul man drew a fairly impressive weapon on the trio, but Anna’s mad cackle and promise of using him in one of her many infamous experiments caused his will to falter and, in the end, fall…just enough for her to deliver the final, shocking blow with her favorite, trusted mad scientist’s tool – which was ultimately little more than a super-charged cattle-prod.

With the Incan people (and the famous Emperor’s Garb) liberated from the bully tyrant, the equally renowned and feared adventuring trio made their way down the mountain with Anna stating: “That was quite the adventure, toppling a government and everything. I must admit, it was pretty fun. It wouldn’t surprise me if this became a trend someday.”

Charles could merely sigh while Ivan frantically paged through his dictionary in a futile attempt to understand his captain. In the end, he was fairly certain she said something about llama poo.

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The new expansion pack for Renowned Explorers is named More to Explore, but this is a bit of a misnomer. With only two new expeditions the game’s equivalents to “stages” as you progress through the story on your way to become the more renowned explorer the game doesn’t actually add that much to explore. However, the two new new expeditions compounded with a campfire mechanic that not only gives much-needed rewards but also glimpses into the minds and pasts of the game’s colorful and interesting cast, gives you more reasons to play, if not a plethora of new things to explore.

If you don’t know what Renowned Explorers is, check out my review here, or my interview with Creative Director Adriaan Jensen here.

It’s no secret that Abbey Games has heavily backed the continued development of Renowned Explorers since its launch in September of last year. They’ve already added new expeditions – most notably being the “Mali Madness” expedition, which charges you with charming (or pummeling) a very annoying witch doctor – and numerous new events within existing expeditions (including a very dangerous woolly threat in the Highlands), along with general balancing to keep the game fresh and fun.

However, More to Explore is the biggest addition the game has received yet. The new expeditions are welcome; in the “Andean Adventure” your team must win a treasure from an oppressive dictator, and the end-game “Lost Island” provides an opportunity to learn more about the anti-explorers that have been hinted at throughout the game thus far. But the real attention-getter in More to Explore is the addition of “campfire stories.”

After so many actions on any given map, your crew has an opportunity to set up camp complete with a campfire screen including unique idle animations for all of your crew members. On this screen, you have the option to play special story cards that provide bonuses for your expedition. At first, these bonuses are a bit mundane, simply giving your expedition more research or status or money. However, as you play the game, you acquire new booster packs with three cards apiece. These new cards add much more interesting reward opportunities most notably the ability to teach your crew members new skills and disciplines but most interestingly, they can also give special, character-specific stories that, when used, unlock unique missions and motivations for the varied and interesting cast of Renowned Explorers. This is absolutely a welcome addition to the game as the cast of Renowned Explorers is one of its high points, and the masterful writing lends so much more characterization to the unique and fun cast.

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I was a bit worried when I first heard and then saw the Hearthstone-like addition to the game (seriously, even the act of opening the packs you receive is very reminiscent of Blizzard’s TCG giant), but without the option for micro-transactions, your only way to gain more cards is to play more games. This provides a true incentive to continue to play the game and in doing so, experiment with different crew compositions and playstyles and though the randomness factor of what cards you receive can be a little irritating, it’s a fun little reward that comes regularly enough that you never feel like you’re grinding.

The other addition in More to Explore allows you to choose specific bonuses every time you find a treasure. Some of these bonuses are quite nice, adding a great deal of extra research/status/money to your expedition, but for the most part this is a purely mechanical and number-based change that adds little to the game’s replayability. Still, given how difficult the game can be, this, along with the bonuses gained from the campfire stories, can go a long way to making the medium and high-difficulty expeditions somewhat more manageable…though never quite easy.

While I wouldn’t say that More to Explore revolutionizes Renowned Explorers, it does give you more incentive to play the game multiple times rather than putting on blinders and blazing from start to finish. While I never had much trouble motivating myself to binge the game over and over again, the promise of learning more about the game’s colorful cast, and even the tweaks to some of the game’s loot and reward systems, certainly make it even easier. I would have liked a few more expeditions and maybe a new character or five, but More to Explore ultimately delivers where it counts.

Renowned Explorers: More to Explore was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by Abbey Games

Developer: Abbey Games | Genre: Strategy RPG | Platforms: PC (Steam) | Release Date: May 31, 2016 | Controls: Mouse / Keyboard

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Reid Gacke
Writer, journalist, teacher, pedant. Reid's done just about anything and everything involving words and now he's hoping to use them for something he's passionate about: video games. He's been gaming since the onset of the NES era and has never looked back.

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