Renowned Explorers [official site] is a lovely game. Charming, thoughtful and packed with positive energy, it sets your party of three on a globetrotting series of expeditions during which they’ll charm lycanthropes, insult smugglers and (maybe) punch a monkey. It’s possible to finish a playthrough in a couple of hours, attempting to climb the leaderboards of the International Society of explorers, but there are enough encounters, crew members and intriguing systems to support many expeditions. The game launched yesterday and I’ve already spent a few hours playing.
I first encountered Renowned Explorers at Gamescom 2014 and it won me over almost immediately. Expeditions take place on randomised maps and see you travelling between nodes in an attempt to gather knowledge, fame and treasure. When encountering the inhabitants of a region – be they animal or person – the action moves to a tactical map, with a random spread of obstacles and healing areas. Many characters are more likely to impress or threaten their opponents rather than simply hitting them until they fall over, but rather than using Charm or Intimidate skills to avoid the encounter, you’ll be able to use friendly, deceptive or physical abilities during ‘combat’.
That’s because encounters don’t actually involve combat all that often. They can, if you so choose, but if you prefer to win the day using your guile or friendly, welcoming nature, that’s an option as well. Every encounter has a mood, which changes as you choose various interactions and as your opponents react with skills of their own.
On top of that, each individual participant has an emotional state that changes over time. If you insult the boss of a marauding gang, she might become enraged, causing her to defenses to drop. There is depth to the system as it can be useful to concentrate on one style of action – devious, friendly or violent – but having alternative methods available should the situation change might be helpful as well.
In between expeditions, you spend the resources you’ve gathered to conduct research, which provides buffs to your entire crew and their discoveries. There are also shops to visit and staff to recruit. Everything adds to the various stats that may help you to finish your playthrough at the top of the leaderboard (that’s a singleplayer leaderboard, packed with NPCs).
It feels like a combination of the best of Tintin and 19th century adventure fiction rolled into a smart tactical package. Everything that I wrote a year ago still applies but the finished game is expanded or improved in almost every area, and it’s a splendid antidote to the ever rolling waves of grimdark.