Have You Played… Renowned Explorers?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Renowned Explorers [official site] is the game that isn’t The Curious Expedition. Both games involve gangs of adventurers searching for treasure and fame in far-flung lands, and both have a distinct whiff of British imperialism and derring-do about them, though neither was developed in England. Where The Curious Expedition allows you to flatten entire regions with explosives and dark magic, Renowned Explorers is all about the power of friendship and good humour. Or at least, it can be.

In a just world, this game would have found a huge audience and plenty of critics willing to write opinion pieces about its wonderfully inventive and thoughtful combat system. I should call it an encounter system really because fisticuffs and firefights are rarely (if ever) necessary. Encounters are all about controlling the mood of your party and the creatures or people that they come into contact with. You might be able to befriend a bully or embarrass an assailant.

As well as providing non-violent solutions, this system allows for a diverse set of skills and a pleasing back-and-forth during encounters, which often demand careful attention to the knock-on effects of any changes to the overall mood. Irritate somebody too much and all the charm in the world won’t go very far, whereas if you attempt to mollify a furious villain and make no progress, you might have weakened your own hand when it comes to threats and bluster.

It’s a splendid game, full of flavour and colour, and made all the better by a recent expansion.


  1. Morgan Joylighter says:

    This is unquestionably my most replayed rogue lite of all time.

  2. daver4470 says:

    Yes! I have! I’ve played both, actually, although I have a LOT more time in on Renowned compared to Curious.

    It’s a finely crafted game, with great replay value, and interesting mechanics. Don’t know what more you’d want from a roguelike, really. [Insert obligatory comparison to FTL.]

  3. Silverchain says:

    Yes – I’ve played it quite extensively and liked it in spite of my first aversion to the graphical style. It’s a difficult game but that’s no barrier to enjoying it, and there are enough hidden paths and chance layouts of the maps that you continue finding surprises for a long while. The combat system is an interesting one, though it often feels functionally identical to violence even when you’re making nice to people, there’s usually a payoff associated with taking particular options that goes beyond “well, my sneaky skills will serve me well against this certain opponent.” Fun game.

  4. Ineptie says:

    Yes, and this game is great. It’s full of good ideas, just hard enough to feel rewarding, but not frustrating, and the replay value is ace.
    i would recommend it to anyone liking FTL style games.

  5. Arren says:

    Play it, people. It’s a labor of love by Abbey Games, a dev both imaginative and steadfast. (No, I don’t know them personally, Mr Foilhat sir.)

    Additionally, there’s a vibrant community that uses the game as a springboard for flights of their own fancy, and the dev encourages this by participating with a weekly challenge. (I’m allergic to fanfic, myself, but the interaction is a laudable thing.)

  6. Turkey says:

    Is there a name for this sub-genre of games? Every RNG-based indie game gets labeled a roguelike/lite, but I feel like FTL, Death Road to Canada, Organ Trail, 80 Days, Super Amazing Caravan Adventure, Renowned Explorers and this owe way more to Oregon Trail than Rogue.

    • AbbeyManuel says:

      Turkey, I agree we should have better names for ‘roguelite’ subgenres. It’s been hard to properly communicate Renowned Explorers genre-mix. We’ve been going with ‘adventure strategy’ or ‘strategy roguelite’ as RE follows games like X-COM and FTL in being a strategic game in which every campaign plays out differently and thereby generating some sort of story. Perhaps we can count Crusader Kings II to this genre as well.

  7. April March says:

    I haven’t. Does that splash image depict an albino black superhero demanding that a Russian man give her underpants?

    • ButteringSundays says:

      No, silly! It’s a voodoo zombie telling a Russian man he smells like dirty underpants.

      • SBLux says:

        Clearly the Russian man badly needs a wee and the voodoo red face superhero lady is negotiating a good price for her home-made man sized nappies

  8. Shiloh says:

    Yes I have, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s such a good-natured game, it bounces along and doesn’t take itself seriously. Good game.

  9. ButteringSundays says:

    Yes, everyone should play it, it’s a downright Good Game.

  10. AbbeyManuel says:

    Oh wow, thank you for the loving comments here, and thanks to Adam for the article itself! We tried to create a more positive and light-hearted strategy game that can still be hardcore. Glad people enjoy that as we’ll probably make more of this :)

    We just celebrated Renowned Explorers’ 1-year anniversary this week and announced that we’ll be working on more content for it. We’re fully committed to this game and its wonderful community in the Steam hub. If you have any questions about Renowned Explorers, they’ll definitely be answered there (or here)!

    • Slochmann says:

      You guys (still?) aren’t planning on bringing this gem over to the Ipad, are you? It would make my life complete! <3

      • AbbeyManuel says:

        Unfortunately no. Renowned Explorers on tablet would be great, but currently the hurdles in terms of technology and interface are too great to commit to it. We’ll get out the word if we do though!

  11. CMaster says:

    I’ve played it a lot.
    I really like it, although I’d say that one nature of its system is that talking to people is (in the encounter system at least) combat. Sure, it’s framed as being “friendly” but in reality you are using attacks to reduce hit points.

    Also, the tone is so oddly unrelentingly cheery for a game where you clearly play as the bad guys.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      “Also, the tone is so oddly unrelentingly cheery for a game where you clearly play as the bad guys.”

      I’m guessing you haven’t done a friendly play through? Play with Kwame as your lead and resolve issues diplomatically – he doesn’t have a spiteful bone in his body. But I actually really like the general tone, when playing as a devious team some of the brutal conversations you have, leaving tribesmen in tears, has made me ‘laugh out loud’ on several occasions. It’s a funny game.

      I know what you’re saying about the combat system, and i partially agree, however it is much more deep than ‘attack with kindness’ – i.e. You’re not just draining different coloured bars like in some games. Due to how the moods and secondary emotional effects work the combat is very different depending on your approach – I’ve found that trying to resolve encounters with a friendly team is a lot more challenging than with aggression – and devious teams feel the easiest. Words can be cruel.

      • CMaster says:

        Honestly, all a “friendly” approach really means is that you’re tricking people in to handing over their cultrial artefacts, money, etc by being chummy – and then running off. It doesn’t stop you being the bad guys – just really charming ones.

        The combat system is indeed very involved, with moods, weakness, etc etc. It’s a great system (if a little frustrating that the AI doesn’t play it by the same rules). You’re correct that you’re not draining different coloured bars – you’re draining the exact same bar that you do with violence.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    So few games let you kick the the feathers out of nuns these days.

  13. Neurotic says:

    Wanted it for ages and ages, finally bought it (and the expansion) a couple of weeks ago, aaaand now playing, thanks to this piece. Thanks Adam!