• Renowned Explorers International Society review, by Rick Moscatello

    They Almost Found Greatness

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    The 19th century was the golden age of adventurous exploration. The industrial age provided both the technology and resources to allow for handfuls of men and women to explore the most remote parts of the world, as well as the firepower to do so with at least a smidgeon of safety.

    Renowned Explorers International Society depicts this age in somewhat cartoonish style, in a strategy game where you guide a trio of explorers to investigate strange areas, and bring back long lost treasure. Yes, it’s not exactly politically correct by today’s standards, but you totally will be taking other culture’s artifacts and bringing them to London for display to enhance your own personal glory. It’s a game, and finding treasure is always fun, so we’ll just overlook that bit.

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    Classes, skills, it's a RPG...sorta.

    The first screen is by far the most critical screen of the game: you pick your crew. You want to pick a crew that has just barely a wide enough array of skills to deal with the adventures ahead, and has the concentrated firepower to defeat your enemies.

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    A typical fight has mooks and a boss. Unless it's sheep.

    Firepower, in this game, is a matter of perspective. You can defeat opponents in a variety of ways, from aggressively (fisticuffs, swordsmanship, and other possibilities), deception (a little vague as to what that is, but it could be scaring people, or making them feel sad), and by becoming friends with your opponents. Manipulating the mood of the encounter by choosing attacks that both enhance your abilities while weakening your enemies is key to the strategy. Generally, you’ll want to pick a crew with strong, similar attacks, to set up a weakness and exploit it mercilessly; a too diverse crew will have a hard time winning battles consistently. You’ll want to win most of your battles overwhelmingly, so that you can handle the boss monster at the end of each mission.

    You might well encounter an enemy that immune to your crew’s shtick, for example a ghost is immune to physical attacks. You will then be forced to use less efficient attacks, but as long as you go into battle with enough Resolve, you can still win. Resolve is the “group hit points” of your crew, as crew members get defeated (nobody actually dies in this game), Resolve drops. If it gets to zero, you lose, but you can bring back crew members during combat without much trouble…as long as you have Resolve to spare.

    Your overriding goal in the game is to become the most renowned explorers, and you’ll go on missions across the world…barely. The big problem with the game is there just aren’t that many places to explore, and what you’re allowed to explore depends on you’ve already explored (two places open up with each successful expedition). So, every game you’ll do a Carribean island or two, and you’ll bash some mummies in Egypt, and go after either Dracula or Shangri-La as your final mission…there just aren’t enough options here, even though you have plenty of crew members to choose from initially. Many of the missions have a strong fantastic bent, with vampires and ghosts and such; it’s fun, but I think the developers missed an opportunity for an awesome educational game here. The 19th century was such an amazing time that you could have many legitimately fantastic adventures based around actual realistic events.

    As you adventure, your crew gains experience, advancing up to 5th level through play. You only get to complete five missions in a game, so that’s enough character advancement; it’s easy to not even make top level unless you milk the system to maximize experience points.

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    Proper 19th century explorers whiz around the world on wild shopping sprees between expeditions. Apparently.

    After you complete a mission, you return to headquarters, and spend points on a variety of things, from research to equipment to (off screen) followers…there’s considerable depth here, and how you spend your points can vary wildly depending on your overall strategy.

    There’s so much about this game to like, there’s incredible depth and variety to every aspect of the game, even the individual battles can play out very differently, thanks to all the procedural generation involved…except the missions.

    Thus, the game is a great deal of fun, until you get tired of doing five of the same eight or so missions every time. Going to the developer’s forum, it’s funny to see players suggesting endless other mission possibilities. I admit, the graphics are so good that adding missions means adding more graphics, and that’s probably the bottleneck…but the game needs more missions.

    Right now, the game is pretty good, but I’m optimistic that if they rework the experience system and overall game to allow for more missions, and add about 50 more possible missions, Renowned Explorers International Society could start its own genre of games of this type. Until then? It’s an interesting game well worth the time, and if you’re not short of gaming funds, the investment as well…though you probably won’t be playing it a month after you buy it.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Renowned Explorers International Society review, by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post