Indie Game Spotlight

Indie Game Spotlight: The Curious Expedition

Have you ever dreamed of going back in time to discover the wonders of the uncharted world during the late 19th century? Would you like to be the first to discover mysterious artifacts hidden within ancient temples or perhaps attempt to communicate and trade with foreign tribal folk? If you answered yes to either question, The Curious Expedition may be they game you’ve been waiting for. Prepare for a thrilling and dangerous quest across the continents in search of fame and fortune. Will you survive this extraordinary journey or will you fall victim to wild animals, be eaten by dangerous locals, or get stabbed in the back by a fellow explorer suffering from temporary insanity? In The Curious Expedition, adventure awaits all men and women who dare to brave this mysterious, untamed planet.

 

The Curious Expedition

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PC

Developer:
Maschinen-Mensh

Released:
May 19, 2015 (Early Access)
September 2, 2016 (Full Release)

Price:
$14.99

 

Gameplay:

Before embarking on your first adventure you will need to choose an avatar from a list of famous explorers. There are only a few choices to begin with but many more can be unlocked by completing challenges during your travels. There are a bunch of interesting choices including Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, and other recognizable historical figures. My favorite choices from the roster were Aleister Crowley and H.P. Lovecraft. Each person has unique starting inventory items, dialogue, and companions. Starting choice isn’t extremely important, but some characters will start with distinct advantages compared to others. Sometimes this advantage is just a mule to carry more loot, a soldier companion to defend your party from hostile enemies, or special items with various effects. The different character choices added a great deal of replay value for me.  I was curious to experiment with the different starting bonuses and unlock all secret characters.

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You begin with a small amount of cash which can be spent on acquiring a few small items before setting sail or reserved in case of emergency. Each game assigns you four competitors who will begin their own separate journeys and compete with you to become the most renowned and wealthy. The starting destination will be randomly assigned and you will usually be offered a quest to complete upon arrival. When you finally reach your destination the map will be divided into a hex grid for the player to plot their course into the fog of war. It’s kind of like an animated board game with procedural generated maps, each with their own unique points of interest, tribal villages, pyramids, and plenty of other perilous locations. Each new game tells its own story and no two stories will be exactly the same.

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The player is generally given a companion to begin with but more allies can recruited before or during expeditions. Sometimes a translator or soldier will agree to tag along. Tribes that you encounter might offer their scouts or shamans to lend their services. Each recruit has traits and skills of their own to help along the way, but be aware that not all traits are positive or beneficial. Hiring a sexist shaman or a superstitious soldier could prove disastrous in some circumstances. Players might also find it handy to purchase a mount or a beast of burden to help carry supplies or travel more quickly. There is a limit to how many people can join you, and choosing the right crew definitely draws the line between life and death.

One benefit of companions is aid in combat. Although combat plays a smaller role in The Curious Expedition, it still remains an essential part of surviving the wilds. Each character type has specific abilities to use in combat which can be combined to create various effects. Fighting is more akin to a competitive dice game than an actual battle and largely depends on luck and experience. Basic die rolls are mostly simple attack, defend, and support actions. Combining different dice can create special actions such as the shaman’s ability to poison their enemies, or a soldier’s ability to take a more precise aimed shot for increased damage. The combat has a bit of a learning curve but once you’ve gotten the hang of the concept it becomes more enjoyable.

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Probably the most vital aspect of survival in The Curious Expedition is managing the sanity level of your group. Sanity (or lack thereof, rather) causes the game to be much more stressful at times but the payoff is pure pleasure and comedy. If the player doesn’t bring enough booze along to keep group in a decent mood, untold horrors may await them as they descend into madness. You may be encouraged to butcher your trusty steed. Perhaps you will become the next meal of a hungry companion. Just remember to keep an eye on that sanity bar and rest frequently and your odds of survival will vastly improve.

After completing an expedition and sailing home with all of the stolen loot, you level up your character by choosing new perks. These perks can do anything from increasing your vision to helping you remain sane longer. After choosing an appropriate perk you must decide what to do with your ill-gotten gains. At this point you will have hopefully collected a nice stash of artifacts stolen from holy sites, trinkets traded from villagers, and various other tidbits from across the world. You have the option to donate them to a museum to increase fame, sell them for cash, or keep them for your own personal collection. You can use the cash to buy supplies for then next quest. Fame raises your overall score to help outshine your competitors. The Curious Expedition gives you every tool you will need to become the most revered or notorious explorer of the 19th century!

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Final Score: 80%

The Curious Expedition promises an exciting adventure and actually delivers on that promise very well. This is one of a few games that actually manages to make procedural generated worlds work they way they are intended to. Each game really does feel like a new experience. The pixel art graphics are colorful and pleasant to to look at. The combat system is very unique but sometimes annoying when luck isn’t on your side. The diverse cast of playable characters was a huge incentive to replay until I had unlocked them all. With so much to discover, you won’t regret playing The Curious Expedition for the chance to be remembered as the worlds greatest explorer!

Pros:

  • Good replay value
  • Lots of playable characters
  • Great pixel art
  • Each game is unique
  • Creative battle system
  • Good amount of difficulty

Cons:

  • Confusing battle system
  • Repetitive soundtrack
  • Areas and expeditions seem too similar
  • Not enough battles

Check out the trailer for The Curious Expedition below!

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