Renowned Explorer’s came out to little fanfare in 2015 but its complex rock-paper-scissors (in this case Friendly-Devious-Aggressive) encounter system was unique enough to win critical acclaim from many (even the almighty TotalBiscuit).
You choose three characters (one captain, two crew) from a large pool of Fighters, Scouts, Speakers, and Scientists. They come with a variety of strengths and weaknesses and choosing a synergistic team is obviously beneficial.
If you enjoy buffs/debuffs and the aforementioned rock-paper-scissors of RPG combat, you will be in heaven here. The multi-layered interacting systems will be overwhelming for some, but a wondrous deep dive for others.
Once a procedurally generated adventure has begun, you’re presented with a map of the area and the choice of which direction to explore. Mysterious hints are provided (an encounter here, gold there). Each spot you explore offers a bit of storytelling, usually a choice of some kind, and the potential for a battle, which switches to a tactical map of the combatants. This brunt of gameplay is similar to Banner Saga, but much lighter in tone.
The ultimate goal is to reach the most important part of the map. Each move uses precious supplies, so plenty of risk/reward must be decided. Once you reach the treasure marker and choose to engage, you’ll have an exchange with your heated rival and face one of his henchmen as he runs off.
The point of the game is to complete these adventures and gain more points than your rival as he completes quests simultaneously. In between adventures you can spend your spoils on upgrades. Again, there’s no shortage of numbers to track as you wisely spend points on upgrades. If that’s interesting to you, this is worth checking out.
The combat, or more aptly titled ‘encounters’ are based on ‘Attitude Gameplay’. Most actions have moods attached to them, each character has a mood, and there’s a global mood influencing everything. Whether you attack, compliment, scare (or one of the many sub-divisions of each), you’ll have varying degrees of success based on character traits and moods. Avoid melee and the mood can remain friendly, start attacking and it will turn hostile.
The Emperor’s Challenge
The second and most recent expansion takes you to East Asia, adds four new characters, a new expedition and mode.
The new mode – Emperor’s Challenge – changes the main goal. Instead of racing to collect renown, you are given a list of random challenges to complete before your rival. These could be ‘change the mood of the battle three times’ or defeating multiple opponents with a certain attitude. The challenges are a welcome addition as they force veterans to abandon tried and true strategies for brand new ways of thinking.
Renowned Explorers offers a unique strategic experience that takes rock-paper-scissors to impressive depths. Like most procedurally-generated games it’s light on story, but if you get hooked on the systems, you’ll find hours of enjoyment here.