In the year 2017, if you want to be an explorer your options are somewhat limited. It seems like man has conquered all that needs to be conquered on Earth. Of course, it wasn’t always that way. If you’ve ever felt the urge to go sailing and explore a vast new continent and earn your fame, then Renowned Explorers: International Society has just what you need. The game takes players on a ride through various expeditions as they explore wild territories and earn Renown to become the greatest explorer of all time. Despite looking a little bland, if you keep digging and exploring through the game, you will find an incredibly well balanced an interesting tactical RPG.
Renowned Explorers: International Society is a very difficult game to describe, but it’s my job to do it anyway. It feels a lot closer to a board game than a traditional video game. At the beginning of the game players must pick a party of three, one of which being the commander. All of the crew members have useful skills that will help them in the expeditions. The objective of the game is to explore and earn a currency called Renown. There are many ways to earn Renown, mainly by exploring the islands going from one tile to the next. Each tile has a unique scenario that gives you various different tokens. Essentially, the more unique encounters you face and win, the more Renown you earn. The game itself is very complex, and part of the fun is learning about all the intricate systems and how exactly they work.
There are a number of different “stages” of gameplay. The first stage is exploring. You start off the game in a small island that has a variety of tiles with all sorts of randomized goodies. You can travel as much as you want, but be aware that moving around will take away your supplies. Once your supplies have run out, your team gets a massive de-buff for every round they spend exploring. I really enjoy this aspect of the game, as even just simply moving around the island is dangerous and you need to carefully plan which direction to take.
The second stage is combat, which is a lot more complicated than it first seems. Upon first glance, it looks like a standard tactics game, similar to Fire Emblem. The three types of attacks are categorised as Aggressive, Deceitful, or Friendly. Each attacks change the enemies’ emotions, making them in turn use different abilities. With the back and forth of insults and attacks between fighters, the mood of the battle will change, which can either help you or put you at a disadvantage. Players have to be constantly aware of their actions, and how it affects their overall standing with the enemy, adding a lot of depth to the mechanics. It works fairly well, but it does have a rather steep learning curve. It’s a lot better to be cautious and well prepared when you are starting out, to make sure your characters don’t die. There’s also the Explorers Guild screen, where you can upgrade your party with the loot you have collected on your expedition, as well as choose the next expedition that you wish to take part in.
As you can see there is quite a lot of information to process. Thankfully the game is built in a very beginner friendly way. The tutorial screens may put new players off, but the best way to experience is just to explore and play the game. Finding treasure and scenarios is satisfying and interesting, with just enough flavour text to give context for what you acquire. The more treasure you accumulate, the more you start to build momentum by facing more difficult situations. Most times you will end up failing, but honestly failing is really fun in this. You get to start with an all new crew and explore a vast majority of different areas. It is a bit of a shame that you lose all of your upgraded crew, but the odds are that you can take your knowledge from previous games and apply them in future ones. The game has a surprising layer of depth that makes each stage of gameplay incredibly engaging and rewarding.
The main thing that lets this game down is its visual style and overall design. The in-depth systems and their nail-biting tension are accompanied by fairly generic art and sound design. While I understand that it is trying to replicate the feeling of exploration and discovery in an animated style, it doesn’t stand out at all. While it isn’t bad, it isn’t memorable either, which is arguably worse. The textboxes and layering of the UI all seem very basic and uninspired. The writing and story are also lacking. The writing can go from mediocre to cringe-worthy in a very short span of time. The story of each individual continent is interesting before they are discovered, but of course once discovered they’re quite underwhelming, and your party has zoomed off to the next one, forgetting all about what just happened. The shell of the game is bland and uninteresting, but it’s only once you really dig deep into it that you see just how much fun it can be.
Renowned Explorers: International Society is a really fun video game that kinda feels like a board game. Once you’re into the game, it’s a lot of fun to play and you could spend quite a number of hours exploring various contents. Unfortunately the lack of style and tone really undermine the games concept, turning what could be a fantastic game into just a good one.