Nowadays there isn’t much of our land that has been left unexplored. The mystery and appeal of exploration is a bit dulled compared to what it once was in the 19th century, when the likes of Darwin, Earhart, Burton, Amundsen and many others dared to take on the wilderness and brave the highest of adventures in hopes of fame, and more oftentimes fortune. Curious Expedition is a game that has just landed on the Nintendo Switch, putting you in the shoes of these esteemed adventurers to take on only the most perilous of journeys and make their names known in the Explorers Club.
Curious Expedition classifies itself as a roguelike-sim game. For some of you, roguelikes are a turn-off, but this one doesn’t lean into the genre as heavily as most others do. Like a true expedition, there’s always potential for a lethal outcome in the wilderness, and certainly there’s a lot of risk and reward in this game, which is how the title has found itself in this particular genre in my opinion.
When you first start the game up you’ll be able to choose from one of eight adventurers. There’s an outstanding additional 13 more that can be unlocked later too, creating a large cast for players to select from, each with specific traits and goals that’ll prove interesting during their expeditions. You’ll then be asked to select a route to explore. From the tundra of the arctic, to the dense jungles of South America, each expedition carries a weight of fame and fortune.
Gameplay comes in many forms here, and there’s a lot to engage with, making for a truly immersive experience. After casting off on your ship, you’ll be engaged by folks asking for certain things or actions that they’d like from you when you go out. You can choose to accept or decline these ‘missions’. You’ll also be tasked with buying supplies with your limited funds and recruiting any additional personnel to aid you on your journey. It took me a few expeditions of my own to start realizing how crucial some of these early choices would impact my adventure, so it’s best to blend some experimentation with some repetitive knowledge that’ll come with a few playthroughs given the roguelike nature.
Once you’ve docked at your destination, you’re presented with a hex grid map of the region and a “fog of war”. At this point in the game, you’ll be switching gears and playing out a combination of tactical strategy, found in games like Civilization, as well as choose-your-own adventure styled narrative dialog which will further impact how your expedition unfolds dependent on who you meet along the way.
Moving about the region incurs a cost from your Sanity Meter, which is your primary counter use in the game. For example, trudging through mountains or treacherous terrain spends more of this sanity amount. Once depleted, your party will face certain peril from being lost, thirsty, hungry, and exhausted. You can replenish your sanity via supplies you may have packed along for your trip or by visiting local outposts, spending time in nature, and visiting tribal villages to trade and barter. I quickly found that even something as simple as trying to gain some food from a local village required a reputation with them before they’d be willing to help me too much. This generally placed me on a side quest to gain such favor, and thus another micro adventure to manage with my party. Adventuring is hard!
Curious Expedition doesn’t shy away from throwing a fair amount at you during an outing either. You’ll quickly find yourself diseased, running from exploding volcanoes, and unmasking ancient curses when you snatch a golden idol all Indiana Jones style. The regions you explore are fairly lofty and even with the aid of a semi-useful compass; you’ll be navigating a fair bit in most cases to find your objective.
Should you find yourself treasure in hand, and safely (or mostly safely) completing your main objective for the expedition, you’ll return to the Club where you can spend some fame, and prepare for your next onward expedition. Thankfully you’ll be a bit wiser, and a bit richer, and that offers you new aides in starting up a new journey across the lands. As the game is a roguelike, you’ll continue to play out expeditions with your chosen explorer until you’re toast at some point. Once that happens you’ll enter the hall of fame with a score, and then that wonderful “New Game” button will be awaiting your press where you’ll start anew.
Visually the game is presented in pixel art. If you know me at this point, you’ll know I’m particular in what games I think can pull this off and the ones that can’t. Games like Dead Cells are a prime example of the art style working functionally and aesthetically well for me. In the case of this title, I found myself on the fence a bit. While areas like dialog choice scenes presented a nice pixel art semi-static image, I really just wasn’t a fan of the gameplay hex area map. The characters are sub-pixel, and you’re functionally more reliant on your purple trajectory trail than you are of the party themselves. The low-fi map features felt like a bit of a letdown too. Personally, I would have loved to see a more painterly style implemented, as that would have also fit with the 19th century theme even further, but of course I understand development constraints and choices.
There’s a fair amount more in terms of complexity that I haven’t explained here with Curious Expedition. Combat is tied to dice rolls, there are adventurer objectives, loads of dialog choices, and more. I feel a huge appeal of this game is actually exploring the game’s mechanics themselves and seeing how they influence your adventure into a region.
Curious Expedition has players adventuring on some of the toughest expeditions around with famous explores of the 19thcentury. With roguelike gameplay blended with some choose-your-own adventure actions and reactions as well as strategy and tactic elements, there’s a lot of game here. You’ll often feel that chance plays just as much a role as strategy, and death is certainly not far behind your party as you traverse obstacles and uncharted regions. I found this game to be most enjoyable in portable/travel mode where I’d jump into an expedition doing my best and then setting it down for a day before revisiting it again. The experimental gameplay and exploration of Curious Expedition are certainly the driving force behind this game, and it does this very well in my opinion, creating grand adventures that pit you against reward and risk.
Curious Expedition Review
- Graphics - 5.5/105.5/10
- Sound - 6.5/106.5/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Curious Expedition is a game for those that enjoy Roguelike strategy titles with some choose your own adventure thrown in for good measure. The graphics aren’t that great, but I had a fun time trying to nab some treasure without dying. If you don’t like having to start over from scratch after you die, then this one’s not for you.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.