Curious Expedition (PlayStation 4)

A new roguelike has arrived for the Ps4, after making the transition from steam this week, with the arrival of Maschinen-Mensch’s Curious Expedition – an exploration simulation.

Set in the 19th century, Curious Expedition sees you take up the role of a number of famous explorers or pioneers. You’ll race to cement your place as the number one explorer in the explorers guild and receive a statue in your honour as you compete to bring in fame and recognition through your expeditions around the globe. The general idea for this title seems initially interesting, and for the first brief moments after starting the game I was expecting an interesting narrative, however there’s not much more in terms of story to speak of after those first moments in the opening scene.

That’s not to say there are no story points in this game, in fact there are a few basic quests with minor amounts of information as well as a overarching objective – but overall there is very little fleshing out in any of this. To put simply, it’s bare-bones storytelling at its finest with a focus on the roguelike gameplay. While this is not bad in terms of pick up and play, those wanting a rich story will be left wanting as key narrative points are limited to single line fetch quests that all feel the same and become repetitive thanks to the limited amount of variation.

Visually its clear from the start that you’re not getting a overly pretty game with Curious Expedition. If I had to use a term that isn’t “mean” it’d have to be retro, certainly not a game I would see a screenshot of and think it came out in the last decade. Personally I would have liked some more detail in some areas simply due to the fact that some aspects seemed to be better detailed than others.

Much like the visual aspect the audio works in some ways with volcano’s and flash floods heard across the map, however the audio feels off with it cutting out or the volume being at the same level despite your location relative to the source. Again it does what it needs to do in order to say hey, look a volcano is erupting, but it could simply have been done better.

Game play is made up of “expeditions” or rounds, 6 in fact, that see you head to a new region to find the golden pyramid as well as acquire treasures and loot that can be traded, sold, or donated to a museum. These expeditions take place across different regions on the world map with yourself and 4 rivals competing for fame as you overcome the elements and beasts to be the 1st to finish your quest. At its core it’s a dark look into human history, if you think about it too much it’s rather thought provoking, however the aim is to be number one. You will likely ignore potential undertones and loot the temples of natives for their treasure after recruiting the local village warrior into your party, in a short repetitive gameplay loop that will see RNG shoot you in the foot and hinder you at every opportunity.

Gameplay, much like the rest of the title, is simplistic and there are modes that can tweak the challenge you will face. I have now finished the game a few times in approximately several hours, including a less than successful first fumble through the game. To be clear I didn’t manage to do everything that can be done, in fact that may be almost impossible without a lot of planning and experience due to item management, randomly generated maps and sanity costs (stamina).

Overall I’m hard pressed to recommend this title to most as it’s not a game I would expect in the modern era, feeling a lot like an old adventure title, although it could develop its own niche within the roguelike fanbase. Unfortunately there are games that do more for less with regards to replay value and bang for your buck, though if you’re a fan of something like Oregon Trail then this may be right up your street.

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