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“Renowned Explorers: International Society” Video Game Review

40+ hours into Renowned Explorers: International Society, and I’m still going. And with the new expansion The Emperor’s Challenge having been released 4 days ago, I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.

I thought I would try it, maybe I’d like it. I didn’t expect to love it. The art is great, the writing is smart, and RE:IS still manages to surprise me after all this time together.

Renowned Explorers is a deceptively deep strategy adventure game. The cute characters with their over the top emoting doesn’t give the impression of depth, but it is actually their emotions that makes this one of the most realistic battle sequences I’ve ever played. The game demonstrates that words can always hurt, and hurt all the way to becoming the most renowned explorer in all the land.

Yes, you will fight sheep. And make them feel baaad about themselves.

The battle system for Renowned Explorers involves 3 sets of skills. Aggression, Friendliness and Deviousness. You can use any one of the three to win a battle. So hug it out, wave your arms around angrily or stick your tongue out at them to win. Watch your enemies slink away in fright or go out of their way to help you, depending on the tactic you chose. It introduces the idea of non-violence to a statistically aggressive genre. It also makes it more real. As does the starvation mechanic. More often than not, my gamble of “starve to collect treasure” has led to failure.

As the maps, events and resources are all randomly generated each time you start a game, no adventure feels quite like the last one. The rogue-like exploration theme brings you new cultures, new artifacts and new skills to boost your party. All this in the name of gathering scientific discoveries, finding treasure and gaining reputation so that you can end up with the most renown at the end of 5 expeditions.

Eggs. Eggs are a treasure. And it is AWESOME.

Everything in RE:IS is interwoven beautifully. How you approach an encounter determines the reactions of the NPC’s and of your own characters. My characters turn evil, enemies praise the  ground I walk on, and sheep follow me everywhere (which is really annoying). Once, I thought I’d gotten a great bonus when all my enemies turned to smoke. As it turned out, I barely leveled up during that expedition due to a lack of encounters and lost the game on my next expedition out. My only complaint is that when almost every non-combat event is decided by a spinner wheel, I’m probably going to lose as I’m a terrible dice roller.

The first time you play a new game, you will lose. The game is setup so that you need a few playthroughs to start coming to grips with how each of your choices will affect the next. But don’t be disheartened because losing can actually net you a few cool things. You can unlock new characters to captain with (Kiwi!), and camp stories with the More to Explore expansion. Unless you are some kind of gaming-god-genius of course. And if that’s you GGG, there are a few games with legendary items I’m going to need you to help me with.

I just have Agatha left to unlock. But I have yet to find a combo that works well with her. Sigh.
Conclusion:

I loved this game. It was polished, never crashed and kept me entertained for hours. Don’t get this game if you can’t handle dying a lot, with mainly collections to show for dying. Get this game if you enjoy immersing yourself in a beautiful world for hours on end, in order to understand its multilayered intricacies in all their Renowned Explorers glory.

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