Renowned Explorers: International Society is an absolutely incredible game.
Now that we have that out of the way let me explain why it is so darn great. Renowned Explorers is a game about travelling around the world in a cartoony, colorful, steampunky style and discovering treasures for the betterment of mankind (and your wallet). It plays similar to a choose-your-own-adventure type of thing where you are offered different ways to get to your goal and you choose if you want to risk harm for a certain reward. All of these choices can sometimes result in encounters that will force you to battle a variety of different enemies, however the way in which you battle these enemies can also vary. The real heart of Renowned Explorers lies in the choices you make, especially in battle, and this is where the game shines.
When you are thrown into battle, whether by choice of by accident, you are given the option to approach fighting in three different ways- Aggressive, Devious, or Friendly. Aggressive is fairly standard combat tactics: you find the enemy, whack him fairly hard with whatever weapon you are carrying and do some damage. If you do enough damage you will eventually kill them/knock them out and win the battle. Pretty standard right? Devious combat is more interesting: you get the option to literally scare away your opponents by being so terrifying or berate them to such a degree that they run away from battle crying and rethinking their life. While on the direct opposite side of things, the Friendly approach consists of you encouraging your enemies so much that they end up agreeing with your point of view and stop fighting. Roughly 90% of the time when you are fighting you will be using all three types of emotions to sadden, frighten, and encourage your opponents. My personal favorite option is to encourage them a whole bunch until they are near defeat and then scare the willies out of them which results in the “Mixed Signals” debuff. When an enemy gets mixed signals, they feel so confused about what is going on that they would rather just leave than try to figure it out. The first time I did this I had to chuckle at the thought of someone being so confused about someone that they just leave and that is exactly where the game shines. I love the way that you can do more than fight your enemies and that sometimes fighting is the wrong thing to do. In some encounters you will gain a lot more experience and resources if you finish the battle with a certain emotion that switches with each encounter. On top of that, each enemy is weak/strong to a certain type of emotion. For example, Monkeys are resistant to Devious damage because…Monkeys, and weak to Aggressive damage. The emotion system really creates a charming atmosphere where anything is possible, even befriending a ghost pirate and having him give you his treasure out of mutual respect.
As for the rest of the game, the goal is to collect treasures from around the world and beat your arch-rival, Rivaleux. While the gameplay is fairly minimal (basically just allocating resources to hire people and buy things), it never takes away from the experience. You will be so entranced with the art style and jovial, good-hearted nature of the game that you won’t mind the tedium of buying new gloves that are 0.4% better than your other gloves but give you some kind of stat boost. Each character can have what seems like 1,000 different specialties that will all come in handy at one time or another. Some characters are good at Archaeology, and specifically the Digging part, which will only be useful at basically two encounters in the entire game. However, even though they are only useful in two spots, if you happen to wander into the two spots where that skill is useful and you don’t have it you will be at a severe, but not game breaking, disadvantage. This is because a lot of the game revolves around chance and the spin of the Price is Right wheel. Each action you can do has a certain percentage of succeeding based on your affinity in that area of expertise; that percentage then is converted into a wheel that has symbols for success and symbols for failure which are scattered based on your success percentage. Each risk you take is basically gambling; you are given your odds, you make the decision to take the risk, and you watch your chances play out. Honestly, it gets pretty addictive to watch that wheel go around and *just* slide past a failure and land ever so gently on a success.
The last major area of Renowned Explorers lies in the characters. The game boasts a roster of 24 explorers, all of whom you can choose right off the bat. You have a Lead Explorer and two other accompanying explorers that you can take on each expedition; while the main explorers are limited to characters you have used more than 5 times apiece, the starting 4 are sufficient to learn the ropes until you find a personal favorite. Every character is good and bad at different things, like one of my personal favorites Ivan Dashkov. Ivan Dashkov is the biggest, most Russian man you have ever seen and is absolutely brutal with his fists in combat. However, any time he has to use his words he has the game equivalent to public speaking anxiety and constantly fumbles his words into a wasted turn. Even with this fault you can’t help but love him because even his small character snippet at the start of that game says that he “really just wants to be part of a group of friends.” Every single character has major personality traits that you will see each time you play with them as some characters are stern and focused while others are fierce and whimsical. These traits are so compelling that it is extremely easy to create your own narrative on why they are doing different actions, which are often punctuated by their unique animations that tell even more of their story.
Renowned Explorers: International Society is a phenomenal and lighthearted game that will awaken the explorer in anyone. With the gorgeous art style and the witty and funny dialogue, Renowned Explorers shapes up to be a well polished strategy game with a hearty helping of risk and reward. More often than not you will become attached to different characters, forming your own narrative on why they are particularly terrible at making people sad or terrified or why they are so absolutely awful at succeeding on the chance wheel. With each “new game” that you embark upon the places and characters will change but your strategy will ever evolve until you feel comfortable taking on the most difficult and treacherous expeditions (I’m looking at you Himalayas), and each time you surpass all odds or fail miserably you will always want to come back for more.