Abbey Games’ “Renowned Explorers: International Society” is best described as a unique and visually colorful single-player tactical, turn-based, historical RPG in a 19th-century motif. This is a game where your in-game party consists of a “crew” of Scientists, Scouts, Fighters and Speakers versus a party of Warriors, Mages, and Clerics. It’s a game where your party earns attribute points in the form of Research, Gold, Renown and Status. This is our Renowned Explorers review.
The end goal of the game is to achieve the most Renown and beat the game’s NPC rivals and earn the title of “Most Renowned Explorer”. You achieve this goal by gaining Renown through collecting Gold, Status and Research tokens. “Gold” here is in the traditional sense, it allows you to buy items, better gear, etc. “Status” reflects the amount of influence you have, e.g. having it helps in adding members to your entourage (crew). Earned “Research” is used to write Research Papers, more on that later. While Insight is used to earn tokens on the world map.
The game can be played in one of two modes. The “Discovery Mode” allows you to retry when you lose and you can save and reload whenever you want. Abbey Games considers this a faster way to reach new locations. The flipside, “Adventure Mode”, is a hardcore mode where if you lose “its game over dude”! Also, in this mode game saves happen when you quit the game. Abbey Games considers this a “Classic” difficulty mode for those looking for a “perilous rogue-like experience”. Additionally, each mode has four difficulty levels ranging from “Easy” to “Impossible”. “Discovery Mode” also has a cheat mode option that allows you to skips battles but disables Steam achievements, meant for the player who is more in the mood for exploration versus encounter challenges.
When you start a new game you pick one of four “captains”. The game is very good at giving you a lot of information and suggestions, e.g. hints on what type of party members would work best with a selected captain.
“Questing” in this game is accomplished by traversing nodes on a top-down map of an island, continent, city, etc., these are called “expeditions”. Each expedition has a goal that your party needs to accomplish, e.g. “investigate the marked Longship”. This needs to be done in a given set of moves or, as this game calls it, “supplies”. Once you run out of supplies your crew weakens. Your crew also has a limited number of “Resolve”, or traditionally speaking “lives”. Once your crew’s resolve pool hits zero you’re considered defeated.
Along the way on an expedition are nodes that contain treasure and chances to increase your Gold, Status and Research pools. The top down node map contains icons next to each visible node outlining possible token gains, treasure, etc. that can be attained at that node.
During an expedition when you reach a node you’ll come upon story content presented in a text-based pop-up dialog, sometimes with multiple action choices. The downside being, quite a bit of reading is involved in a single expedition. The choices, associated hand drawn artwork and animations makes each story panel unique.
Most expeditions aren’t without some risk. As you travel from node to node you will occasionally run into an “encounter” which are traditional turn-based battles with a twist. Encounters can be addressed in one, or a combination of, three ways or “Attitudes”. You can take an “Aggressive” approach (violence, melee, etc.), a “Devious” approach (bullying), or a “Friendly” approach (diplomacy). The abilities of each crew member reflect these attitudes. On screen, the game contains an Outcome UI which informs you of a predicted encounter result if you approach the current encounter with a given attitude as well as a bar that fills up when that attitude is put into play. Opponents have on-screen armor and speech defense indicators. Characters have emotional states as well represented in the UI. Certain states, e.g. Confident, bestows passives, etc. on that character, e.g. 25% Attack Power. You also need to manage the “mood” of an encounter which is the combination of your attitude and your opponent’s attitude, e.g. “Pleasant”. There are nine moods total and each has a different passive effect(s) in the current encounter. Moods also have a rock-paper-scissors effect in relation to each other, i.e. a Friendly mood beats Devious which beats Aggressive which beats Friendly.
On screen, the game contains an Outcome UI which informs you of a predicted encounter result if you approach the current encounter with a given attitude as well as a bar that fills up when that attitude is put into play. Opponents have on-screen armor and speech defense indicators. Characters have emotional states as well represented in the UI. Certain states, e.g. Confident, bestows passives, etc. on that character, e.g. 25% Attack Power. You also need to manage the “mood” of an encounter which is the combination of your attitude and your opponent’s attitude, e.g. “Pleasant”. There are nine moods total and each has a different passive effect(s) in the current encounter. Moods also have a rock-paper-scissors effect in relation to each other, i.e. a Friendly mood beats Devious which beats Aggressive which beats Friendly.
Encounters play out from an isometric top-down view, first select a crew member, then select a reachable quadrant, left-click to move, select an action, which will show you that action’s target area. Selecting the action a second time switches to a side view of your crew member going toe-to-toe with the closest opponent and of course the outcome.
Advancement in this game includes spending Research Papers on unlocking items in one of six skill trees. A skill tree in this game covers additional skills in areas like History, Anthropology, Psychology, Engineering and Nature Sciences. Crew members level up as well and can be assigned perks in their fields they study in. For example, crew member Phillipe Bensoussan is an Archaeologist, Rogue, and Engineer. Perk points can then be assigned to skills like Rogue – Stealing, Engineer – Piloting, etc. Crew members have three item slots, one for trinkets, one for offensive armor and one for defensive armor which increase character stats, e.g. +10 Speech Defense.
The game has a lot of complexity but thankfully has a wonderful, mostly text-based, tutorial system which sprinkles in some actual in-game play. It’s a nice system to introduce you to, and walk you through, the rather complex game elements. The game is a unique turn-based tactical RPG that will initially require some trial and error as well an upfront time investment, including potentially starting over early, to learn the mechanics but it’s an exploration worth pursuing!