On the surface Renowned Explorers: International Society may seem like a game with a relatively small amount of content. There aren't all that many expeditions in the grand scheme of things and you can blaze through some of them fairly quickly if you wish. However, you don't realize just how much depth and detail the game has until you give it a run or two, particularly if you choose to do some of the same expeditions more than once.
This could probably be an incredibly long article on the various intricacies, many of which I still have likely not realized or even come across. Instead, I'll just give a few examples and explanations of some systems so you get a reasonable idea of how the game plays. But before any of that, I would assume most of you need a little overview of what Renowned Explorers is exactly.
Well, Renowned Explorers describes itself as a strategy adventure roguelike. Add on some resource management, RPG elements, tactical combat, and action and dialogue checks and you have the basis of what Renowned Explorers is. That's just a bunch of jargon at the moment though.
You have twenty characters to choose from to make a party of three, one of which will be the captain. Each character has their own unique trait for being captain, like gaining more gold, research, etc. Those 20 characters are broken down into four basic categories: Scientist, Scout, Fighter, and Speaker. Each of those have different focuses and bonuses that will help you out, like Fighters being good at physical combat for example.
The goal of the game is to then go on expeditions to collect resources and various treasures throughout the world. Each expedition takes place in various places around the world, like the Caribbean or the deserts of Egypt.
Expeditions are basically broken down into a couple of parts. The first is exploration. Each area is latticed with little nodes, nearly all of which have something in them to do. For example, one area may have an opportunity to earn some gold, which may or may not be behind a skill check of some sort. There may be an opportunity to walk away from some, or you could risk a roll to get some more. Maybe there's an encounter there and some combat. Maybe it's a random event like finding a crashed boat with a necklace and a note underneath it. It could be any number of things. All the while you have to take careful consideration of your Supplies level. Each time you move to a different node a certain number of your Supplies is used up. When they are gone, one of your characters gets a random debuff to their stats.
Skill checks occur in both dialogue and actions you choose to take, and a number of things factor into the percentage you are likely to succeed at. Depending on the situation, whether your character is a Scientist, Fighter, etc. will be taken into consideration. Where certain stats are may as well.
One of the bigger informers of the check would have to be the various Perks your character could have, like Archaeologist, Naturalist, Athlete, Quick Thinker, and many more. Each of those perks can be leveled up several times through various means and each have different areas where they'll come into play. So having a crew with some varied perks to cover more situations may be a pretty sound strategy.
Many of the expeditions will have certain storylines throughout, and your decisions earlier in those events may affect later rolls you have. For example, discovering something like the boat mentioned earlier and choosing the correct option to find a scrap of paper with a code on it led me to a safe, which I could have tried to break into, with a very low chance of success, or I could use the code, bypassing the need for the check at all. Others are more complex with far more factors going into it and will often not give you a 100% success rate.
There's more to skill checks, but that's the basics of it for now, though speaking of them reminds me of probably the biggest part of Renowned Explorers' gameplay: decision-making.
The goal of Renowned Explorers is to make it successfully through 5 expeditions, amassing as much Renown—a currency that increases through collection of the other currencies (Research, Gold, Status) and treasures (they contribute to Renown) in the game. Knowing what expeditions to choose is a big part of that. Some cater more to collecting Research, others Gold. Some expeditions have more skill checks for certain perks. And even others may be better suited for a certain type of combat style.
The lattice of nodes to explore is all about decision-making. Will you go to the node that shows you can get Research and a treasure or to the one with an encounter, the opportunity for some Gold, and has a Tactical skill check (nodes with checks catering to a certain Perk are categorized into groupings. Nature challenges, for example, could be for someone with the Athlete, Naturalist, or Survivalist perk). All of these decisions come based on what sort of adventure you'll be going for and what sort of currency you want to focus on.
Those focusing on combat and encounters will likely want to get as much Gold as they can so that they can purchase good enough equipment to continually progress. Research allows you to open up various research trees, each of which has a different focus and gives you different bonuses as you spend more research to unlock more. Status can be spent to get more followers, each of which increase certain currencies from the tokens you collect. Followers only serve to increase gains from tokens.
When going about exploring, you don't pick up X amount of Gold or X amount of Research; instead, you collect tokens. There are Study, Campaign, and Collect for your basic three. Depending on what Research branches you've decided to go down, followers, certain treasures you've collected, even the certain training you've selected for your individual characters, and more all go into deciding how much of each currency you get. There are also three other tokens in Treasure Hunt, Secret, and Discovery, each of which focus on Gold, Status, and Research in terms of their currency gains respectively.
One final token is the Encounter token. You gain a certain amount of these each time you successfully win a battle—there are some other ways to get them but this is the main one. What currencies you gain from those tokens depends on choices earlier, and the other similar things like research choices, etc.
Combat is a somewhat familiar affair to those of you familiar with tile and turn-based combat. Characters have the familiar stats, just called something different, to things like attack power, defense, spell power, spell defense, evasion, etc. All things we're familiar with.
Renowned Explorers' twist comes in the "Mood" mechanic. Each ability your characters has will affect the overall mood of that encounter. Using an ability with a certain mood attached to it will eventually change your party's mood. There are three moods: Aggressive, Devious, and Friendly. Both you and your enemy will have one of these three moods at any one time.
In a rock-paper-scissors style each one has some sort of effect on the state of the encounter at any given moment. For example, if your mood is currently Aggressive and the enemy's is Friendly, you'll get a boost for your attack. If you're both Aggressive, Devious abilities for all will see a 25% boost in damage, encouraging the use of Devious abilities. If you choose to use enough Devious abilities, you'll then get a bonus to one of your stats.
Reacting to enemies changing their mood is extremely important as you could find yourself at a significant disadvantage if they have the mood advantage over you. You may find your armor significantly reduced and see yourself in a position to be attacked by several at once, quickly ending your expedition.
Equally important to all of that is the fact that the whatever mood you end the battle with also matters in the long run. Certain factors will change what kind of token bonuses you will get when ending the battle on a certain mood and it may affect how specific recurring characters react to you later in your adventure.
In addition to just the overall mood, each individual character will have its mood affected by the various abilities in the game. For example, some moves will make a character Confident, increasing their attack. Then you have negative ones like Enraged, which decreases that character's armor. Knowing how to tactfully use each of these to your advantage is incredibly important to being successful in Renowned Explorers.
Another great part to Renowned Explorers is just how much important decision-making there is to be made between expeditions. At the end of each expedition your tokens are counted up and you are given your collective currency to work with. From there you can use Gold to purchase items like armor or trinkets and upgrade shops to sell better items. Trinkets are interesting in that they have unique properties, such as making a character start every battle Confident or giving a character a level in a certain Perk. As mentioned before, Research can be used for various research trees and Status can be used for gaining followers and Specialists, which are special followers with specific benefits like awarding additional Study tokens for each encounter or something of that nature.
That covers just going through explaining the basics of the various systems at play in Renowned Explorers, there's still plenty more to cover in each area. All of the above is really just to say that there is so much replayability to this game it's incredible. Never mind the many different computations of teams of 3 from a 20 character pool and choice of expeditions, but all of the little seemingly insignificant choices in each playthrough that make the experience wildly different from the previous one or the one after. Failing or succeeding one check, choosing one option, not going to one node, and more each offer a different experience. One choice will close you off from all the different branches it could have gone that adventure, leaving it open to experimentation the next time.
This is all not even mentioning the great tone and writing of the game. All the character's have their own interesting personality and the short backstories give them some great characterization, along of course with their visual design. They all fit in great with the 19th century explorer backdrop, each character more over the top than the next.
So why I have spent so much time just explaining how the game works to you? The people who would be very interested in this sort of game would find the above interesting. The knowledge that there is so much emphasis on the player making choices, taking risks, and leading their own path to victory all the while balancing these many complex systems will appeal to many. Plenty more will likely find the combat intriguing as an interesting take on the tile based strategy game.
More than that, though, this was just an exercise in trying to even begin to explain all of the detailed intricacies and connections the many simple sounding systems have on one another. Everything system integrates perfectly into the overall game design, with an emphasis on giving the player the choice to do anything they want. And even for all of its complexity, Renowned Explorers is an incredibly easy game to pick up, enjoy, and set back down again in just a short period if you'd like to return later. You can just have fun with what is there, or you can dive deep into the well of the unknown to discover the best way to become the most Renowned Explorer.
In other words, Renowned Explorers is an incredible game on both a superficial and complicated level. I sincerely think just about anyone could pick this up and find some enjoyment.