When I set out for my first expedition in Renowned Explorers, I had one goal: win only by talking. I was not disappointed.
Renowned Explorers: International Society is a new turn-based tactics game about fantastical expeditions in the 19th century. I’ve been playing for a couple hours, and so far, it’s rad. Your goal is to traverse large maps full of history and mystery en route to uncovering ages-old treasures and, in turn, working your way to the top of the International Society of Explorers. The rankings are populated by guys like Matthieu Rivaleux, renowned rancid trashbucket low-rent Gaston lookalike dickbag extraordinaire.
I fucking hate him. He snatched my first big discovery right out from under me. One day I’ll murder the shit out of him. With words!
Here’s how it works: Renowned Explorers’ combat doesn’t have to be combat at all. Each member of your party can engage enemies physically or mentally, and the effectiveness of each attack depends on your enemies’ attitude—which you can influence, manipulate, and take advantage of. So for instance, I built a party around deviousness, but I could’ve also specialized in aggression or friendliness; each is strong against one of the others. My three characters all have extremely high speech stats, and they have deviousness-centric skills that usually involve a speech component.
My sly, high-class diplomat, Yvonne Lefevre, can use her cunning to enrage everyone around her, eventually to the point that they storm away from the battlefield altogether. My scout, Kiwi, is a bit more prone to fight than sleight of tongue, but she’s also quite good at leaving cultists and lycanthropes in tears. Lastly, there’s my personal favorite, a grouchy old scientist/teacher named Agatha. She totally looks the part of a jaded schoolmarm, and all of her devious attacks involve holding up tests with dismal letter grades writ large in bleeding red ink. Unsurprisingly, everyone flees from her, terrified.
There’s a whole meta game that involves spending research and influence to improve your adventure party, but expeditions are definitely the most enjoyable part of the game. Maps are randomly generated, and unpredictable events—some purely dialogue-based, others rooted in turn-based strategy combat/“combat”—abound.
For instance, while searching for the ruins of an alchemy lab from the Middle Ages, we encountered a woman who, after some negotiating, agreed to let us stay in her cabin and rest up. She seemed on-edge, like a thread of twine about to snap, and with good reason: she told us we were in the lands of Erzsebet Bathory, a (as it turns out, real) countess who tortured and killed hundreds of young women in the late 1500s. It was said that she bathed in their blood to gain their youth.
The next morning, we went on our way. A handful of turns (and encounters with weird, cackling cultists) later, however, we came across an old tomb. A hunched old man stood outside it, warning us away. I could’ve used one of my characters to convince him to just let us waltz in, but my party’s negotiating skills were—to be frank—not great. So we physically shoved him out of the way and went inside. Here’s what we found:
I had Kiwi snatch the painting, because you know, rogueishness and whatnot. Turns out, it was an even nicer treasure than the one we got at the end of the level, but afterward something was... different about Kiwi. She wouldn’t stop smiling, no matter what. It was creepy as fuck. Later I checked her stats, and she’d gone insane. Interestingly, that meant her speech defense went up by ten percent, so all’s well that ends well, I guess (?). I’ll try not to question it—at least, until she flips out and murders my party so she can bathe in their blood.
So far, though, she’s still a valued member of the team. Master alchemist who’s studied centuries-old techniques to who-knows-what-sort of nefarious ends, meet crippling depression from an endless barrage of cutting insults:
Enough about my creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky adventures, though. Renowned Explorers strikes me as one hell of a story generator, and I’m interested to hear what you encounter during your journeys. So gather ‘round the campfire. Let’s tell some tales.
You’re reading Steamed, Kotaku’s page dedicated to all things in and around Valve’s stupidly popular PC gaming service. Games, culture, community creations, criticism, guides, videos—everything. If you’ve found anything cool/awful on Steam, send us an email to let us know.