Curious Expedition II Switch Review – Singleplayer Exploration Best Enjoyed Multiplayer

    Title: Curious Expedition 2
    Developer: Maschinen-Mensch
    Release Date: January 28, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
    Genre: Adventure RPG

The roguelike genre is typically full of systems that revolve around combat. Y’know, that’s why they’re called procedural death labyrinth games by some, but that’s too long to say. So instead, you fight your way through a labyrinth of death until you make it out or die. Developer Maschinen Mensch has decided to develop a very different kind of death labyrinth with Curious Expedition II. This game has you exploring randomly generated islands to investigate mysterious artifacts and the like, where the combat comes second to everything else.

Curious Expedition II initially has you play as Victoria Mallin, famed adventuress and director of the Exposition Universelle, who is on one of many voyages before coming across a mysterious island. Eventually, her party encounters a strange structure, but it begins to cover the island in a terrifying purple smoke upon investigation. The party flees after being assailed by scary monsters in the smoke and making it back to their ship. From then on, you’ll play as one of Victoria’s apprentices, completing various expeditions with her help every now and then.

Before you depart, you can pick up a party member from the local tavern. Each character has their own abilities and role, which can significantly benefit your experience. After, you select a faction to fund you with three possible choices, Lux Labs, The Taishi Academy, and the Royal Avalon Society, which specialize in different kinds of gear. Finally, you’ll use the funds to pick out supplies and begin your merry quest. Upon arrival, your goal is to, well, clear your objective, be it to find mystery ruins, evidence of a dangerous monster, or document the geography of the island.

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Exploration occurs in a grid-based format, with you selecting a square you want to travel to. You can’t see the whole island at once, so you’ll need to move to make things clearer. Sanity will drop as you move around the islands, which needs to be replenished with food and rest.

It costs more sanity to traverse mountainous terrain, waterways, forest areas, and the like, so you must be careful where you step. Along the way, you’ll run into all sorts of surprise events that will reward you with fun skits that could go positively or negatively depending on your response. The various events are pretty fun, but the visuals aren’t the greatest. However, I feel like I’m playing a Tintin comic book thanks to the writing and aesthetics.

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Running out of sanity is going to send you panicking as that’s when things go from bad to worse, and you can lose your party members to infection, disease, cannibalism, or even crossing into the celestial realm. So to replenish that sanity, you can eat your supplies, rest at good campsites, or find natives to trade with for more supplies and rest at their villages.

These natives range from replications of various tribespeople to salamanders, dinosaur people, and eldritch deities that exist beyond our mortal comprehension. Barter with them to gain their favor, and you can begin to understand them, ask for assistance with your objective, or recruit one to your party. Overstay your welcome, though, and they will fight you on sight.

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Getting into a fight with monsters or natives will start a turn-based brawl that runs on dice rolls. Each character has a collection of attacks dependent upon their role, be it fancy martial arts, potion crafting, or just outright magic, which can be bolstered by combining your rolls and making use of equipment.

This allows your less useful party members to carry their own weight by supporting your stronger teammates offensively or defensively, provided luck is on your side. Combat is actually rather fun, and the uncommon nature of it lends to it not getting old whether or not you play complacently or mix it up. There’s a solid amount of strategy you can put into battles, despite the fact there are often several ways to avoid it entirely.

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Game overs are only as dangerous as you want them to be, with permadeath as a valid but not necessary option. Still, you can always make things harder for yourself whenever you want with higher difficulties and the Director’s mode.

Successfully complete an objective and bring home some treasure, and you’ll level up your sponsor, who will allow you to hire more explorers and fancier equipment. You’ll also gain experience for tasks which you can use to level up your party members. Otherwise, it’s back into the sea for more expeditions, which ties into a simple story to justify the large voyages. There’s not much, but there’s enough.

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Curiosity Expedition 2 is a roguelike that would probably be lots of fun to play on a video chat with friends, voting on actions as a group, and watching the chaos unfold. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable exploration game with a host of unique features that lets you put your mind to the test without too much stress unless you want it to be.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jacob Kavanagh

Staff Writer - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter