If Jules Verne and H. P. Lovecraft were alive today and into video games, this gem would have surpassed even their most feverish dreams of exploring the unknown.
I used to dream of excursions like this, when falling asleep with a paperback copy of 1000 Leagues Under The Sea on my nightstand as a kid. Playing The Curious Expedition therefore really takes me back.
Sure, it doesn't have the 3D computer graphics of a modern triple-A title. But that just plays to The Curious Expedition's strength. As a mix of text-based adventure underlaid with super cute pixel art and a hex-grid strategy game board for maximum overview, it sports just the right amount of minimalism.
I am not exactly a casual gamer myself, having sunk countless hours into the likes of Hearthstone, Skyrim, and Counter Strike. But I do appreciate when a game does not demand you to devote half your lifetime to its content. Only a few games hit that sweet spot for me; that yummy goldilocks stew of simple complexity, depth and endless replayability, all the while maintaining a casual character of sorts (The other one being FTL: Faster Than Light).
Before your first expedition can begin, you must pick one out of 10 characters (more will be unlocked later on) to take part in a head to head race to the most unexplored of ancient lands against 4 other explorers. Choose your destination (be it the thick jungle, vast desert or the frozen tundra), pick up a quest at the docks and set your sail to fame, riches and maybe... probably, your impending doom, because The Curious Expedition is tough as nails.
At all times you must manage your explorer’s hunger, exhaustion and mental health, conveniently merged together into the game’s sanity meter (much like The Darkest Dungeon, another "lovecraftian" tale of misery and madness). Best to keep your chocolate handy, or your whiskey, if you don't mind the alcoholism. Make your way to the golden pyramid, well hidden within the map and evaluate whether you want to drop some famous golden statue for a stack of tiger pelts that could finance your next trip.
Well, it kinda unravels as you go along. It might be Charles Darwin triggering an ancient curse that swallows up half the map, having to escape last minute in a hot air balloon, but not before snatching up some of those super rare butterflies for his collection. Or Aleister Crowley, with his devoted cult following, who one by one mysteriously transform into hideous beasts over night, munching on the animal handler you picked up two villages over before disappearing into the woods, leaving only Crowley with his hunger, his solitude and, eventually taken over by insanity, his despair.
The Curious Case
Berlin-based developer Maschinen-Mensch (founded by two german guys that previously worked on Spec Ops: The Line) released The Curious Expedition to Steam’s early access in 2015. Now, two years later, they're still releasing new content on a regular basis to the finished version of the game. Not as a DLC but more like "here you go, have more awesome stuff for that game you love". They also have a new title in the works, a roaring 20’s roguelike film noir detective story set in Berlin called The Curious Case, and I personally can't flipping wait to play it!
So what else can I say to make you share my enthusiasm?
If you like..
- Indiana Jones
- pixel art
- The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman
- FTL: Faster Than Light
- The Darkest Dungeon
- Jules Verne
- Lovecraft and the inevitability of death
— then for the love of Cthulhu you will also like The Curious Expedition!