Some games catch the right combination of factors to just explode. Right game, right touch of nostalgia, the right time. Curious Expedition was an indie game that took Steam by storm and received a LOT of attention followed by many well deserved accolades. An homage to the very early days of gaming, decent pixel art recreated and “hard as hell” gameplay led to a really unique gaming experience that was both a throwback to the old days while also carving out its own interesting storylines.
That was a winning combination, and we had a lot of fun streaming this early on when we were just starting on Twitch.
While we had heard that the sequel was coming out, we didn’t expect an opportunity to get in early on being able to play and review the game. So when we were lucky enough to be offered a chance at early access – we jumped at it!
So full disclosure, we did receive a free copy, however as always we are firm believers in giving our unedited true impressions good, bad, and otherwise.
Since that was okay and they were confident the game would hold up we were good to go.
Great Attention to Detail
You can tell a lot about how much care went into a game by how much attention the devs put into details. This is something that really jumped out at me with Curious Expedition 2.
The attention to detail was just fantastic.
Details in the graphics
Currents appear and disappear on the map while exploring. The distant specks representing seagulls move when you hear bird sounds. The sails, hanging lanterns, and loose clothing are all billowing in the wind. The graphics appear simple (although pretty – very nicely done) on the surface but there is a depth to detail that is impossible to ignore.
This really brings the game world to life in ways that the first one just couldn’t, as good as the first one was.
The attention to detail appears in whatever part of the game you’re in. The hint of smoke billowing off a burned out campfire, the moving clouds when it’s raining in the background, the way people move when talking or bushes and leaves sway in the background during a storm.
There’s a lot of detail paid to graphics here and it shows in a really positive way for this game.
Details in the sound
The ambient sound is amazing. The small touches to background music or noise in certain situations is really a strong, and I can’t even count the number of different insect sounds throughout the first playthrough. They changed up nicely to create a great ambiance.
The sounds of wind, rain, various actions taking place on the screen, it was really well done.
The ambient noises of each setting felt right and really brought each place to life while differentiating each one from another. In other words, this feels like a very diverse world. Jungles, oceans, mountains, tribal villages, magic gate dimensions, and Paris all feel much different. As they should.
Also those waves on the beach…just wow. So relaxing.
Which is pretty rare for a game that wants to drive you insane and/or murder you.
There was a lot of detail in making sure these match. The combination of ambient noise, the graphics of a ship moving on the waves, with the sounds of the waves. If you hear the sound of the wind, then you see loose clothing, banners, and sails whipping around in the wind.
The graphics match the sound in a way that many games simply choose to ignore.
I’m not a sound geek in general…but this is just really, really well done and shows a very careful eye to detail that makes me really excited about the promise of the rest of the game.
There were multiple places where it would describe a “beautiful” scene where I was happy to take a moment to stop and stare because the scene was, indeed, quite lovely.
The mechanics feel much smoother to me. The first impression video will show me clearly stumbling through some obvious points. As I re-watched the stream I found myself looking at the screen thinking: “You idiot, it says right there on the screen what you should do,” and I still found a way to play it well.
The game could have punished me much harder and been fully justified in doing so.
For those who have played the first one, I’d say the mechanics that worked really well in the first game were kept and sometimes even polished up a little bit more. There are some new gameplay mechanics that I’m actually quite a fan of.
Since you have benefactors and you return supplies at the end of expedition, you don’t have to carefully manage supplies and sanity in early missions knowing if you don’t oversave for later ones that you will be in trouble. You get to buy supplies before each mission which means you can more thoroughly explore each map and plan for the now instead of having to supply scrum into the future.
It’s a very welcome change to gameplay.
Interesting New Additions to Gameplay
There are a few new additions to gameplay that I’m incredibly excited about. Some of these I’ve had minimal exposure at this point in the first few hours of play but from what I’ve seen so far they’re great additions that solve problems the first game had while also opening up some intriguing new game play mechanics.
After the tutorial you have the ability to set how death during a mission affects the campaign. Do you get to start over? Do you lose the expedition and pick out new explorers before continuing the campaign? Do you lose the year but then recover?
The fact you get to set your campaign to know what the consequences are is a nice little addition to the game. I love that you now have the potential to go “beginner” mode, normal mode, and that there’s an ironman mode.
Great new addition that works really well to set the tone for the type of game and campaign you’re going to play.
Explorer Clubs aka Secret Societies
This is a wonderful addition to the sequel, which allows for a big positive mechanic change. Now you have Explorer Clubs who sponsor you. This means before each campaign they give you a budget, which you use to buy supplies, and then those get returned at the end.
This is a big improvement in resource management compared to the first game, in my opinion, and opens up a very interesting new wrinkle to this game that could develop in some fascinating ways going into the future.
You can go all-in on a single explorer club or you can choose a different society for each mission to try them all out. Each has different benefits that continue to unlock as you earn more fame with each group.
The three groups to choose from:
- The Royal Avalon Society (Old British Noble Honor)
- Lux Labs (Steampunk Thomas Edison)
- Taishi Academy (Far Eastern Mysticism)
Just a Fun Overall Experience
The most important aspect of any game, no matter how good the graphics or gameplay, is the overall experience. Did I enjoy the game? Was I excited? Happy? Bored? Relaxed?
This is another place where Curious Expedition 2 really worked for me. This was just a fun playthrough.
The writing was sharp, the graphics were pretty to look at, and there was plenty of strategic thinking and risk assessment kept me engaged. For me personally this really worked. I enjoyed playing the game quite a bit.
I hate making the same comparison over and over, but it really does feel to me like keeping the best of the first game and creating a more polished, smoother version that also builds off of it into something even bigger and better. Sequels can be a mixed bag but in this case I found not only did I want to keep playing while filming for the first impressions video, but I played 4 more hours shortly thereafter and still want to jump back in.
That’s a really good sign. Above all else, a game should be fun. It should make you want to play more.
2/2 on those counts so far!
No game is perfect. I have run into one or two minor bugs. Nothing game changing or game breaking, mostly a graphic hanging around in Paris when it shouldn’t (though it is kind of funny seeing Robot Edison representing the Royal Brits).
This has been a very early in-game process so more things can still happen but I’ve only found one really minor bug, and the fact that bug reporting is so simple makes it clear they want the feedback to make fixes/patches.
There’s an active eye on making sure the game is more polished and continues to improve, which once again is something that we really want to see.
YouTube First Impressions Playthrough
What’s the First Impression Verdict?
I’ll be playing this game for a LOT more hours. My initial impressions are really positive. When you go from using a lot of 8-bit and pixelated nostalgia to help get attention from the first game (not a bad thing, but let’s be honest – that was a major part of the charm) it’s easy to falter on the sequel.
But there’s none of that here. Curious Expedition 2 does a great job of being more than its predecessor while retaining the charm and nostalgia that helped make the first game a hit.
I loved the extreme attention to details, both audible and visual, the way they kept the best mechanics (and even smoothed out to be better) of the first game while introducing even better ones.
This is a good experience, and it feels and plays like a fully developed game even in its earliest access mode. Which to me, is an absolute necessity to make a good first impression with me.
First Impression Grade: 10/10
Now, that doesn’t mean this is a perfect game. This is all about the first impressions, after all. For a first impression grade 10/10 means based on the first couple hours I played and experienced, I would personally 100% buy this game.
Curious Expedition 2 was enjoyable, it was fun, the tutorial was great, the interface is rock solid, and there’s plenty of story and mystery developing. While racing against other explorers in the first game was really cool, the movement away from that to diving into deeper mysteries, working with secret societies, and doing other things is definitely a smart choice and the right way to go, IMO.
I will be playing this game a lot in the coming weeks and will link to the full review once it’s complete.
I love the inclusion of various secret societies and am really curious to see how those end up affecting gameplay. I enjoyed the first game quite a bit, though admittedly it took a little bit of time for it to grow on me. It was humbling to remember how utterly unforgiving early computer games could be.
The developers have put together a really fun game here and I look forward to diving in and putting in the hours going into the future!
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.