Image Credit: Curious Expedition 2, Maschinen-Mensch.
Curious Expedition 2 is a rogue-lite video game that was released in June of last year. Set in the late 1800s, you play as an explorer investigating a mysterious purple fog that spreads across islands with rich indigenous cultures and life. While fantastical, the element that comes across the most is interacting with people from different cultures. I have not played Curious Expedition 1, so I do not have a way to compare the original game to the sequel. Overall, this game offers an exciting storyline, requires strategy and can educate people on being more open-minded.
Movement on the map in this game takes up sanity. This means that the more you move, the more insane you become. However, this can be combated with chocolate and alcohol or resting in camps on the map. This aspect means that if you head out as I did for too long on a mission, there are consequences. They come in the form of insanity events, where you or your NPC companions do something out of the ordinary. In my bizarre case, one trek-mate ended up eating the other and became a cannibal for life. Thankfully, the developers didn’t feel it was necessary to include the scene of one NPC eating another.
Because of this, the game is somewhat strategic. You need to figure out if you should go to a rest spot to try to reach your objective or if it is worth it to just continue on without it and use up your resources. There are also choices when interacting with the natives of the islands you visit. Do you want to be kind and get information? Or, do you just want to trade goods and find everything yourself?
By giving the player these choices, there is also an opportunity to educate. One of the main characters says that it is crucial to communicate with the indigenous peoples and learn of and about them. Options are given to give gifts to the leader of the native communities, trade, ask about their culture and rest in their villages. However, all of this can only occur if you have a high enough standing. This means that you need to have interacted with the natives in a polite and respectful way on your travels around the island. I did not expect to see this when starting this game as I thought it would be a bit of fun to visit different islands and complete objectives.
Yet, despite the good intentions of the game, I feel some areas could be improved. In the first introductory mission, the dialogue repeatedly emphasised speaking to the natives positively and listening to what they had to say as the local community. But, upon arriving at an ancient archaeological site, the native guide advises you not to approach and to leave. Yet, you respond by saying it is all a load of hogwash and that you will ignore their advice. The hypocritical nature of this rubbed me the wrong way, and while this improved during the rest of the game as you had more choice, I remembered that initial interaction more than all the others.
Furthermore, this somewhat stereotypical view of different communities continued with the societies that sponsor each journey. In order to go on each trek, you need to pick a sponsor from 3 choices. Each comes from a different country, one from the US, the UK, and the Far East. The societies had elements that were connotated with each country, the US, technology and innovation, the UK, old male-only societies with tea as the primary drink on offer, and the Far East, infinite knowledge and Buddhism. While I can understand that this was to make each group easily identifiable as these things are what people might associate with these cultures, it made me uncomfortable.
Finally, more generally, this game was quite repetitive. Each mission revolved around picking which island to visit, finding the natives, getting information off of them (either in exchange for killing an animal (like a supersized hyena) or only from goodwill), and then going to an ancient artefact to finish the mission. While there were additional elements like exploring old ship-wrecks or ancient pyramid-looking structures, the game’s raw format was limited in scope.
These issues did not stop me from enjoying the game overall. I found the rich, saturated colour palette beautiful, the interactions between characters to be fun and relaxed, and I was able to laugh at some of the ridiculous story-lines, like having a humanoid-turtle act as a ferry between islands. Ultimately, I would recommend the game to someone who wanted a bit of fun or to someone who wanted to begin playing video games and didn’t know where to start.