Curious Expedition 2 (Switch) Review
Curious Expedition 2 is a curious roguelike with a lot going for it. It’s a turn-based and procedurally-generated adventure in a 19th-century world where lizard people, ghosts and dinosaurs run amok. You are a French explorer tasked with leading a troop to fame and glory in an undiscovered land; that all looks like something you’d see in an old Tintin adventure comic. Berlin-based studio Maschinen-Mensch has designed a true charmer where no two expeditions are alike, so prepare to set sail.
The game plays like an old-school role-playing game, and there’s a boatload of your classic RPG elements thrown together here. There’s grid-based movement on a hexagonal map. There’s dice rolls to determine the success of your actions. There’s decision making with short and long-term repercussions. There’s party and resource management. There’s classes and guilds and perks and distinct biomes. Despite how much is on show, it all meshes quite well, as you’ll find after logging a couple of hours. Curious Expedition 2 ought to have an accessible help section, though, because as easy as the game is to pick up, there’s a bunch more you’ll learn through good old trial and error, especially for those less familiar with roguelikes and RPGs in general.
The stories you create are the driving force of the game and the real reason to grab Curious Expedition 2. Through a combination of randomly occurring events and the choices you make, you’ll experience genuinely intriguing stories which are sure to suck you in. After grappling with some RNG and eventually landing your dream party, don’t blame yourself if you become invested in their fictional lives. I caught myself grinning like an idiot when two of my party members, a grubby pickpocket and an undead skeletal pirate became best friends and decided they wanted matching tattoos, despite the skeleton not having any skin.
Expect some fascinating storytelling and worldbuilding too. On another of my expeditions, a soldier in my party became a ‘nagual’ and would regularly transform into a panther as the moon changed. At first, I thought this would cause some trouble, but I finished the expedition without breaking a sweat, so I thought nothing of it. Before starting the next mission, however, it was reported to me that he’d fallen from a window and died, I’m sure in some panther related mishap. This then led to my party mourning on the following mission, giving me a debuff for the next 30 in-game days, but after performing a funeral service for my fallen comrade, the rest of my party became increasingly loyal to me.
The longest-running and most complex story thread I experienced involved an acrophobic (fear of heights) nurse who became stressed out after I kept taking shortcuts over high cliffs and mountains, eventually becoming an alcoholic to deal with her troubles. She confronted me, and I chose to ignore her qualms, but after resting a few turns later, I woke to find that she had abandoned my party, taking a handful of my resources with her. I thought that was the end of things on account of the game’s permadeath mechanic, but I discovered a character leaving your party isn’t the same as a death. About five expeditions later, I entered an underground mole-people village looking for info on an ancient treasure and was approached by the locals. They said the nurse had come to their village not long ago and bad-mouthed me something fierce, costing me valuable standing points with the locals – a blow from what I thought was the nurse’s grave.
While the character-driven story arcs are brilliant at times, the overarching plot isn’t anything special. It’s about tracking an ancient contraption with the power to save or destroy the whole world – typical adventure stuff you can picture Indiana Jones or Lara Croft doing. The larger story does however provide a vehicle for those very enjoyable smaller moments tailored to your individual experience, which is Curious Expedition 2’s major strength.
Unfortunately, it’s not long before expeditions you’ve previously completed begin to pop up again. There’s only so many times you can be asked to locate a ‘one-of-a-kind Golden Pyramid’ on separate occasions before your immersion, and in turn, your investment in your characters starts to wane. This isn’t helped by the lousy looking animation, with characters moving like they’re in an archaic flash animation or cheap mobile game. But ultimately, this is a story and text-driven game, so don’t get too hung up on your explorer’s wiggly puppet arms.
The game also promotes multiple playthroughs, boasting unique skills for different leader characters, achievements and unlockables that carry over to subsequent campaigns, and a ‘Director Mode’, which acts almost like an exhibition mode. There’s even weekly online competitions to compete in, which can net you some exclusive rewards. Additionally, though the game has only just been released for the Switch, Maschinen-Mensch has added some decent free updates since it first came to PC earlier in the year, so keep your eyes peeled for potential future content!
Curious Expedition 2 will hook you with its fun comic book aesthetic, and keep you entertained with procedurally generated worlds and compelling character events for many hours. The game delivers an exceptionally entertaining roguelike romp, but may struggle to hold your attention following your first playthrough.
+ Classic adventure comic art style akin to Tintin
+ Amazing worldbuilding tailored to the player’s unique experience
+ Fun characters and locales
- The expeditions start getting old after the first campaign
- An accessible help page would’ve been handy
- Flat animations that do a disservice to the art style