An incredible title that focuses on the sense of adventure that comes with big, world-saving, quests, although with some limitations caused by its Early Access nature.
Genre: RPG, Roguelite
Publisher: Big Sugar
Release date: 21 May, 2021
Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy is a roguelite title that focuses deeply on the sense of adventure that comes with big, world-saving, quests. You are a wayfarer: a member of a clan whose task is to take the Staff of Yendor, a powerful magical item, to a place called the Prime Elemental Forge. There, your task is to destroy the Staff, so that it may not fall into the hands of the Empire: a powerful faction in the game world that would use its power to seize the control of the continent.
No Fellowship of the Ring This Time!
Every adventure starts with a character and this adventure is no different: you begin by picking a race, some traits and perks, then start the brief tutorial that the game makes available for you. Honestly, if I have to pick one of the aspects that need more work, it would the starting tutorial, hands down: the game basically teaches you the theory on flying, then pushes you off a ledge. Unexplored 2 is not only a difficult game, but also a complex one: you have to learn how to manage movement in the overworld and how to explore maps that could also involve environmental dangers or fighting.
Between the aspects that the player will have to manage we can find an HP bar, which obviously represents the physical state of our character, and the hope score, which seems to represent a more general, psychological, condition of the wayfarer. Conditions can affect both of these two aspects: losing too many HP could result in a wound, inflicting a malus on maximum HP or our ability to deal damage for multiple days. Camping in adverse conditions can give us maluses like cold which, when not treated, can inflict huge penalties by making us lose hope. This system is very elastic, giving the player the choice when it comes to adventuring in unexplored lands: camping with a fire would remove the cold malus that is inflicted on us, but it would also make us more visible and the empire is near…
The Heart of a Roguelite
In its heart, Unexplored 2 is a roguelite, which means that you will die. A lot. The game won’t be particularly gentle when it comes to challenges and will inflict you maluses and make you fight creatures without asking for your permission. You will get stabbed to death, starve, freeze and give up when there won’t be hope anymore. But here’s the catch: instead of generating a new game world to put you in, Unexplored 2 just makes time pass. You will play as the next wayfarer down the line, which will inherit the hard mission of saving the world from the empire. The places you visited previously will still be there and not only that: they will be affected by the actions you took. Stealing a magical item from a dungeon will remove it also for the future, whereas killing a group of bandits near a village will make that village expand, resulting in better merchants for the following years. Wouldn’t you have killed the bandits, the village would probably got abandoned or severely limited in its usefulness for you.
This persistence mechanic of the world is what keeps Unexplored 2 interesting to play, run after run. The ability to see your choices shape the world you play in is great, so much that you won’t keep playing for the story (that is pretty marginal), but to create the stories of the wayfarers you will be playing with and the overall history of the continent you will be affecting.
By Fortune or by Sword
We still have to speak about the very important aspects of the game: combat and challenges. Starting off with the first, combat still needs to be worked on a little bit more: combat is in real-time and requires you to use the two items that you have in your left and right hands, tied to the two mouse buttons. There are a number of different weapons and items that can be equipped, which leaves the wayfarer’s equipment open for many different combinations. You can for example fight with a shield in your left hand and a sword in your right one, making it so you will defend by pressing LMB and attacking with RMB. Overall, I have mixed feelings over combat, since it still needs to find its sweet spot between action and tactic: very often right now, fighting gets reduced to spamming attack while moving around, especially when combat is taking place against multiple enemies. Enemies have a decent variation, considering that the title is in Early Access, but shielded enemies right now are a pain to fight: they are able to completely negate the frontal damage you deal, so your only hope is to hit them from behind, which usually takes a few tries.
Speaking instead of challenges, Unexplored 2 treats challenges like bribing NPCs, deciphering ancient writings or simply exchanging stories with other travellers, by using a special token-based minigame. Every turn you pick a token out of a pool that represents the difficulty of the challenge, for a harder challenge will have more “fail” or exhaustion tokens. The token that you pick can be a “success” (you win the challenge), a “failure” (you lose the challenge) or a token that has a special effect: these special effects can range from adding more successes to the pool or giving you free redraws. Speaking of, redraws are a special action you can do in a turn: they allow you to pick an additional token from the pool, at the cost of exhaustion. The interesting aspect of this minigame is that it manages to represent the different shades of the possible outcomes of a challenge, as you might have succeeded in convincing a certain NPC to not fight you, but at the cost of two maluses: was it really worth it?
Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy is a really innovative title into the roguelite genre: it manages to add very interesting mechanics, both when considering a single run and the game in its entirety. Its Early Access state can be really felt though, especially when considering combat, the enemies AI, generally poor optimization and bugs and glitches. But for this title, I really feel like that these are background problems: let Unexplored 2 capture you with its adventure(s), you won’t regret it.