The Emperors New Groove

Who Are These Brave Explorers?

When Renowned Explorers: International Society was first released I was unsure of what to make of its goofy but well-designed art style. I was quickly made a believer of the game. Put out by Abbey Games in 2015, two years after their other title Reus, RE:IS was a well received hit. Seeing the success of RE:IS, Abbey Games turned their focus to expanding the series and here we are now, at the next major DLC.

To be brief, RE:IS is a turn based exploration game, where players assemble parties of three from among the modest selection of characters. Each character has their own quirks, abilities, and animations. Conflicts are handled through Friendly, Devious or Aggressive means, deploying specific attacks for each flavor, all to defeat your nemesis, Rivaleux.

As your band of explorers traverse the various locations of the world, you will come across situations that can be handled using the various skills your characters possess. Victory is determined by a percentage-based chance with a variety of rewards and outcomes dependent on the situation. Finally, the characters you meet in the game will react differently to you based on how you defeated them or other wise dealt with them.

01A Challenge
Tool tips will show how likely you are to be victorious – and how impressed your patron will be.

Role Call

Adding to the ranks of the esteemed Society are four new characters. Each with new interesting personality quirks, interactions with other characters, and animations. While I am often worried when an expansion introduces new characters that they will be vastly better than anything that came before, these four fine folks are welcome and balanced editions to the game.

First we have, from South-Korea, Suh-Min Jeong. While an old man should not be sending a twelve year Scientist out in to the dangers of locals of the world, I couldn’t help myself. With her amusing attitude and parasol, not to mention an advanced attack which is a “cuteness stare,” she quickly became one of my favourite characters. Particularly when I would put her in charge of the expedition, and some other members would get prickly about being “led by a child.”

Hojo Fumiaki hails from Japan and at first I didn’t know what to think about this hulking brute with a mop. I found him to be a comic and lovable lug whose friendly nature was apparent in many of his actions. His talents mostly involve using of his mop in amusing fashions. You might be tempted to write him off as a poor Scout because of his bulk, but doing so would be a mistake.

The exotic dancer Phailin Boonusak was excellent and elegantly designed. I imagine the established Canadian character Yvonne Lefevre being the only rival to Phailin’s chic looks in this game. Praise and Diplomacy can take a wayside with a deadly advanced skill that allows a brutal assassination strike at a foe. While she may look fragile, this new Speaker character is anything but.

Finally, my absolute favourite of the new crop of characters. The terrible troublemaker that is Wang Yu. A Chinese thug who gets around on a pair of paper wings and has a love for explosives. With an arsenal that increases from a single stick of dynamite to a explosion to rattle your foes confidence to a stand still, Wang Yu was in each and every party I took out exploring.

While I love the exotic dancer, these three were my top picks of the new lot.

Some New Points of Interest

The new game mode, the titular Emperors Challenge, sets you off to once again find a way to deal with your hated, cocksure nemesis with wonderful hair – Rivaleux. That dashing jerk maybe younger and more physically active than this old bag of bones, but surely the wise Emperor will see through any of his petty schemes. Right? Well, considering the Emperor has a great love for issuing bizarre requests that seem to tickle his fancy, I’m not so sure.

These are very meta requests, so I’ll forgive the fourth wall-breaking old ruler. You are given various tasks, which are the crux of the new play mode; some are daily or weekly tasks, and these you can see in the main Explorer hall in the upper right hand corner. In addition to these, there are ones that pop up while in the location map, as well as special ones just for conflicts. Each task is suitably explained, has a progress bar for at-a-glance information, a mouse over option to give you more details on the mission, and finally small dots – the more of which are filled in, the closer an agent of Rivaleux is to completing the challenge before you.

The difficulty of the task really depends on the composition of your group, what path you take in character development, and just how much you want to nab particular types of resources while adventuring. Upon completion of a task, you are awarded some very lovely-looking “Porcelain Points,” represented by small vases. If you get the most Porcelain Points by the end of the game, you manage to show up your rival and earn the Blessing of the Emperor.

Now, for those new to the series, while there are many levels of difficulty to play on, even on its easiest the system requires attention, planning, and a bit of luck to push forward. While doing the emperors challenge you will just have added a whole laundry list of things to do in addition to the normal management of your expedition. This means you can easily loose track of your enemy’s progress and have a hard-earned task slip between your fingers. Fortunately, if you take a moment and breathe, you can normally figure out a battle plan. But I would recommend to anyone picking this up, try to get a firm understanding of the base mechanics of the core game before expecting much satisfaction from the Emperor’s Challenge mode.

The notifications on the right hand side show both your progress and the progress of your rival.

Dangerous Places

Depending on your style of play and preferred difficulty, it may take some time for you to see the new 4th-tier location, The Anagogic Archipelago. Located in the Indonesian area of the map, this locale offers much of what we have come to expect from the series: Amusing events, strange and wacky characters to meet, and new treasures to acquire. All the while you’re trying to find out the mystery behind the disappearance of Bobo the Misadventurous, an NPC from the Society who has gone missing.

My concern for the new area is a strange one. It is really good. In addition to being fun and interesting, the special map-specific events are just better designed than in the base game. While I am sure that this resulted from the years of self evaluation on behalf of Abbey Games – and it is by no means a criticism – I just feel players would be doing themselves a bit of a disservice not to choose the Anagogic location as an option. It just is a really well designed map and the others show their age when compared to it.

Oh – and brave explorers? Watch out for talking Monkey heads. Seriously. Those guys are as fun as they were nerve-wracking.

An at a glance of the Anagogic Archipelago.

Adventure Awaits

For the reasonable price tag of the DLC ($7.49 USD/$8.29 CAD), it adds far more content than I was expecting. I shouldn’t be surprised however, considering Abbey Games has established a fairly good reputation now for above average content at below average prices. If you enjoyed the previous expansion or are looking to spice up your exploring time, this is a solid purchase that you will not likely regret. If you are new to the franchise, this is likely something that can wait, as the Emperor’s Challenge is an advanced, more difficult play mode intended for people who have established a level of proficiency with the base game. The new characters are really fun, though, so you may choose to take the plunge regardless.

This game really had me putting on my worn out adventuring boots and casting off in to the adventurous unknown again. Lets hope we see more from Abbey Games, and soon. (Maybe in the form of a location DLC pack?)

A welcome addition to the franchise, 9/10

Review by Joshua Smith aka Old Man Mordaith

Edited by Jesse Roberts

No really – watch it for these jerks.

This game was received for free for the purposes of reviewing

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