REVIEW of UNEXPLORED 2: An odd optional task text crops up: “Sing a tune.” I’ve walked into a stranger’s camp in the bush. I don’t know how I can say no to it. My Wayfarer is guided through a series of modest musical accomplishments by Unexplored 2’s textual role-play systems until they perform what I’m told is a loud version of a popular ditty via flavour text. When I’m done playing, I’ll have a place to sleep by the campfire for the night thanks to some enthusiastic clapping.

my Roguelite avatar is busy carrying modifier-laden equipment around hazardous procedurally generated country in the hopes of transporting an artefact of magical power to an area where it may be destroyed and save the world while I’m not singing The Lord of the Rings influence is obvious, yet Unexplored 2 is influenced by Tolkien in a unique way. In Unexplored 2, the battle is something I only resort to when I run out of lembas waybread and need to hunt, or if I’m forced to defend myself from orcs.

As a result, no one enjoys reading tales in which characters complain about being weary and hungry. The random happenings my Wayfarer stumbles onto along the road are entertaining for a little moment, but Unexplored 2’s trip is all about the filler that occurs between the great moments. Because I can’t skim over text when my character becomes cold, hot, wet, or sleepy like in The Lord of the Rings, and because of numerous glitches, there’s no way to know if my final destination will function as planned when I get there.

Approximately 500 kilometres

The classic roguelike element of Unexplored 2 is given a modern twist in that the quest to destroy the Staff of Yendor might take many lives to complete, making the game’s universe permanent over generations and allowing me to reap the benefits of my actions in a previous life. Overworld map nodes are interconnected in such a way that moving between them often results in an event; some events need my navigation, while others happen automatically as I pass through, but the majority involve dodging a large number of falling boulders. Falling rocks that are never-ending, tediously precise, and inescapable.

Approximately 500 kilometres

There are times when I feel like I’m on a real adventure. A fellow traveller once mentioned a pleasant trade place, which he marked on my map. At this point, I’m drenched and freezing after an exhausting mountain trek. On other days, I’m sifting through small gorges filled with sharp rocks, dark tunnels, and mysterious monsters.

A rapid click of the attack button swings a metal weapon that may be charged up for a harder swipe or a shield in one hand and something harmful in the other throughout these encounters. Instead of avoiding fighting because it’s dangerous or worthless, I choose to avoid it because of the monotony and lack of tactile input it provided. A fight with an enemy that was out for my blood didn’t make me feel like I was defending myself, but rather like we were just reenacting our attacks until one of us ran out of HP. A simple text message justifies the meeting in Unexplored 2 when someone wants me dead, which makes it even more artificial.

The fact that I’m fleeing hostiles is why I’m doing so.

My latest Wayfarer has a large range of odd status effects and a “Fortune System” that aims to emulate tabletop RPGs in Unexplored 2, which is far more fleshed out than the first game. I might be able to scare off a group of armed robbers, but that doesn’t guarantee I won’t have a difficult time picking a rusty lock, especially if I’ve been wounded. It’s possible to become well-liked in the area by doing good business, or a clan might tolerate me walking around their town but not allow me to sleep in the inn even if I’m exhausted or hurt. I once ran into a guard who didn’t like the fact that I was an outsider, and since I couldn’t get out of problems with sweet talk, I ended up fleeing town with a crowd chasing me.

I feel as though I’m travelling through a world occupied by many others, one that continues to evolve and grow even when I’m not there, in these fleeting moments of Unexplored 2. Rather than being a cardboard hero advancing through a game, my Wayfarer seems like a real person attempting to find their way through the harsh landscape.

This is a fleeting sensation.

a further 500

You’d be more likely to enjoy this type of role-playing if Unexplored 2 didn’t have so many fundamental storyline flaws. To begin, the local loremaster is glad to tell me I must carry the staff to The First Valley, a remote location no one has ever heard of, but he fails to explain why this must take generations. The only way to discover the game’s most fundamental goal—destroying the staff saves the world for whatever reason—is from the quest log, a series of bullet points that turns an epic journey into a fantasy shopping list. Via a game so detailed that even random farmers can form an opinion of me, it’s disheartening that important worldbuilding is presented in a menu.

Unexplored 2 aspires to be both a rogue-lite and a narrative experience. Trade routes connect distant settlements, a wicked empire encroaches on the territory of the good and free, and ominous temples dedicated to ancient gods serve as beacons of light. Despite these lofty goals, there isn’t enough text to back them up.

When I spent a full in-game day translating the text on an ancient temple monument, I was told, “The inscription depicts the deeds of Raaf,” and this is a direct quote after a successful attempt by two different NPCs in the same village. One person decides to devote years or their entire life to telling everyone they meet that they should eat mushrooms.

At the very least, the game’s visuals keep me occupied for a short time. It’s hard not to be reminded of Moebius’ strange fantasy artwork while looking at the delicate lines, vibrant colours, and bizarre alien designs in Unexplored 2. Spectacularly clean water and sparkling pond margins greet me as I take a refreshing dip in the early morning sun. Mysterious flowers and birds flutter in the night sky on grassy pastures. With these visual feasts, the passage of time and distance can be discreetly conveyed as I sit by the deep orange of a campfire with long shadows of pink evening.

With only a few basic graphic options, I have little control over how visually appealing this environment appears to me. There are only a few basic options, such as altering the MSAA level and switching between fullscreen and windowed mode. A goal frame rate, reduced shadow detail, increased debris on the ground or anything else like that isn’t available.

Unpredictable framerate decreases occurred no matter what settings I used, even while merely walking down a stairway or racing through a pancake-flat field. The overworld map, which is the least graphically demanding aspect of the game, frequently stutters due to its own on-the-fly generation.

With no oars

Unexplored 2’s core is riddled with problems, and those performance difficulties are trivial compared to those issues. Imagine my astonishment when I ran into them again in the village and had to listen to the moron regurgitate the same speech that I had previously heard from a smart and secretive NPC urging me to flee to Haven before the Empire caught up with me. Every time I return to Haven, this happens. And they’re still wondering why I haven’t raced off to the location where we’re standing weeks later.

When I entered a new area, a “helpful” notification popped up urging me to bring the workers to Haven. Despite the fact that I was present due to the fact that I had just finished transporting the workers to Haven.

shattered windows According to Unexplored 2, if struck hard enough, the object will buckle and stop responding. The tutorial section’s cave entrance was partially concealed by a solid wall and appeared to lead nowhere. My Wayfarer’s icon was once moved to a void-like corner of the map when I got lost.

No matter how many times I went back and forth between my starting point and other map nodes, Unexplored 2 would not let me venture further from it than two map nodes in a new world on a fresh save. A trader’s caravan was the miraculous flick of a switch that finally allowed me to stroll wherever I wanted, which I should’ve been able to do in the first place, despite the fact that this issue had been plaguing me for a long time.

In a persistent universe, where all the machine-created locales remain the same from one character to the next, trust is very essential. People don’t have time to spend hours playing a game that might make a key place unavailable or leave a vital character rambling in an unexpected location.

My Wayfarer is plagued by a sense of unease when confronted with challenges because the “full release” build (as described by the devs) is now too broken to interact with in the way I anticipated. There isn’t a sense of accomplishment when things go according to plan in this huge and uncharted universe. For the time being, I’m just happy that the game is operating as intended.

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