REVIEW OF UNEXPLORED 2: The text “Sing a song” appears after I’ve accidentally stumbled into a stranger’s forest tent. I don’t know how I can say no to it. After a series of minor musical achievements, Unexplored 2’s textual role-play mechanics come to life as I guide my Wayfarer through a loud version of a popular song that I’m told via flavor text to deliver. When I’m done playing, I’ll have a place to sleep by the campfire for the night thanks to some enthusiastic clapping.
As my roguelike avatar carries modifier-laden equipment around the hazardous procedurally-generated countryside, I’m hoping to bring a magical object to a forbidden spot in order to destroy it and save the world while I sing. Unexplored 2 borrows heavily from The Lord of the Rings, but it does it in a way that few other fantasy games do. Unexplored 2 instead concentrates on my traveler’s long, hard, journey, with the battle being something I only turn to when I’ve either run out of lembas waybread and need to hunt, or when I’m forced to defend myself.
Because of this, the sections of the stories when the protagonists whine about being weary and hungry are not popular. While the events that my Wayfarer stumbles into along the road provide a few moments of intrigue, Unexplored 2’s journey ultimately serves as the filler that occurs in between all the truly great stuff. There are no skim-reading options in this game like there are in The Lord of the Rings, and there are often glitches that make it impossible to know if my destination will operate as planned when it does arrive.
500 kilometers is the maximum distance.
Due to the fact that Unexplored 2’s quest to destroy the Staff of Yendor could take many lives, the game’s universe is persistent across generations, and the choices I make with one adventurer now can have consequences in the lives of adventurers to come. It seems like every time I move from one node on the overworld map to the next, something happens. Some of these events are ones I have to traverse manually, while others appear as I pass through, but they always involve evading a lot of falling rocks. Falling rocks that are both relentless and tediously precise.
Some moments are better than others, and they make me feel like I’m on an adventure. When a fellow traveler tells me of a pleasant trade post, I mark its location on my GPS. 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 odd beasts.
With one hand holding a shield and the other a metallic and hazardous object that can be swung with a rapid press of the attack button or charged up for a greater swipe, combat in these encounters is simple. 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. To me, the two of us were merely repeating our stiff and unpleasant attack animations at one other until one of us ran out of HP. I never felt like I was protecting myself against an enemy out for blood. It’s made more fake by the fact that Unexplored 2 confines me to a specific region if someone sends me a text message stating that they want me dead.
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. As a result, the possibilities are endless. I might be able to scare away a gang of robbers, but it doesn’t imply I can always manage to pick a rusted lock, especially when injured. 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. The one time I ran into a guard who didn’t like the way I looked because I was an outsider, I ended up running out of town with a crowd behind me since I couldn’t sweet-talk my way out of problems.
At the moment, Unexplored 2 feels alive and unexpected, as if I’m one person in a universe filled with countless others, one that changes and grows even when I’m not in it. 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.
an additional 5,000
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 inform me I must transport the staff to The First Valley, a remote location no one has ever heard of, but he fails to explain why this must take millennia to complete. Not from fellow adventurers, old inscriptions, or dusty tomes, I must figure out the game’s most fundamental goal—destroying the staff saves the world for some reason—but from the task log, bullet points that convert what should be an epic journey into an imaginary shopping list. Weird to see that much worldbuilding presented in a menu in a game where random farmers can form an impression of me.
Unexplored 2 wants to be a roguelike with a story, but it’s not quite there yet. 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. Text volume and substance are lacking to support these lofty goals.
There have been instances where NPCs in the same village have spoken to each other, where someone has decided to spend their entire life telling everyone they meet to consume mushrooms, and even once when I translated the inscription on an ancient temple monument only to be told, “The inscription depicts the deeds of Raaf,” which is a direct quote from the game after a successful attempt.
At the very least, the game’s visuals keep me occupied for a short time. French artist Moebius’s surreal fantasy work is reminiscent of Unexplored 2’s delicate lines and extraterrestrial designs. As I wade across the pond’s crystal-clear water, the pond’s margins flare like fire in the early morning sun. Flying through the night, unusual flowers and verdant pastures catch my eye. Even when I sit by the rich orange of a campfire, I can feel the passing of time and distance as these visual feasts aid to softly tell.
There are only a few basic graphic settings, thus the aesthetic appeal of this universe is largely out of my control, as well as that of my PC. Only a few broad settings with single-word descriptions, MSAA levels ranging from low to high, and fullscreen/windowed modes are available. A target FPS, reduced shadow detail or increased ground clutter are all options that are not available.
There were some terrible and unpredictable framerate drops no matter what settings I used, even when walking down a staircase that I had previously run up or run across an empty 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. So imagine my astonishment when I ran into them again in the village and had the narrator repeat exactly what he had just said in the opening.. Every time I return to Haven, this happens. They’re still there weeks later, still perplexed as to why I haven’t raced off to the location where we’re standing.
Later, as I entered a new place, a “helpful” message appeared, reminding me to transport the employees to Haven. As a result, despite the fact that I had just finished transporting the crew to Haven.
Doors that are falling apart. With enough force, Unexplored 2 informs me, I shall be unable to respond to any blow. The tutorial part cave entrance was obscured by a wall that led nowhere. A time when I got lost, my Wayfarer’s icon appeared in a void-like area on the map.
In the worst-case scenario, Unexplored 2 suddenly refused to allow me go more than two map nodes away from my starting location, no matter how many times I trekked back and forth trying to find a passage out into the bigger globe. This was worse than any of the others. For the longest time, this problem prevented me from walking anywhere until I boarded a trader’s caravan and traveled to an unknown destination. It was only after this trip that the game decided to resume regular behavior and allow me to roam freely, as it should have done all along.
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 key character babbling nonsense in an inappropriate position.
The “full release” build (as described by the devs) I played for review is now too broken to interact with as intended, and this uncertainty taints every difficulty my Wayfarer encounters. When things go my way, I don’t feel like I’ve conquered a new obstacle in a huge and uncharted universe. I’m just happy that the game is working as intended for the time being.