Cookiemonger saw this game pop up on GoG and grabbed it:

Renowned Explorers: International Society

Okay, first things first: that title is a mouthful. As I jot notes in my notebook, I keep subvocalizing the title and stumble over the individual words. And I keep forgetting the full name. It needs a name that better reflects the game.

It’s great though! Totally tickles a strategy part of my brain that’s been itching for a while. Perhaps depending on the mode you choose, the game is short. Barring any save-scumming, you can finish a run in a couple hours.

But that’s cool, because the game’s designed to be replayed. You choose a team of three characters from a cast of twenty to embark on Adventure Archaeologist outings to seize treasures and enrage natives.

I don’t know if more locations open up after additional playthroughs (working on my third now), but there seems to be about eight locations (one 1-star, two 2-star, two 3-star, two 4-star, one 5-star). The game borrows visual shorthand that appears in casual game, like a “star-ranked difficulty scale.”

But what you might wonder about is “Talking Monsters To Death.”

Yeah, this game lets you do that. Did you ever run a Mediator in Final Fantasy Tactics? I can’t think of a ton of games that offer speech-based attack powers.

Attacks and the larger encounter have an “Attitude.” Each character has their specialty, whether they prefer Aggressive, Devious, or Friendly attacks, but every character appears to have all three. Friendly attacks typically double as heals for your guys — with some drawbacks. I’ll come back to that.

Attitudes provide a Rock-Paper-Scissors overlay to combat: Devious attitudes have an advantage over Aggressive types (you dirty rat!), Friendly attitudes have an advantage over Devious types (shame on you!), and Aggressive attitudes have an advantage over Friendly ones (nice guys finish last).

Not all moods are equal though.

If you strike up an Aggressive stance, it takes 3 Devious or 5 Friendly actions to change your attitude. If you assume a Devious stance, 3 actions either way will change your attitude to Aggressive or Friendly. If you’re Friendly though, just 1 Aggressive action or 3 Devious ones will spoil the conversation!

Depending on your opponents’ attitudes, you may want to, or need to change yours once or twice during an encounter. Most “enemies” have one default attitude, though some will alter their strategy — Bosses, more often than not, seem to have an Aggressive mode and a Devious OR Friendly mode.

Now, what I said earlier about heals with Drawbacks?

The Speech powers you use to heal your allies will often be more useful attacking your opponents. The healing is pretty weak unless you have a characters whose Speech is strong — which often comes at the cost of Attack and Armor.

Now, in addition to hit points, individual characters and enemies have a mood which swings between Positive and Negative. Many Speech powers will afflict a target with an Emotional condition depending on their mood: Angry, Sad, Terrified, Confident, Impressed, or Excited.

Most emotions are debuffs: Anger makes characters more vulnerable to physical attacks, while being Impressed makes a character more vulnerable to Speech.

A couple of them are buffs though: Confident characters receive a boost to their Attack power, and Excited characters receive a boost to Speech power.

So those healing powers? They may render your ally Confident, Impressed, or Excited — and most of the ones I’ve seen thus far Impress characters.

If they’re in a good mood — watch out.

So far, I’ve found a couple combinations that really work and my favorite explorer is the Greek mercenary woman, Bia. I enjoy the Tactician skills for their contribution to select combat encounters — and combat encounters in the late-game are ridiculous. I’m not sure exactly how to compete at that stage.

I’ll probably wind up writing about this game a lot.