Curious Expedition 2 has been one of many games that live on my hard drive. The premise of you playing as a 19th-century explorer tasked with discovering the secret of a mysterious set of islands that appear and disappear seemingly at random takes you back to the age of exploration and discovery. A misnomer of course, since it was only Europe that had not “discovered” the lands they were laying claim to.
Historical accuracy aside, the game hearkens back to an age of adventure, popularised in pulp fiction and later adventure reels, churned out by a still-young Hollywood in the early- to mid-20th century. An age when everything seemed mysterious and exciting. Adding to that sense of wonder and unexplored horizons we have the second DLC for the game, “The Shores of Taishi“, adding an even more wonderous land to explore.
Curious Expedition 2: The Shores of Taishi adds a new land to explore but crucially, and possibly to its detriment, it doesn’t add new story content. This lack of a narrative element fails to build on the intriguing mystery behind these lands, just exactly what their purpose may be, and why they seem to appear randomly in the world. This is slightly disappointing as what made the base game so intriguing – and pushed you through some of the more difficult aspects of the gameplay – was this underlying mystery and your attempts to solve it.
In a sense, the narrative hook unlocked a desire to explore, bringing the experience to life. However, maybe that’s the point of this content – the player can explore for the sake of exploration, rather than spend time worrying about an end goal, one they may never actually achieve. It also neatly sidesteps any narrative complications around the ethics of this time period and the real reason Europe was so eager to “explore” the world.
Mechanically, the Taishi map adds a new element that turns your journey into a bit more of a puzzle-solving exercise. The new island is waterlogged, with small land masses dotted around it. The only way to travel between these is to find teleporters. Some teleporters are multifunctional, in that they can transport you to any number of islands, while others will only allow travel between two points. This is the puzzle-like element as finding each teleporter requires exploration and faith that you will be teleported to an island that will give you resources or opportunities for further adventuring.
As players of the base game will know, rest is important as you have a sanity meter to manage. The more arduous the terrain or the longer the periods between rest, the closer your expedition moves towards insanity. This DLC island makes you focus more attention on the sanity meter and requires a greater degree of planning as you study the map and determine where to move.
Of course, there are also new companions and items to aid you on your journey. The new items and companion skills seem to have been tailored to this map and less essential elsewhere, but they are welcome as simply releasing a new map would feel like a low-effort release. It all ensures exploring these new lands is a little more mechanically interesting and immersive.
Talking of immersion, the overall design of the map does draw you in even without a narrative thread. Taishi feels less like a fantastical analogue of a real-world continent and more mythical. New enemies – mostly the creatures to encounter – as well as the native inhabitants all add to that sensation. Previous islands have all featured anthropomorphic native inhabitants and, keeping with that theme, this island has been settled by a people who look to have evolved from peacocks.
The art style remains consistent with the same charming pop-up book visuals while traversal access the maps play out like watching a more detailed Indiana Jones-style map transition from the movies. While the somewhat disconnected overlord viewpoint certainly gives you that feeling of playing a board game, it can lead you to view events and encounters a bit more detached from the potential consequences for the crew. At times, it can feel like you are just moving pieces on a game board while rolling some dice.
Gripes aside, Curious Expedition 2: The Shores of Taishi is an excellent reason for veteran fans of the game to return and explore again. The new companions are perfect for assisting you with the challenges of navigating this land with its teleporter system. While not adding new story content is a slight disappointment, the opportunity to continue your adventures into the unknown should be more than enough to reel you back in if you loved the base game.
A Review code for Curious Expedition 2: The Shores of Taishi was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher.
Curious Expedition 2: The Shores of TaishiCurious Expedition 2: The Shores of Taishi
Gameplay8/10 Very Good
Ease of Play8/10 Very Good
- Another new land to explore
- New puzzle elements
- Insanely good value for money
- No new story content
- Could be more immersive