It’s the late 19th century, and you’re ready to explore the new world as one of 21 historical characters. You could be anyone from Charles Darwin, to Marie Curie or Grigori Rasputin setting off on an expedition with your team, maybe a pack animal and a set of rudimentary supplies.
Your goal is to travel on six expeditions, trade with native people, battle wild animals, explore ruins and temples, and try not to go insane. Ideally, you’ll find The Golden Pyramid, bringing you fame back in England, and then manage return you home. There are other ways to end the mission and continue with the game, however your fame will be reduced, and you will fall behind other famous explorers that you have been pitted against.
Through it all, you’ll be battling your sanity, which is displayed at the top of your screen. It’s used up as you travel across the map, and fill it up with rest and eating, with various consequences if you don’t manage to keep it topped up. Your team may be reduced to eating various animals in your team, resort to cannibalism, or even desert you. It’s an interesting twist on health bars, and I found it amusing throughout.
Each playable character has their own traits that can help or hinder you on the randomised world maps, whether it’s Whisky Expert, Spiritual, Alcoholic, Sexist, or Superstitious. Freya Stark, for example, is better at exploring deserts with her ability to find oases, while Marie Curie’s Missionary companion helps with additional Sanity and Donkey and Hunting Dog companions are less susceptible to ailments. Differing with each explorer, Rasputin is the least prepared – travelling alone, with only a few tins of beans to keep him going, he is much harder to play as and survive.
If you successfully return from your first mission, you can actively start to recruit people into your crew before you set off on your next. You’ve got five slots, including yourself and any pack animals you may choose to have. You can also add to each explorer’s traits as you level up, which also allows them more health.
You are given the option for a tutorial, which explains the various ways to explore and interact with the world around you without being overbearing, still letting you discover things during the main gameplay. Stepping into the generated worlds, you can immediately see the inspiration from Monkey Island and the Persona series, both in the artwork and the text-based exploration and decision making. Similarly, the map felt like a cross between the board game Settlers of Catan and the world map from Final Fantasy VII (the original), allowing you to explore from overhead.
At times you will have to battle in order to survive, which plays out like an odd version of Yahtzee. You roll a selection of die based on who is in your team, and group them together to form attacks or defences against the enemy.
Each of these reference and parallels to other game added to the nostalgic impact of the game, taking me back to watching my older brothers play game, and trying them out with their guidance.
You may be approached before setting out on your expeditions with requests such as delivering a letter to a native village, returning their lost husband from the new world, or completing the mission in 80 days. This extra layer to each exploration will lose you fame if you fail to complete the task. Despite the risk to the game, it furthered my eagerness to explore, as if I really were venturing into the new world.
As the game went on however, the game was clearly struggling on Nintendo Switch with the larger map sizes and details in each world – my screen blacked out a few times, and loading times and responsiveness suffered, unfortunately resulting in getting surprise attacked multiple times.