Developer Maschinen-Mensch enormously enjoyable rogue-like exploration adventure, Curious Expedition, might be getting on a bit (it released back in 2016), but it's just received a free multiplayer mode, previously available in browser-based beta, in its latest update.
The gist of Curious Expedition, if you're unfamiliar, is that it's the 19th century and players, cast as daring adventurers, must embark on a race across inhospitable climes to find (ie. steal) exotic treasures in order to secure fame, fortune, and a footnote in the history books.
What that equates to in practice is a compelling blend of board-game-like exploration across a procedurally generated hex-based map, and a text-based choose-your-own-adventure-style yarn. The ultimate goal each game is to score highest against the AI across a set number of expeditions, and to do that you'll need to purchase supplies and prepare a party - whose useful individual perks are usually offset by negative traits such as paranoia, misogyny, or racism, eventually making them something of a liability as things start to go wrong.
Once your ship docks at the outset of an expedition, you're free to explore the uncharted map at will, stopping off at sites that look ripe for pilfering, trading with increasingly unimpressed locals, battling wildlife, and maybe even angering a few gods. The terrain isn't kind, though, and you'll need to carefully manage your limited food and resources as you blunder about, in order to keep your hunger, sanity, and reputation in check. Fail and your journey will grow increasingly difficult, die and it's game over.
The randomness of Curious Expedition's events admittedly won't be to everyone's taste, but there's a lot of atmospheric enjoyment to be had as you frantically conjure up on-the-go strategies to stave off ever-looming disaster.
Curious Expedition's slightly odd multiplayer mode, known as Rivals - which actually launched in beta as a free browser experience last year before making its way into the game proper in the latest update - follows much the same trajectory as the solo game, albeit pitting players against human opponents in its own distinctive way.
There's no direct interaction with fellow explorers (although you can see them milling around the enormous map), but you're still engaged in a race of adventure, and those that find new landmarks are given permanent in-game recognition for their discoveries.
Earlier this year, Maschinen-Mensch announced that it was working on a sequel to Curious Expedition, which would swap the first game's charming pixel-based aesthetic for what it called an "HD graphic novel" look. There's also promise of multiplayer, and "deeper travel and combat mechanics that offer opportunities to express your personal play style".
Curious Expedition 2 was initially due to release this year, but Maschinen-Mensch is now looking to launch its sequel some time in 2020. Prior to that, however, the developer will be holding a closed alpha, starting next month, with sign-ups open now.
The first batch of alpha keys will be disseminated in early December, and Maschinen-Mensch notes that players who manage to find a golden temple in Curious Expedition's Rivals mode will gain immediate access to the alpha. There doesn't seem to be any further word on the previously announced console ports of the original game, however.
To accompany all this activity, the first Curious Expedition is discounted by 50% on Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store (it's currently around £5.50), and sufficiently intrigued parties can also check out the browser-based demo, which launched last year.