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Unexplored: A roguelite of thumbing the unknown

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I started Unexplored this weekend, jonesing for a new roguelite, and I'm so far quite enamored with it.  It scratches that fast paced dungeon dive, die and restart itch very well.  Austin Walker sold me on it after I saw his top list of 2017 games. 




Here's a theme found across my GOTY lists: How does a game push a genre forward? Even just in this list I argue that part of what makes Atlas Rises and Battle Chef Brigade so special is how they add to the toolbox of their respective genres. My old Giant Bomb defense of Invisible, Inc. was grounded in a similar argument about how it solves a classic dilemma of the roguelike.


Unexplored does fits into that same mold, and it’s the game on this list that I wish more people had spent time with this year.


It’s a top-down, action roguelike that was brought to my attention by Waypoint freelancer Jack de Quidt earlier this year. “I am extremely clever,” he wrote, “and I have put together a flawless plan that will kill me in about ten or fifteen minutes.” Okay, I thought, I’m in. After all, part of my favorite thing about roguelikes is conceptualizing a perfect plan only to have it go to shit (and then to learn from that failure and do it all again).


But what elevates Unexplored is how, using “cyclical” generation, it builds levels that you sweep through in daring arcs instead of tiny jabs of inquiry. Then it layers twenty of those levels on top of each other and indexes them against each other, creating self-referential dungeons unlike anything I’ve seen in the genre. That sounds complicated, so here, let me explain it this way:



My impression (after still not having made it to the third level), is that this just really good and refined.  I was initially not into the art style when I saw it in screenshots, but actually playing it, it's a great style that boils things down to just like symbols that convey information really well and quick.


It's also got a lot of really great little quality of life things that I haven't seen altogether in a game.  You can make it so that you auto-drink potions, and set the threshold that you drink them.  You can set how you pick up items, if it's an auto vacuum, or if you need to stop and click on each item.  Items that you already have stacks of (potions, rations, torches), always auto pickup.   Many weapons have both passive and active attacks (if an enemy runs into your sword, it will do 5 damage, but if you actively swing your sword, it will do 8 damage).  Unlocking achievements unlocks ever more things to buy in the opening store, and your starting gold is related to how much gold you had completed on the previous run.  So it's got that good hook that even a failed run can serve a purpose. 

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Got my first victory in Unexplored last night!  And on Hard no less (been doing Hard to chase some Achievements, as a lot of cheevos are what you use to unlock new starting gear/options/purchases).  This game continues to delight and please me. 


I ended up assembling my first ever Steam guide because of this game.  It has an incomplete wiki and detailed info was scattered around forums, reddit and some google docs a player had assembled.  I just put it all together in one place and added my own notes.

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