Reviews

To Explore? Or Not To Explore?

Another rogue game? Yes, please! If you know me, you will be aware that I love my rogues on the Switch. The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, 20XX: the list is ever-growing. So, when the chance to review another arrived, I was keen to dive into UnExplored.

Developer – Nephilim Game Studios
Publisher – Digerati
10 Hours Played // Review Copy Provided // $15.00

UnExplored arrives on Switch in the form of an ‘Unlocked Edition’, so I am going to establish what this means. Included in the Switch version are the three DLC packs: Mithril Run, Ripley Run, and The Dark Ritual. So, there is a lot of content to sink your teeth into.

DLC = Lots of content for you!

As has been established, UnExplored is a roguelite game. So, naturally, you aren’t getting a complex story. Essentially, you are an explorer journeying through a procedurally-generated dungeon. Your quest? Descend into the dungeon, steal the ‘Amulet of Yendor’, and make it out again. The story is never ‘in your face’, and it is not a major focus of the game. Of course, the gameplay is based on playing through again and again, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. However, I do still like a good story, and I could certainly have developed a stronger relationship with my character if there had been more of a plot.

However, UnExplored does succeed in its gameplay. I have played many games in this top-down style, but UnExplored is able to add something unique to this formula. Most of the time you will be using melee weapons including spears, swords, daggers, axes, and tridents, just to name a few. You can find bows which allow ranged combat, but don’t get me wrong, the focus is on blades. I found this refreshing, as other games in the genre, like The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon, are primarily based around shooting things. Guns, tears: they are different, but they do follow the same mechanic.

Crossbows and swords, pretty awesome!

I also loved that the combat in UnExplored had an element of risk and reward. But how does it work? You can hold two weapons at once, or one if you carry a heavier sword. Each weapon you acquire and the combination in which you equip them to lead to you playing differently. By default, you have a dagger and a sword. The sword can attack passively if you walk into enemies, or you can ‘stab’ with it to deal a stronger, rechargeable attack. The dagger is throwable and deals less damage than the sword, but recharges more quickly. This, of course, is only a brief example, but it gives you an idea of how the general combat works. There is a decent amount of variety here, and I certainly felt that each run was aided by the different mechanics of each weapon class.

The biggest issue I had with combat was the cooldown of each weapon. I just wanted to attack big hordes of enemies, but you always have to play defensively, which can be annoying at times. Most of the time you have to dive in, attack, and then run. This is fine when you are taking on small hordes, but larger groups can be a real pain.

Combat is fun but can be tiresome at times, all because of DAMN cooldowns!

Aside from combat, the general gameplay is essentially dungeon crawling. You work through each floor, defeating enemies, solving puzzles, and scavenging. I loved that the potions you find can either help or hinder you, and you do not know which it will be. Yes, it is a little annoying, but I found the balance between buffs and beatdowns fairly even. It certainly mixed things up in runs where I would get loads of buffs, making my character overpowered.

From the screenshots you have seen so far, you can tell that there is nothing impressive about the graphics in UnExplored. They are okay, but I can’t help but feel more could have been done with the atmosphere of the game. Their simplistic nature takes something away from what the game could have been, and this was a little disappointing. Indeed, mediocre graphics don’t ruin a game, but they can limit enjoyment, and I did feel that UnExplored was let down by this. I really get invested in art styles, and the promotional game art looks awesome, so why couldn’t that be the style used? It’s not a major issue, but the visuals really could have (and maybe should have) been different.

Compared to the featured image, I was a little letdown.

I had a few other issues with the game which I think also need to be discussed. The biggest of these is in regard to loading times. They are long . . . as in, a couple of minutes long. And not only that, the game actually stops during playtime to load parts of the dungeon. This happened constantly and was a very significant issue in the game. I would assume that this comes down to poor optimisation, and although I hope it would be a simple fix, it definitely needs to be addressed in future updates. A game shouldn’t be released with a problem like this.

Aside from this, I didn’t have too many other issues with the game. As far as rogue games go, I think UnExplored has fairly good progression. For example, you can use gold collected in previous runs to buy gear before the start of your next run. However, I didn’t feel like I was mastering the game as I played more. Yes, I learnt how certain mechanics and enemy patterns worked, but I got better because of getting lucky equipment. I didn’t learn to get better, it just happened sometimes. Games like Enter the Gungeon do this so well, but although UnExplored attempts this, it fails to exceed expectations.

I have to admit, our character is pretty cute…

UnExplored ended up feeling like a missed chance to make a great game. A more interesting art style and a deeper progression system would have made it an awesome experience. This missed potential is a real shame.

I definitely enjoyed my time with UnExplored, but it left me wanting more. Is it worth it if you enjoy rogues? Maybe, although I would have to say there are much better options available on the Switch. That said, this is still a fun experience.

 

Thanks for checking out this review! If you want perhaps a better rogue game, Dead Cells is the one for you! Be sure to subscribe to our Youtube channel for reviews, discussions, and debates. And make sure you check out our Patreon or Ko-Fi if you want to keep us ad-free!