We Were Here Expeditions: The Friendship PC Review
As a co-op heavy 3D first-person puzzle game, I was immediately drawn to the original We Were Here and played it when it first released in 2017 (although it feels much longer ago!) but hadn’t managed to get anybody to go through the others with me until about eighteen months ago. After receiving a review request for the latest and greatest We Were Here Forever, the fourth and easily largest entry in the franchise, we decided to stream playthroughs of the whole series and had just the best time doing so. Sadly, that was to be all; the story was wrapped up and the team were stated to be moving on to different things. ‘Co-op as a genre’ games – the ones where communication and teamwork is the game – are getting rarer all the time and so losing what had been a lifeline to that niche was a big hit. But fortunately for fans, it turns out the end of the story didn’t mean no more adventures to enjoy with their buddies, or even online with a potential new friend!
‘Expeditions’ is a whole new way to engage with our arctic explorers in the form of small packages of trials, of which the first set of at least three (we assume), is The Friendship. No more confusing narratives of evil phantoms or the royal history of a forgotten kingdom, just a direct set of challenges to test your minds and mouths. It’s truly a perfect continuation. Shedding the story elements and chopping back the size like this allows the team to focus on the gameplay and release refined chunks of content more frequently instead of having us wait years for a sequel. This time around there are but three obstacles to overcome which are used to evaluate your friendship, and upgrade your literal friend-ship, with each consisting of bronze, silver, and gold rankings – another new addition. As always the gameplay itself is simple but it’s the need to transmit all of the information you have to each other in order to make sense of the situation that throws a bag of spanners into the works.
We start off with a classic event of conveying symbols and poses to each other against the clock; move on to much more of a brain burner where not only are you trying connect up patterns on a hexagonal grid but must do so keeping in mind how they affect your partner’s board; and finally culminating in the the worlds biggest trust-fall as one of you guides the other through an arena of visual tricks. Not novel ideas by any means but it’s a nice varied mix, sort of a greatest hits, that pushes both players to improve their abilities to impart crucial information succinctly and solve problems with a companion. And although it is said to be a short expedition, it still took us almost three hours to get through, albeit we were running the first puzzle entirely wrong for a long time and the second one had me tripped up on its mechanics. But hey, that’s all part of it! Sometimes it’s best to just take a step back and ask “why aren’t we getting this?”. To come at it from a different angle or try something new. We did eventually come out on top with all three golds by the way.
The only problem is we still want more! Don’t get me wrong, I’m always grateful to see a new deeply cooperative game release as, as mentioned, they are often few and far between, but the We Were Here games are special. Though some of the puzzles within them have been a little wonky, the team’s commitment to creating interesting and unique experiences that bring players together is unrivalled. Well, at least sections two and three can be played again on the other side due to their asymmetry, slightly extending this latest nugget of team-bonding fun. I think any previous fans are going to be ecstatic to see a new title drop and to know more is coming. I know I am. I hope We Were Here Expeditions lasts a long, long time, adding many miniature quests consistently over years and that The Friendship is just a taste of what’s to come. Gifting it for free in order to attract fresh attention and prove to existing players that it’s not over yet even if the format has been tweaked should prove to be a great marketing strategy but it’s also a wonderful act of generosity. So go grab someone you like and give it a shot, there’s nothing to lose!