An RTS that is more expected and not that engrossing.
In a world of Minecraft clones and ambitious open-world resource-management item-crafting survival games, it is easy to let the little real-time-strategy entries like The Unexpected Journey from publisher Rionix slip by. The Unexpected Journey is the epitome of the genre in its execution. You may not have heard of it, but Herzog Zwei (available on Switch in the Sega Ages series) helped the RTS genre build a foundation for decades of games to come. Later the Warcraft series would propel the RTS genre into a spiraling menagerie of point-and-click resource management games that eventually evolved into MOBAs. To paraphrase Richard Hammond, just as most metal can trace its roots to Led Zeppelin, most resource management questing games can trace their heritage back to Herzog Zwei.
The Unexpected Journey opens up with your crew washed up on a beach for a quick and convenient tutorial. After the initial quest, you progress to a town that is under siege by a few zombies, where you build structures that start small and eventually size up into barracks and archer ranges to train knights and archers to fight monsters. The major downfall here is that there are designated places to build on. You have little control of the real estate. Each chapter map you progress to has its own scenarios that you have to manage your crew through and find the right path to the end goal. Every map has multiple quests and every little barrier requires a specific amount of resources to overcome. You can also build additional types of units such as mages and clerics. These units have to do battle with zombies, barbarians, and elemental-type creatures.
Using the Switch in a handheld fashion to play a point-and-click RTS takes some getting used to, especially if you are a victim of the dreaded Joy-Con drift. It would be nice to have been able to take advantage of a touch screen instead of being stuck with Joy-Con. You can use the right stick to traverse the map and the left one for point-and-click commands. The X button takes you to your item inventory. Omitting the touch screen for controls seems like a missed opportunity. The game’s slower-than-standard RTS pace is probably due to the control scheme. Large scale battles would not be feasible using the control sticks. In lieu of speedy gameplay, this opts for quick smaller skirmishes with only one-on-one fights seeming possible.
The graphics are very 2000s nostalgic with a slightly updated look. It looks and sounds like a Blizzard release from that era. The overhead view of a standard RTS is present with small-ish figures executing their commands with simple animations. It is easy to lose your workers against the backdrop though as they tend to blend in. The in-between story animations look fine and the chapter stages are a well laid out maze of obstacles, but very linear with a single exit point. The buildings you can erect look quite at home in the world you traverse but again, where you place them is not really up to you unfortunately.
The Unexpected Quest is unexpectedly short with only eight chapters and no variance offered upon replay. It is a decent time-waster of an RTS, but it is far from deeply engaging or exciting. Limited controls, the inability to place buildings where you want and one-on-one unit battles put a damper on the experience. This is not the game that will take the place of Warcraft as it feels like it never quite takes the training wheels off and there are better RTS experiences to be had, making this really only good for newcomers to the genre who need a gentle, simple pace.