STAFF REVIEW of We Were Here Expeditions: The FriendShip (Xbox One)

Thursday, September 28, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

We Were Here Expeditions: The FriendShip Box art I’ve aptly dubbed the We Were Here series “The Friendship Test”. Having played each game in the series, I learned quite quickly that you may think that you and your friend have good communication, but these games will absolutely put that to the test. Shadow dropped out of nowhere, a new entry to the series has arrived, We Were Here Expeditions: The FriendShip, though more of a bite sized morsel compared to the full games.

The FriendShip (for short) is much smaller in scale, yet offers the same tried and true cooperative asymmetrical puzzle solving you’d come to expect from a mainline We Were Here game. The best part, it’s completely free to download until October 13th, 2023, so there’s no reason to not grab it and test out your communication abilities with some friends. Newcomers to the series can expect a couple challenging puzzles, whereas veterans like myself will be tasked with trying to obtain the highest score possible, a completely new mechanic for the puzzles which I quite enjoyed. Will your friendship last even through this bite sized adventure? Let’s find out.

The first few We Were Here games didn’t support much of a narrative aside from you and your expedition partner usually crash landing somewhere, being separated, only to come back together for brief moments as you each solve your own-yet-linked puzzles. The later few titles added a deeper overall narrative that links everything together in a way, though The FriendShip is basically a standalone title.

You and your partner are out at sea when get a distress signal at a nearby island. Upon arrival you notice that it’s seemingly abandoned, and to make things creepier, it seems there’s a rundown amusement park here. After solving your first ‘puzzle’, you and your partner get on one of those boat rides together, and thus your co-op adventure begins in your Friend-Ship.

If you’ve never played any of the We Were Here games previously, The FriendShip is actually probably the best starting point, not just because it’s (currently) free, but the puzzles are mere bite sized morsels and a fraction of the difficulty of the full games. Think of it as a demo, yet it’s a full game that will last an hour or two depending on you and your partner’s communication skills.

Those new to the series simply need to know that this is a cooperative puzzle game where you and your friend play online, almost constantly separated from one another working in tandem on a puzzle. What makes it so unique is that there’s essentially two halves to each puzzle and you two must work together simultaneously to solve them. The only way to do that is with communication, describing what you see and what’s happening around you to your partner, and vice versa.

Sometimes you’ll need to describe a symbol you see, and how you do so will determine if you’re successful or not. For example, one symbol I described as “an alien watching TV”. Thankfully my fellow reviewer here and We Were Here partner, Peggy, was willing to endure another game in the series with me after we last went through the entirety of We Were Here Forever. Let me tell you, that was surely a friendship test, but as long as you and your partner can communicate well with one another you’ll be fine.

The FriendShip is a short adventure, as we were able to finish it in about an hour and a half on the dot, though that was after the second puzzle causing a few retries until we figured it out. It should last most people about 2-3 hours, though can be played numerous times to see each ‘side’ of the puzzle and to try and get a better score.

As you take the ship ride down a creepy abandoned amusement park, it seemingly comes to life, but stops at certain points. Here you undock and are unable to progress until you solve a puzzle which will open the doors, allowing the vessel to continue. Remember, you and your friend are always going to be separated in these puzzles, each somehow affecting the other. The first puzzle will feel very familiar if you’ve played any of the previous games. On my side of the puzzle I saw a handful of different wooden marionette dolls, each with a symbol in front of them. The goal of this is the match the two sides, forcing you to describe the symbols and the emotions the dolls make. How many you complete and how quickly will determine your score.

First puzzle down, great! That was easy right? Well, the second puzzle is sure to stump you. My partner and I had to attempt this one a few times until we understood it properly. On my side of the puzzle I had a hexagon grid where I could place one of three tiles, each of which had different colors on random sides of the piece. Choosing one of three tiles forced Peggy to use a specific tile as well, so we had to decide what’s best for both of our puzzles. I had to try and line up my tiles with colors matching on sides, like dominoes, whereas hers revolved around placing small pillars on specific spots which raised if it patched on my side. To be honest, we got the bronze rating and were fine moving on after six attempts.

The last puzzle was the most unique and something completely new to the series as far as I can recall. Remember when you would blindfold a friend and they had to listen to your verbal instructions to get through an obstacle course of some kind, trusting in your judgement and call outs? It’s the same idea here. I was the ‘caller’, telling Peggy where to go from my high up perch. She got gassed and was hallucinating, so if she didn’t listen to my instructions, she would have fallen off the dock and into the water. While we again got a bronze score, this puzzle I’d like to do again.

Depending on your score per puzzle you’ll earn a bronze, silver or gold ticket, and getting back to the boat to progress, the better tickets will change how your Friend-Ship appears. I quite enjoyed this scoring system, as in every other We Were Here title, you simply passed or didn’t, whereas now you have something more to strive towards. Even though three puzzles seems like very little on paper, they are the same high quality you’d find in any of the main games being well throughout and unique.

Crossplay is supported, so you don’t have to worry about your friends playing on the same system as you. Once you add each other to the universal friend list you’ll be able to play together. The built in walkie-talkies are how you’re supposed to play, with the light indicating your partner is talking. Given they are one-way radios, you need to know when each other is taking a turn talking and describing what they see. Could you join a party chat or phone call and have open mics, sure. Could you ‘cheat’ and send your friend a picture of what you’re seeing since you can’t accurately describe what you’re seeing? Absolutely. I implore you to try the game ‘legit’ first though, as it’s what makes the series so unique. Sometimes it’s hilarious, other times it’s frustrating, but it’s surely memorable.

I promise you, I dub the We Were Here games a "Friendship Test" for a reason. You’re going to be amazed how difficult it is to describe odd shapes and what you see, or flabbergasted at how poorly your friend is unable to do so. While our first playthrough was an hour and a half, I can see us playing once more to try and get those coveted gold tickets by improving our scores. We Were Here Expeditions: The FriendShip acts as a taste test to the series, but is its own standalone experience, and since it’s currently free, make sure you and a friend download it to see how good your communication truly us and if you'll remain best mateys.

**We Were Here Expeditions: The FriendShip was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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