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Review: The Lost Expedition

6 Keys

                           RATING: 6 Keys         RESULT: Win          REMAINING: 15.26% fuel remaining

By my best calculation, we should either have enough fuel remaining to survive or to write this introduction. Oh crap.


Story

Your team works for Strategos Enterprises which specializes in the excavation of unique areas. 200 years ago the remnants of an ancient society were discovered and the first expedition was sent to unearth Dig-site 413. No one returned and its location was lost…Until now.

Three days ago expedition two departed and yesterday communication with the team was lost. We need your team to complete the excavation of Dig-site 413 and bring back any artifacts you find.

So, Strategos Enterprises thought they could succeed without the world’s greatest excavation crew (that’s us – try to follow along!) And now, with two other teams lost without a trace, who do you think they came to in hopes of cleaning up the mess?

That’s right, despite being trapped in dozens upon dozens of different tombs, dig sites and the like, we always manage to find our way out. Also, we just so happened to be in San Diego, so we’re obviously perfectly qualified for this mission.

Unlike many of the other excavations we’ve been party to, Strategos Enterprises wisely makes use of our individual strengths – giving each member of our exploration team a focused role vital to the greater good. And with it, instantly from the start The Lost Expedition feels vastly more immersive than “just another dig.”

Scenic

The Lost Expedition carries explorers across three distinct scenic tones – each which further the flowing narrative while feeling distinctly different from the space before it. Perhaps most interestingly, not every member of the excavation team will get equal experiences in each scene.

Beginning in a cold, run-down bunker-esque control room, explorers are surrounded by antiquated technology. Wires and junction boxes connect to old monitors – none of which seem to be functioning, yet, anyway. Given their tired and battered appearance, we’re left to wonder if they’ll even power up anymore.

On the other side of a heavy metal barrier lies the first chamber of Dig-site 413. Held together by splintered wood and thick ropes, dripping with untouched mossy vines, it’s difficult not to question how long we have until the entire room caves in sealing our fate. Luckily (?) we don’t have much time to worry, thanks to a rapidly depleting fuel supply that’s already causing the crude temporary excavation lighting to flicker, occasionally leaving us in periods of darkness.

And then there’s the ancient legends that claim somewhere just past Dig-site 413 is a sacred stone chamber, etched into the very caves beneath the earth itself. If the stories are to be believed, it holds mystical powers that make it a must-find for the world’s best (remaining) excavation team – us!

Puzzles

The Lost Expedition begins as a split start game, with half of the excavation team manning the control bunker and the other half inside Dig-site 413 itself. Unlike other split start games we’ve seen before it, Steal and Escape does a masterful job at crafting experiences so distinctly different that they almost felt as though our overall team was actually playing two different escape games for a good portion of the experience.

Before entering Dig-site 413, each member of the excavation team is given a role that suits their strengths as a player – from cracking codes to searching for hidden secrets and more. Unbeknownst to them at the time, these roles will determine your starting position in The Lost Expedition.

Teams spend a longer-than-average amount of time split in this one – so be sure you’ve been paired with someone who compliments your strengths. Importantly, at no point did either half of our group ever feel like we were just standing around waiting for the other side to accomplish a task. To the contrary, The Lost Expedition artfully keeps both teams flowing at a steady pace through distinctly different sets of challenges in a way very few other escape games could dream of achieving.

Perhaps most interesting, The Lost Expedition abandons the tired, overdone and frankly drab trope of “you have just 60 minutes to…” This game isn’t about a time limit – and in fact, you won’t find a ticking countdown clock anywhere within. Instead, Steal and Escape redefines the genre by creating a completely story-driven concept of fuel-based survival.

Being trapped deep under ground in Dig-site 413 leaves us with only a finite amount of fuel – and how we ration it will determine whether or not we ever stand a chance of achieving the goal failed by both the first and second expeditions. Every action we take exhausts a specific amount of fuel – right down to what computers we leave running or even how many light bulbs are glowing. Simply put, leaving everything on is guaranteed failure. That’s not a spoiler – it’s just common sense. In order to ration our limited fuel effectively, we’ll have to use power only where we need it, when we need it – and figure out how to switch entire sectors off and on as we go.

That limited supply of fuel itself isn’t figurative – it’s very real – meaning if you don’t focus and have a steady hand, you can literally spill it and screw over your entire team, permanently. And keeping the generator powered is only the start of our troubles; every step along the way feels authentic, from hacking the control station’s computer to rewiring circuit panels to manning a functioning antique metal detector to hunt for the secrets we so desperately seek. The Lost Expedition’s stakes are so tangibly real that it’s impossible to not become instantly immersed within its world.

Overall

Steal and Escape is one of those venues that has long carried a buzz across the industry – and from it, whether you want to or not, you’re left wondering if that buzz will lead to an experience that matches its hype. The venue’s first game, Mysterious Stranger, is without a doubt among the best in the San Diego market, and certainly meets the hype garnered by its clever puzzle flow. But there’s meeting the hype and then there’s exceeding it.

The Lost Expedition surpasses every bit of hype we’ve long heard about Steal and Escape. It’s an interactive game-based attraction so unique that it’s easy to forget you’re “just in an escape game.” In fact, calling this one an escape game almost carries a pejorative connotation; The Lost Expedition is an active, real life adventure.

Southern California has long been a sort of enthusiast mecca for our industry – and in such powerful competition it can often prove even more daunting to deliver on an already hyped experience. But we’re here to tell you – Steal and Escape has staked a rightful claim to a spot atop that mountain among the most elite of company, and The Lost Expedition is not only their own crown jewel, but the hidden gem of the entire San Diego market.

 

Venue Details

Venue:  Steal and Escape

Location: National City, California

Number of Games: 3

GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:

Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 7 people

Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.

Cost: $32 per person (minimum 4)

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