Set in a brutal, harsh world that doesn’t hold your hand, Kenshi is an ambitious open world squad-based RPG that gives you a lot of freedom to do whatever you want. Now it’s out of Early Access how does it hold up?
Kenshi makes it clear from the very start that your character isn’t a chosen one like in a typical RPG story, you are simply a person in the world, just like everyone else. You are weak and the vast majority of people and other creatures in the world have better skills and are likely to kill you in a fight. Step outside of the start town and wander too far and you’ll likely witness this firsthand, the game doesn’t take it easy on you.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what genre Kenshi is as it has elements from role-playing games, real time strategy and survival which you can engage with if you want to. You could choose to play as an honourable swordsman saving folk from the evils of the wilderness, form a squad and venture out into the unknown or alternatively you could gather a huge amount of people and create an autonomous settlement of your own.
You really do have a lot of options when it comes to a pure “ways to play” quotient, but the absolute freeform nature of things might be off-putting to some. But there is very little else that offers this level of freedom out there like Kenshi right now.
The world of Kenshi is harsh and unforgiving, dropping you into the game after a pretty comprehensive set of character creation screens with nothing but rags. The game doesn’t hold your hand at all although it does have a comprehensive set of in-game tutorials and notes so you can figure out how all the systems work. It is however totally up to you what you do right from the start.
Do you want to steal everything that isn’t nailed down to sell elsewhere to get some starting capital or do you start making an honest living by gathering resources like iron and copper ore and selling them in town? Do you start towards researching stuff so you can increase your chance of survival? Do you buy a run down building in town to make your home or build something out in the wilds?
None of these is a right or wrong choice (although I’d highly recommend you hit something with a stick for a while so you stand a chance of survival if ambushed) and it’s a testament to the thought that has gone into the game that you aren’t pigeonholed into a specific course of action. Important to note is that the world is constantly in motion, factions clash, bandits raid and people die around you whether you are doing anything or not, you are not important to this world until you make an impact through your choices.
When you do want to build something, whether a hovel to call home or an entire walled in settlement, you can do this almost anywhere. There is a prospecting system so you can see how resource rich the area is as well as how fertile it is for farming. Each area in the game has a unique look and feel, from the strange but relatively safe Leviathan Coast to the north to the eerie and bandit-filled Swamp. Each containing various factions and unique elements making choosing a spot a pretty big decision.
Visually the game is an acquired taste, it certainly has a unique post-apocalyptic look. Saying that though it’s hard to say that it is a nice game to look at, it often looks muddy and indistinct whether zoomed in or out. But a lot of effort has gone into making each area of the world look interesting with distinct assets and creature designs making exploration a joy.
Technically the game has a few issues, initial load times can be extremely long when running from a hard drive, these are sped up considerably on an SSD. This aspect affects gameplay when exploring too as the game periodically stops to load areas in from disk. These pauses are pretty distracting and whilst better on an SSD are still intrusive. Hopefully this can be improved via updates but as it stands it’s worth noting as a potential issue.
Kenshi is a deep, ambitious and complex game that if it grabs you could easily take all of your free time, the myriad of ways to approach and play it along with the fascinating world that has been created here mean it could last an awfully long time. It’s definitely an acquired taste but it’s one of the most interesting games I’ve played in a long time.
Kenshi (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
An intriguing RPG/Survival hybrid sandbox that invites you to experiment in the world it presents. Some technical hiccups interrupt the open world and the freeform nature definitely isn’t for everyone but if you are after something different, Kenshi is the very definition of that.