The survival genre is one that’s never entirely worked for me. Life is already stressful enough, and playing a game built on the idea of stress, resource management, and, well, survival has never appealed to me in my off-hours. But Keen Games, the studio behind Portal Knights, let me watch roughly an hour of gameplay of its new survival game Enshrouded behind closed doors, and I came away excited about everything it’s doing to alleviate the stresses of the genre.
Keen Games describes Enshrouded as an open-world survival action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world drowned by a mysterious fog. You play as a unique person brought back to life by a powerful force called The Flame. From there, you are free to do as you please. Immediately, Enshrouded creative director Antony Christoulakis explained that the “survival” part of the game’s genre description doesn’t mean you instantly die if you don’t drink or eat enough food.
That kind of resource management doesn’t play into your survival outside of combat. That’s because the effects of food and drink tie back into combat and exploration. Water gives you endurance and stamina recharge, which allows you to, for example, chop wood longer before running out of energy, whereas wolf meat gives you constitution, making you tougher against the elements of the world. There aren’t water and food gauges threatening your character’s survival at all times – these are resources to tap into when heading into combat, where you’ll need all the endurance you can get, or when chopping trees and requiring more stamina. I like this shift in perspective on the survival genre.
Looking beyond the survival aspect, Enshrouded looks like what you’d expect out of a fantasy-action RPG. Combat looks manageable and fun, albeit somewhat easy (although I was watching a developer on the game play it, and they are presumably a master at playing their own game at this point). Christoulakis cites From Software’s Soulsborne games and Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as inspiration for Enshrouded’s combat but says it’s “not exactly like any of these.” Notably, Keen Games didn’t try to make it as challenging as a Soulsborne game, but parries, dodges, stuns, and more are all critical aspects of the action. There’s an entire skill page to morph your character into a warrior, ranger, mage, and more, but you aren’t locked to any one path. And these skills aren’t combat-specific either.
Outside of combat, a lot of what you do in Enshrouded is based on exploration – finding dungeons to conquer, traversing through the fog to discover more of the large map, and rebuilding the world using the remains of the past.
Building and crafting look deep but streamlined in an approachable way. There are many options for building your home, from pre-built staircases that can be added with just a click (if you have the resources needed) to individual bricks or stones. The building reminds me most of Fortnite’s easy-to-access but fun-to-master building.
Enshrouded is a big step away from Keen Games’ previous game, Portal Knights, but it’s one I’m looking forward to learning more about. While at first glance, it appears pretty standard fantasy action RPG fare, looking deeper reveals some interesting twists on the survival genre, a genre I typically avoid. And that a survival game has me interested in learning more is a significant accomplishment for Enshrouded. It’s due out via Steam Early Access sometime this year, and I look forward to seeing if Enshouded feels as fun to play as it looked.