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Enshrouded

Enshrouded - Early Access

While much remains to be done, Keen Games' expansive adventure shows plenty of potential.

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Enshrouded is currently in Early Access, and this is based on the version that the developer is currently charging for. We will of course return as the game leaves Early Access with an updated verdict.

Almost every year, there is a new game in the survival genre that takes Steam users by storm. I remember games like Green Hell, Valheim and Conan Exiles, just to name a few. The latest addition is Palword, but Enshrouded has also stepped up to the plate and people have welcomed it with open arms, so I've set out on a quest for adventure in a broken world where survival is as important as ambition. Enshrouded is made by Keen Games and can be played on Steam; it will later be released for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

The first thing you notice when you start the game is that the style is very simple, but clean. You create your character, who must survive, and then you are thrown into the beautiful world of Embervale. The world has been destroyed after wars to provide humans with a magical elixir that gave them power and strength. They dug too deep underground for the potion, but ended up releasing a blue fog that began to take over the world. In response, "The Flameborn" was created, which is what you become when you wake up. It's all rather FromSoftware-inspired, implied and under-told. If you prefer the narrative style, you'll love this.

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Enshrouded
Enshrouded

After all this, you must then build and survive to the best of your ability and investigate the tragic history and downfall of Embervale. You'll find texts in various places that tell the history of the world, focusing in particular on what humanity did to avoid the magical fog that you can't stay in for too long. It's drip-by-drip storytelling, and the drips can be few and far between, depending on how adventurous you are.

In addition to drawing narrative inspiration from FromSoftware, Enshrouded has borrowed heavily from Link's latest adventure, and you can see this in both the way the story is told and the way the world is built. To me, it feels like Zelda with a lot of survival thrown in, but more on that later. Enshrouded has two aspects: the first is building and survival, the second is exploration and combat. Let's look at the survival part first.

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Like many other survival games, Enshrouded requires you to build a lot, mine a lot and generally survive in a world that seems empty and unforgiving. Embervale is in line with similar games in the genre, and first and foremost you need to gather resources, mine minerals and get food. There is nothing original here. If you've played similar games, you'll feel right at home here. You build around a flame, which you can upgrade to gain advantages such as more space to build and the ability to stay in the blue mist longer.

You have to build houses, beds and tools so you can gather resources faster, and so on. It works, don't get me wrong, but it's not very original either. The game tries to teach you how it all works, but there are gaps in the learning curve that led to frustration during my time with the game. For example, you have to find tradesmen who come up with plans for new equipment, and you first have to find a blacksmith. The game then asks you to make a forge for him, but forgets to tell you that you have to build around him or move him, otherwise he just stands there and if he's not sheltered, your building doesn't count as a forge. It took me far too long to guess this, and I think the developers could have been more precise in their description of the task. I experienced this lack of description several times, which annoyed me. Building itself is also a bit non-intuitive. You have to build everything from your character's angle, and if you're building a house, you have to build scaffolding and the like to place walls and roofs the way you want, and it just didn't work for me. I hope it will be made easier in the future.

Once you've built a lot, got weapons and equipment, you have to go out and discover. You don't really have a choice, because the professionals you need must be found in the open world. The same goes for more rare raw materials. Initially, it takes a long time to get around as you have to cover large distances, but very early on in the game you get access to a "glider" and a hook that can pull you up onto certain ledges. It's stolen from Zelda again and doesn't work as well as it does in the Zelda series. I found myself floating where I wasn't supposed to several times and the hook didn't do what I wanted it to. This is especially a problem since you can't stay in the blue mist for very long without dying, so you want to get out in a hurry when there's only a minute left, otherwise it ends tragically for your character. Enshrouded is in Early Access, sure, but such things have to be in order. It works okay for the most part, though, and there are definitely what you'd call "good bones". But the meat you find on those good bones is too unevenly distributed as it is right now.

And while we're at it, the battle system is also from Zelda, and you have stamina, as in that game, both when you hover and when you fight. This stamina is a hindrance, as you don't have much of it at the beginning and are therefore often killed, as you can't do anything but run away when it's empty. And you don't want to be killed, as you have to run a long way to get your stuff back, especially in the beginning. Fortunately, you keep your equipment and weapons when you die. The battle system is a kind of "Zelda-light" and you can't do many things at first. You can unlock abilities throughout the game, but it takes a very long time to level up to reach the top of the ability tree. So if you're an impatient player, Enshrouded is not optimal.

Enshrouded
Enshrouded

Enshrouded deserves some praise, though, because the world is beautiful and atmospheric, and you can tell it's all handmade. The sunrise over one of the many ruins you explore is magical, and the music is bombastic and grandiose when it's there. In addition, you can find weapons that vary from normal to legendary, as in various role-playing games. This means that you can get cool weapons without having to spend hours collecting silver, which is super cool and another thing Keen Games has been inspired by. The only originality in this game is the way other games' designs are borrowed and put together into a new whole that will be very recognisable to fans of both role-playing and survival games.

Enshrouded is an okay survival game that needs more time in the oven. It borrows heavily from other better games and tries to create a new, exciting whole. It just doesn't quite succeed, but there's potential here, so I'm looking forward to seeing what Keen Games does with Enshrouded over the next few months, because otherwise I think its popularity will quickly wane as people encounter the more heavy-handed game design choices that just aren't quite where they need to be yet.

Enshrouded
07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Really nice world full of atmosphere, solid music, excellent weapon system, lots of potential.
-
Almost everything has been seen before, clunky interface, poor combat system.
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