Kenshi Preview – Hardcore Desert Survival

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Kenshi is the type of game that I can easily talk about to anyone, but I definitely can’t recommend it to everyone. Why is that, you ask? The game is insanely deep, challenging, and yet rewarding. For those who haven’t been following Kenshi’s development, the game is an open world tactical action RPG of sorts, putting you in the shoes of a DIY survivor in an Asian themed post apocalyptic world. Recently Kenshi got a huge update, their 0.50 release, which finally added music and sound into the game. This is what brought the game onto my radar, so I wanted to share my impressions on how the game plays.

At the very beginning of Kenshi, you get to choose your name, face, body type, hair, etc – the character customization is literally INSANE and filled with a crazy amount of options. I chose a modest height and build, and a shaved head, with my typical online alias – Schobeleth. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make with your character is what type of exposition you have – meaning what type of backstory your character has. This will greatly affect how easy or difficult your beginnings are.

After you make your character, you get dropped into the starter town, Skinner’s Roam. From here you can literally do anything, you can go and explore, pursue a life of crime, learn the art of the sword, build your own town, form a personal army, whatever tickles your fancy. One of the things that will probably deter people early on is how hardcore this game is – it’s really punishing and you can’t go willy nilly into the desert. There be sand ninjas out there. You have to consider your own character’s personal stats, on top of their equipment.

In Kenshi, each character you recruit can be leveled in each of their individual stats, giving you an insane amount of character development. Some potential recruits come with enhanced stats in certain areas, like if they’re an engineer or just a plain old sword for hire. Coming from this, you have to literally develop each individual character in any way you see fit, whether you want them to be a fighter, miner, researcher, trader, and so on. This is one of the reasons why Kenshi is such a painful game, because the more you invest in a particular character means it’s very frustrating when said character dies.

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Each character’s death feels like a real loss as you’ve literally made an investment in them. In Kenshi, it seems like no matter which origin story you pick will give you an advantage. Keeping this in mind, no matter what, you’re pretty much screwed if you try taking any of the seasoned bandits or ninjas head on. You have to think intelligently and plan out your next move carefully as an ambush could be waiting just over the next sand dune. It took me awhile to get the hang of how the world in Kenshi works, and because of that I’m even more invested in the game.

My goal was to start a small camp that would be self-sustaining and provide a source of income for my future world dominance. I tried countless times to get enough materials on my own and stake it out for a nearby plateau, only to be killed almost every time. You see, I was being stubborn and I kept trying to strap a ton of building materials and supplies to my single character, in an effort to prove that I could do it if I was careful enough. My efforts were not in vain, soon I built my small shack, a mine and a stone processing facility.

One of my biggest issues in doing this was finding enough building materials in nearby towns – each town has their own unique shopkeepers and each shop has its own unique inventory. Now that I had my small camp set up, my next goal was to recruit a bunch of hands to help me start to amass materials and resources. I took to the nearby towns and recruited seven other men, 4 swords for hire, a medic and two engineers. Did I mention you can customize how each recruit looks as well? It’s crazy to think you could make everyone be horrid little pale creatures, or nine foot tall monsters.

You can check out the version 0.50 update trailer below:

After I got my recruits I headed back to my camp and I started researching things. I soon realized my mistake – I built my camp in an area where bandits routinely travel through. Once you have shelter, you can shut and lock your doors, but thankfully Lo-Fi Games decided that wasn’t real enough and they made it possible for bandits to break your doors down. After having my group killed off a few times, I realized I needed to build walls, so I set priority to research wall tech. Once that was done, I realized I needed more building materials, and that I forgot to build a generator to power my stone processing plant.

Now I set out to get more building materials, only to find the nearby towns still haven’t received more supplies – so I set out for some even further towns. Generally, if you’re not carrying anything extra, you can always outrun bandits or ninjas. This is usually recommended unless you’ve been playing for a long time, as it takes a lot of training and good equipment to take on groups of bandits or sand ninjas. Eventually I got more building materials, and returned home. Since walls were a priority, I laid down the plans for my camp’s walls, and included a nice gate. Naturally, I didn’t plan out how much I needed, and I ended up short of building materials.

This is about where I stopped my current playthrough of Kenshi, as I literally had to stop myself tinkering with things and just generally exploring the world the developers at Lo-Fi Games have created, so I could write this preview. It’s a really fascinating take on the post apocalyptic genre, fusing in Asian themes (buildings, music, etc) and lots of awesome little details, like characters holding parts of their body that are injured. This is such an early build of the game and I can’t wait to see what the future updates will bring.

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Currently, Lo-Fi have several exciting things planned for Kenshi, like female characters (tons of breast customization is already in, but obviously doesn’t apply to men), an even bigger world with different biomes (currently all I’ve seen is desert), more audio, missions, faction diplomacy, alliances, stealth and stealing mechanics, hunger and thirst systems, and tons of other things that will make Kenshi the pinnacle of open world survival. It’s already so much fun, despite the small crashes and such, I still want to keep playing and keep trying to survive in the world of Kenshi.

If my preview has gotten you all riled up to try Kenshi out, there is a playable demo on indie database here, while the full game (including future updates) costs $20, and can be bought from their website here.

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.