Enshrouded

Preview: Enshrouded

The action survival game is already in great shape

Open-world survival games are hit-and-miss for me. Partially because I just don’t have the same amount of free time to dedicate to them. I want to, but life gets in the way you know!?

But when something like Enshrouded comes along, my interest is always piqued. Not only does it bring in some aspects of the ARPG genre, it has also received pretty high praise on Steam even in its Early Access infancy.

This can also be an intimidating genre. It often takes quite some time for the actual systems to get going and for you as the player, to learn many of the deeper mechanics that keep it afloat. But in my experience with Enshrouded, the developers over at Keen Games have done a great job onboarding new players and not wasting any time getting you acclimated to their world. There’s not a whole lot of hand-holding or NPCs dishing out lore; this is a game that embraces a “choose your own adventure” style of play.

What is Enshrouded and How Does It Set Itself Apart?

As I mentioned above, you’ll be trying to survive in the world of Enshrouded. Beginning with a fairly basic character creator, you’re thrust into a game where you start with nothing but the clothes on your back and a can-do attitude!

It’s a setup we’ve seen before in countless gamesIt also shares familiar world-building tropes like the “world has ended” approach. But honestly, none of this bothered me because as you explore and play through Embervale, even in its early hours, you’ll likely witness some unique mechanics and ideas. First and foremost, the areas of the map that are Enshrouded. This is a mysterious Shroud substance that mimics a fungus that has taken over and warped people and creatures.

You are a Flameborn. Set out to make something of your own. You need to discover what and how Shroud has taken control of your world, fight through it to survive, and build up your base while hopefully having a chance to play with other friendly adventurers.

lRq9JwWThe combat is where I find Enshrouded truly sets itself apart. In the third-person perspective you get to fight off baddies in some ways depending on the weapons and skills you’ll acquire along the way. Even in the opening five or so hours, when I was still getting my feet wet, I had a handful of chances to play around with different techniques.

I mostly played with a controller and found the more straightforward controls and button prompts while fighting to be familiar and comfortable. I haven’t played every survival game out there, but even in Early Access I can safely say that this is some of the most satisfying combat I’ve experienced.

The Shroud is a dark place where you’ll find most enemies, but you’re also limited to how long you can stay in these areas. At first I didn’t enjoy this very much, I’m not a huge fan of forced timers in games. But the more I played, the more I realized it was a great way to encourage me to explore, loot, and prepare for my upcoming dive into the depths of a dangerous corner of the map.

Building Your Way

Building and crafting are a huge part of Enshrouded. Once you’ve gone through a makeshift tutorial of grabbing resources and creating a Flame Altar, you can build until your heart’s content!

You’ll build a lot in this game. Thankfully, it’s not overly complicated, and you’ll soon discover quite a few new items to craft and materials to use. There are dozens of pre-made shapes and structures to erect buildings and protection from enemies from the get-go. This provides a UI that works for both controller and mouse and keyboard support; though I did find navigating most of the game’s menus easier with a mouse.

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Often, I found myself stumbling upon new materials and areas that offered even more for me to create and customize back at my base. This is a feeling I love in survival games. Sure, some guidance is excellent, and often I find it necessary for new players. Still, after about a dozen hours, I was in a groove, and I managed to make some genuinely satisfying structures and feel like I accomplished a great deal.

Exploring Enshrouded Brings Some Wonderful Surprises

Any game in this genre will encourage you to explore; it’s necessary to upgrade items, repair equipment, gather resources, and find new and exciting areas and weapons. Enshrouded has this in spades.

I found the opening regions relatively familiar and not all that exciting as I traversed through mountainsides, chopped down trees, and picked mushrooms for resources. However, that will likely change within a few short hours, as new and varied biomes will be uncovered. Dunes, caves, and dungeons are all waiting for you, and the developers say there’s even more to come. Including water, which is a feature many players have been looking for.

How you get around can also be a blast. I quickly realized there was a way to craft a grappling hook and a glider. Those became my two goals, and when I eventually got them, it was very fun and rewarding! Traversal on the ground or in the skies is limited by a stamina meter; however, a mechanic that felt a touch too limiting until I upgraded some skills.

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No matter where you find yourself, Enshrouded wants you to create your own story and adventure. This might work for some people and may feel lacklustre for others. With no real overarching or obvious narrative outside of some texts to read (so far), playing with friends is the most enjoyable way to craft your experience and world.

While teaming up with others is easy to do, not everyone can. So, on one hand, this is a positive, but on the other, I think a little more direction or clear-cut storytelling might be needed for some players.

Solo or with a friend, stumbling upon some caves to mine or even epic boss fights is a lot of fun! Getting to these areas can sometimes feel tedious, especially early on, but the reward is often some fun loot and a solid sense of accomplishment.

The game also looks great. It strikes a dark and cartoonish art style, with some great lighting and countless areas that look vastly different from one another. I did encounter some slowdown while playing, however. I’m unsure if it was game or connection related, but it also didn’t hinder my experience and resolved itself independently after a few moments.

Enshrouded Is Just Getting Started

Keen Games recently laid out a huge plan for the rest of 2024 with a Roadmap that will lead to a 1.0 release sometime in 2025. This announcement was made while I finalized writing my thoughts on my time with the game, and it was a welcome surprise. Some of my issues with the game seem to be on the table for improvement.

The main issue I’ve had (mainly playing with a controller), is the UI and menu system. I found it very clunky and time-consuming to open up a giant page to access many of my items and swap my hotkeys at the bottom of the screen. It’s extra cumbersome when I know what I want and I wish I could’ve pulled up a wheel or drop-down menu to get the job done quickly. I spent far too much time in a full-screen menu system instead of intuitively interacting with the world around me.

As a part of these upcoming updates, Enshrouded will include improved loot UI and customizable location markers for your map. These will likely evolve as well, but I look forward to utilizing them as soon as they’re available.

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Should You Play Enshrouded?

In a quick answer: yes!

But only if you’re willing to stick with a title that hasn’t quite reached its potential. That path is now being laid out and appears to address many of my issues, so maybe it’s not all that bad.

In the end, Enshrouded may be in Early Access, but it already feels like it’s close to becoming one of the better-looking and playing survival games out there. I spent most of my time with the game solo, but the few hours I did spend with a friend of mine were by far the most funIt’s a game worth checking out if you have the time to invest in a survival game like this.