An endless wasteland as far as the eye can see. A desert devoid of water, but not life. All sorts of people make their home here from the humble wandering trader to the mighty knights of the Holy Empire. Those guys are alright, and don’t do you any harm if you treat them with respect. Some people want to beat you over the head with a stick and take all of your worldly possessions. Some want to go a bit further and take their pound of flesh… by literally taking a pound of your flesh. Most of the time you can run, but ultimately the only thing which can really define you as a person and not as a cannibal’s lunch is the katana hanging at your waist. Welcome to the post-apocalytic world of Kenshi.
Kenshi’s world appears to be a unique mix of influences in terms of setting and is the product of the one-man indie development studio, Lo-Fi Games. Imagine the world of Mad Max mixed in with the heroes from Seven Samurai, alongside the cannibal’s from Cloud Atlas, and you will have a pretty close approximation. There are clear Japanese influences on the aesthetics of some buildings and armour sets with more than a dash of wasteland scavenger-chic. There isn’t too much to the narrative other than what you yourself add to it, but further updates aim to add some dynamic quest elements and inter-faction interactions which extend beyond simply “Kill thy neighbour”. The quest implemented so far is to survive and prosper, which is in and of itself a powerful driving force for a player.
There are some fairly easy comparisons that one can make when trying to describe the world of Kenshi, with the most obvious one to place it next to the older Fallout games. This is somewhat accurate in terms of setting, but gameplay is a markedly different beast and more akin to the gameplay of the Mount and Blade series. In Kenshi, you can play as a lone wolf samurai, a group wandering the wilderness, or an entire town trying to eke out a living. The choices are all up to you and the responsibility for your individual characters and townships rests squarely on your shoulders.
The gameplay is an interesting hybrid of real-time strategy and role-playing mechanics. As previously mentioned, the player can control multiple characters by issuing a variety of orders and in turn these characters will gain skill in whatever activity they were employed in. The trading and town building aspects of the game are a little underwhelming in that long journeys across the dunes and construction projects means that you will spend a noticeable amount of time with little need for your input.
This might feel a bit like grinding in an MMO at times, but the rewards are all the more satisfying for the time that had to be put in. If, however, you’re the kind of person who needs constant stimulation then I’d recommend playing these sequences while listening to a podcast… such as our very own CC podcast *wink*. These sequences are quite often punctuated by random bandit, sand ninja, and cannibal attacks which liven up (or deaden down) things considerably.
This is definitely not a game for those players used to twitch-gameplay and instant gratification as everything is acquired slowly through effort. This translates even into the combat as the player is not directly involved in the conflict except to issue orders occasionally. The big factor in combat is the amount of preparation you put in beforehand, including how you train and equip your characters.
Having awesome swords and armour goes a long way in making sure the denizens of the wasteland don’t beat you down. Fortunately, even if you are beaten to a pulp you can still survive and will probably come back all the stronger for it as a key aspect of the gameplay is that your character will learn more from getting beaten than they would from just winning… after all, you generally learn more from losing than from winning. Assuming you survive, you’ll end better equipped with the knowledge you need to get your revenge.
It’s not all wonderful sunshine and slaughter for the game however, as there are several areas where it does fall short. The graphics are not exactly cutting edge, but there are still some impressive visuals you can experience as you travel the dunes. I personally found it quite breathtaking to zoom the camera out as the sun set across the dunes and watch the little specks that was my party as they travelled to the next town. The map is also largely sparse and underdeveloped, but the developer has indicated that they intend to compact it as well as create new environments beyond simply sandy desert.
The music, although fitting to the general feeling of an empty wasteland with haunting strings melodies (and wonderful work on the traditional Japanese Koto), does get a bit repetitive at times due largely to the limited track list. I also would have preferred to have something a little more fast-paced playing while I run away from cannibals… perhaps some yakety sax? Considering that the game is being developed by a very small team with plenty of heart, as well as ambition to do even more, I’m willing to look past these minor flaws. In all probability, so will you.
Big updates occur fairly regularly with new gameplay features and mechanics added in for the player to try out in their playthroughs of the game. Minor updates to fix bugs and rebalance aspects of gameplay come fairly frequently as the developer behind Kenshi works to insure that the game is both playable and fun at every stage. The community is active with their feedback as a result of this, and will no doubt help to create a better game for it. The list of features to still be implemented is long, but considering the track record of the game so far I have little doubt that the game will form up nicely as it develops and goes beyond its release.
Overall, this is a game which has great potential. I’ve already clocked up days playing this game in its current state and I look forward to trying the new features as they are rolled out. It’s amazing to see just how fleshed out this small indie title is in its alpha, while many recent RPGs by bigger studios (i.e more than one person) fail to bring any depth to their world. This is a game which I would heartily recommend to any gamer who enjoys careful and calculated progression which is only garnered through blood, sweat, and tears. As development continues, the game will get more expensive by the time it releases, so if this preview catches your interest; you should buy it sooner rather than later and support an awesome indie title.Related Articles for this post below: