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First Look: Enshrouded has the potential to be the next big thing in the survival genre
Legend of Valheim: Morrowind
Taking on the survival-adventure genre isn’t an easy task, especially when you invite direct comparisons to titles like Legend of Zelda and Valheim. But that’s precisely what developer Keen Games goes for, and, based on the eight hours I spent with Enshrouded, it surprisingly lives up to the hype.
Enshrouded is set in the aftermath of what was once a thriving kingdom. Now lost to a deadly mist, which spawns monsters and saps your energy, the land is a desolate ruin. As a survivor, it’s up to you to not just find others to help you on your quest, but to rebuild new settlements and homesteads to drive back the evil forces.
It’s all very familiar, and it’s very easy to point out where the references originate from. The stamina bar is from Zelda, the building a mixture between Valheim and ARK, and the world has its fair share of Ubisoft built in.
But familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing. Like a tasty gumbo, Enshrouded makes the most of its borrowed ingredients.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t even nearly the finished product. This is a demo of something that’s not even in Early Access. Factor that in, and Enshrouded feels even more impressive.
Granted, the first few weeks were a struggle, as the early build released for the Steam Next event had some terrible frame stuttering and drops. It wasn’t until two updates later that I found Enshrouded to be in a playable state.
But once things worked, I couldn’t put it down. The familiar gameplay loop is instantly addictive, and the colorful world just begs to be explored. It’s all very charming and lively, which is a marked difference from the dark “realism” that other survival games go for.
Now, not everything works perfectly, and some of the gameplay mechanics still feel underdeveloped. It’s immensely frustrating to first chop down trees and then still have to decide what kind of block material to turn them into. I just want to get the resources and get back to sculpting my next masterpiece!
Similarly, the snapping mechanics (though mighty impressive for this early on), are often finicky and I far too often found that walls were a level lower or higher than previous sets, simply because it was difficult to make out where the snap was supposed to happen.
But, again, this is a demo of an Early Access title still very much in development. The fact that I could not only build most of the things I wanted to, but to do so with relative ease is a sign of some great headway that Enshrouded has going for itself.
Once I got into the groove of things, I spent a fair few hours just building a little hamlet for myself. The limits of the demo are most apparent here, as much of the structures are locked away behind skills and supplies that just aren’t available yet. The world map has a big red border indicating the end of the playable area as well.
Those limitations never hindered my enjoyment. Instead, they had an air of nostalgia to them, something that I haven’t felt in years. Like with old demo discs, I wanted to make the most out of what I had because the gameplay itself was so addictive. Even with the time limit, I kept returning just so I could see if something I had just thought of was possible within the confines of the demo.
This included building a glider and scaling the highest peaks of the valley to see just how far I could fly. At another point, I descended deep into the misty depths of a random hole in the ground, only to be devoured by nightmare-inducing spiders somewhere above a lava pit.
At another point, I just built a tower to see how high up I could go before I hit the skybox. (The answer: ridiculously high).
Elsewhere, I discovered old farms, villages, and churches, each in different states of disrepair. My instinct to fix them up and rebuild flared up instantly, and I quickly found myself distracted from every main quest just to see if I could bring back even a modicum of the former glory these buildings once had.
It’s here that Enshrouded really shines, and what I think will make it stand out of the crowd in the best possible way. Because the world has a Tolkien-esque melancholy to it, there’s a constant sense that you’re actively making a change for the better. Whatever is left behind of the past world, you’re picking up and shaping into something new.
In other titles, the world often remains static. Your impact to it is minimal, and very much relegated to the bubble that is your play area. In Enshrouded, the entire concept revolves around rebuilding and planting the seeds of a better tomorrow. It’s a terrific notion, and if the developers follow through with their grand plans, it could mean that Enshrouded becomes my next addiction. A world building survival adventure where every action matters.
Enshrouded will be released on January 24th 2024. An early demo copy was provided for this article.