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Bite Sized Reviews: Enshrouded Early Impressions
I’m getting 2021 vibes with this one. Remember early that year, when a certain Early Access survival game launched to massive acclaim? I think it was called Valheim. It exceeded expectations on all levels, even the developers were taken aback. So much so, that much of their roadmap was switched to bug fixing and optimisation. Three years later, the content updates have felt somewhat lacking.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Valheim, but I think we were all disappointed by the slow development. Still, I’d rather Valheim’s development was slow and working than rushed and terrible. Even in 2024, Valheim remains one of my favourite survival games.
In 2024, two big survival games stormed into Early Access last month. One is the incredibly successful, addictive Palworld, and the other is the dark fantasy game Enshrouded. As my title implies, I’ll be featuring Enshrouded. My Palworld ‘review’ is going to take a long time.
So, Enshrouded it is! After an incredible demo experience last year, developer and publisher Keen Games launched Enshrouded on the 24th January 2024. While there were some server issues at launch and the usual hiccups that can come with these games, it’s proving a major hit. So far, over one million copies have been sold, and ‘Very Positive’ reviews on Steam. Not bad, given the teething troubles. It is perhaps unfortunate that Enshrouded launched in the shadow of Palworld’s unprecedented success, but they are two very different games.
Boasting a large dark fantasy world to explore, impressive building mechanics, and challenging combat, there’s a lot to like about Enshrouded. Nearly all my experience with Enshrouded has been solo, which is not the optimal way to play this game. For my impressions review, I’ve put a dozen hours into the game over the last couple of weeks. While I haven’t scratched the surface of what Enshrouded has to offer, it’s more than enough time to get a feel for the mechanics. I focused on the game mechanics over story elements. Early Access makes reviewing games difficult, especially for story. As with all early access games, a lot can change between now and full release. While I’ve made a little progress in the story, I decided to focus on gameplay for now. Just so I’m transparent with my impressions.
Let’s begin with visuals. Enshrouded looks incredible. Sometimes we get some great looking games in the survival RPG genre, but Keen Games have overdone themselves. With their own custom house engine, Enshrouded boasts some gorgeous environments, and the open world map is gigantic. Starting off inside a cave, players must explore this perilous world from the ground up, uncovering the truth behind the Shroud and surviving at all costs. The Shroud mechanic feels a little like Dying Light’s virus thing: pushing through dangerous zones on a timer and optimizing routes to avoid the worst of it. While the story premise is relatively basic, Enshrouded’s world design makes up for it. Survival mechanics exist like food and stamina, but like Valheim, food and rest buffs these traits rather than full hunger mechanics. I’ve grown to prefer this survival mechanic over needing to eat to survive, as it’s not mandatory.
Combat feels fairly robust. Enemies are challenging, especially early game, and I learned quickly how to dodge attacks. Enemies hit hard in Enshrouded, so make sure you equip your character properly.
It’s worth going off the beaten path and exploring, because Enshrouded’s world design surprised me. Even in the starting area there are large expanses of territory to uncover, secrets and pieces of lore storytelling. This is revealed to the player in a progressive way, and I never felt like I was stumbling into it. With so much of the world being destructible for resources, I felt like I was really living in it. One big problem with game worlds is making them feel organic and lived in, and Enshrouded pulls off its game mechanics and world design together in a way few in its weight class can. This is one area Palworld can fall short: while I love that game’s exploration, it feels more like slapping several things together in an unnatural way.
(Slaps brain. No, focus on Enshrouded. Palworld later)
The other big thing for me was how Enshrouded approaches building. While similar games have building mechanics, they tend to favour set pieces like making a model from Lego blocks. This can have mixed results, but Enshrouded favours free building. You can make blocks from resources, then freely use them to craft what you want. I’m not very good with it yet, but the amount of creativity this change offers is enormous.
There is a downside with this freedom, and that’s placement. Enshrouded lacks some polish, and I found putting down foundations a serious headache. Too often I was building my house and accidentally clicking on the wrong location. It requires patience and a steady hand. I ran into a few more problems. Pathfinding and enemy AI feels rough. I often was able to cheese fights by putting myself behind a fence while my enemy ran into it repeatedly. With wolves, I stuck myself on high ground and shot them with spells or my bow, as it tried to hump the grass in a vain attempt to make me his next meal. It’s nothing game breaking but for a dark fantasy game that focuses on combat, I expected better. Some of the character animations also felt stiff, like jumping. It always felt like I was skipping a couple of heartbeats in between jumps.
Early Access means that Enshrouded has a long way to go, but there are great signs of a promising future. I love how it approaches worldbuilding and exploration, and the expansive building mechanics, if fine tuned, offers more freedom than many other games in the genre. Enshrouded can be picked up on Steam for £24.99/30$: a fair price for what’s already available. Provided Keen Games continues their strong start, and fixes some of the more glaring problems, Enshrouded has the potential to become the pinnacle of the fantasy survival genre.
A beautiful and vast open world with impressive graphics for its genre
Excellent freeform building mechanics to maximize player creativity
Solid lore and environmental storytelling combine with destructible terrain for resources
Competent, challenging combat
Competitive price tag for the present content
Enemy AI and Pathfinding feels poor and clunky
Early Access with a long way to go
Some stiff animations like jumping
While it can be played solo, progression will be much easier with friends, more of a co-op game
Despite the solid building, it needs fine tuning. You need a very steady hand while building.
Lacking some important QOL features like being able to use storage items for crafting and building
Somewhat lacking in customization, no difficulty settings yet