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  • Writer's pictureGreg Ezell

Enshrouded Early Access Review

enshrouded logo

This game is an Early Access Enshrouded review, which will be referenced throughout this review. The final product could change. 

Survival games have never been my jam sandwich. I’ve always found a hunger and thirst mechanic to be needlessly boring and used as more of a barrier than a fun mechanic in this genre. Games like Ark Survival, Valheim and even Palworld implement the thirst/hunger mechanic a few hours in, I quickly lose interest. One thing I hate needing to do is keep myself alive. I already do that, and a few other bodies, in the real world - I don’t want to worry about it in video games either. 

The use of these mechanics had me worried about my time in Enshrouded, a game that dubs itself a “co-op survival action RPG” on its Steam storefront. If I were in charge of that description, I would flip it a bit. Enshrouded is a co-op action RPG with survival game elements. 

Embervale has lost. 

Years, decades, a millennia ago, your ancestors were so driven with power and glory that they unleashed the Shroud on the world - a festering plague that has infected both the world and its inhabitants. You’re resurrected as a Flameborne, one of the last embers of the flame to rid the world of the Shroud and help Embervale find peace once again. 

If you’re coming into this game looking for George RR Martin levels of writing, you won’t find it here. Enshrouded’s story isn’t meant to take your breath away at every turn - it is written to lay a foundation of what your goal is. You know your objective in this space, but how you go about that is completely up to you. Stories don’t need to be this incredibly deep experience, especially when you look at what Enshrouded is trying to accomplish with both the co-op and action RPG centric mechanics. This isn’t a knock against the story, either. I think it is perfectly fine for a game to say: “Hey, your overarching goal is to get rid of all this muck.” and just leave it at that. 

a man sitting by the fire
A beautifully crafted world

This story plays out in beautifully handcrafted landscapes that are not procedurally generated and while that may turn some gamers off, I think it is completely okay for Keen to develop a handcrafted experience. Procedurally generated content is fine, but I don’t think that’s worth doing in a map this large. Sure, you could procedurally generate some things like caves and tombs, but if the environment is so different from everything else in a handcrafted world, it would take your enjoyment out of these areas. 

Exploration is a big part of this game too. Enshrouded is the type of game where you have an objective and along the way find yourself getting lost chasing bread crumbs. As you’re headed to an ancient tomb to find a new awaken follower, you pass a tomb or village and take time to explore. This leads to a quest where you need to find a hidden cache and suddenly you’re an hour into a side quest where you haven’t touched your main objective. 

I dig the exploration in this game. I have found myself walking off the beaten path like an unsupervised toddler only to find weapon caches, caves full of flint stone or other mining materials or more side quests for me to discover. Enshrouded rewards the player for straying from the objective and that is a great thing. 

The map is pretty large as well. I’ve only played 10-11 hours and I feel like I have only opened about 20% of the map. Keen Games did come out and say that the Early Access build of this game was about half the map. 

The game touts itself as a survival game and I feel that is a little disingenuous. When you think of a survival game, most gamers will think about hunger and thirst mechanics. I’m incredibly happy to tell you that these mechanics are not in Enshrouded. Food and drink are still present in this game, but now they give you timed buffs. Drinking water will temporarily increase your max stamina while red mushrooms will give you a +1 to intelligence for one minute. Sitting down at a fire and cooking your food increases your buffs. Red Mushrooms, when grilled, now become a +2 intelligence. 

boss in enshrouded
Bosses are great looking

One fun survival mechanic is being enshrouded. When you’re covered in the Shroud, you become enshrouded and a timer begins to tick down at the top of the screen. There are ways to replenish your time in the Shroud and extend your time by upgrading your flame altar. If your enshrouded timer ticks to zero, you’ll perish and respawn at your flame altar. 

Where Enshrouded is closer to games like Grounded or Valheim is when you die and you drop all of your loot. Upon death, you’ll drop a tombstone where you can recover everything in your backpack. You’ll still be holding whatever is on your person/hot-bar. 

large skill  tree
An intersectional tree allows for multiple builds

Earlier, I touted Enshrouded as an action RPG and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this game had a lovely skill tree where you can invest in a multitude of different builds. The skill tree has three major areas: Strength (tank, barbarian, warrior, athlete), Intelligence (trickster, wizard, healer, battlemage) and Dex (survivor, beastmaster, ranger, assassin). When you level up, you can pour your skills into any tree and they intersect for some pretty interesting builds. Looking to make an athletic battlemage? Go for it. 

The center skills are good for all builds, so I’d recommend starting with those while you’re figuring out your build. Your builds aren’t permanent either as you can go to the major flame in your base and respec using runes which you get from breaking down weapons. 

Speaking of your base, you can build whatever your heart desires. The building mechanics are solid with varied sizes when it comes to the height/width of your house structures. Like most survival games, you’re allowed to build based on different materials scavenged through the world. 

guy overlooking a city
Building is well...constructed

Lastly, I want to touch on the co-op experience. I played on a server with 4 other people (5 total) and everything held up pretty well. We were able to run missions together or go off on our own to toddler and be left to our devices. Saves do not transfer over to your own server, but your character does. This means whatever you’re doing with your friends on another server is something you’ll have to do once again on your own. While this can be a pain, it makes sense given that everything is locally hosted on your machine. There is an option to purchase a dedicated server through GPortal, but during early access, all US dedicated servers have been purchased. 

Ultimately, I’ve really enjoyed my time in this game. Keen Games has said that their goal is to take Enshrouded out of Early Access within a year of EA release and I’m excited to see what the team puts together. The 10 hours I’ve spent running around, slaying Shrouded and built a sweet little megabase to call home. 

Enshrouded is currently on PC only with plans to release the full version on console as well. 

*This code for this game was supplied by the developer, but that does not influence my thoughts on the product.


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