Picture this; a game in which you start off a nobody with very little to your name. By doing whatever, whenever you want during the course of the game, you have to make something of yourself. That is Kenshi.
Now, I know you may argue that a bunch of games out there have the same or a similar theme. Correct, they do. But those games make you believe you are something from the beginning, show you the way to become great, or give you a direct, easy-to-use progression system in order to lead your character into becoming the great adventurer/hero. Kenshi does nothing of the sort. Kenshi is a game in which the default starting back story is that of a lone wanderer with 1000 money to your name and a iron club. That is all you get. Good luck!
There are some tutorials along the way in the form of help boxes to provide you key details on certain statuses or events, but nothing groundbreaking like lighting the path to certain victory over the world. This can undoubtedly be seen as the best or worst part. That opinion usually depends on how many times you’ve died thus far. So now that you know what I have been through, let’s start this journey from the beginning.
When you first start up, Kenshi’s game client doesn’t activate immediately. Instead you get a selection of options to go through. I really appreciated this selection window because I knew making the decisions here meant almost anything requiring a game client restart was in front of me and I wouldn’t spend ten minutes running through menus trying to find the correct settings I wanted to use before beginning the game. After you get finished with your initial selections, the game client boots up, and you are ready to start your new game. This is where the fun begins. After all, this game allows you to become a god, if you survive that long.
The character selection screen isn’t the next thing you see. Instead, you see a screen asking you what starting story you would like to have. I refer to this as the origin story for your character. There are more than a handful for you to select from and each has a difficulty associated with it. The default origin story is the lone wanderer but there are plenty more that can be less or more difficult. The two I played were the lone wanderer and the group of farmers leaving the holy nation, and both play drastically different. When you select your origin story you also get to customize your party ( I had 1 character as the loner and 6 as the farmers). The character selection isn’t affected by your choice of origin story. You can choose any race, subrace, and gender you like, then adjust your body, face, and hair. I really appreciated the freedom of customization when it came to my character. The typical skill based attributes (lock picking, stealth, strength, farming, ect…) are associated with each race and those impacts are always expected. However, I soon realized, even character selection had an impact in the game that I was not expecting, and I didn’t see the impact until I was in the game and traveling the world.
By the time I was ready to hop into the world and begin my journey, I had spent about 45 minutes just reading through each and every detail in regards to my origin story and character selection. But that’s just me. The graphics in the game look decent, this isn’t a AAA title and I would never want it to be one. The art and modeling is good for a world that is a vast post apocalyptic setting. All in all, the graphics reminded me of Diablo 2 with some modern twists and textures thrown in. Camera angle is a bit of a pain to play with – as the angle can be adjusted with your mouse but when navigating long distances the angle can cause you to click on a really tall tree or random object that just popped in front of the view. This can be very annoying when it happens at the worst time possible (this led to a few deaths). Once you get going, be prepared to die from just about anything that looks your way. You need to figure out how to to raise your stats with limited funds or cheesing the mechanics (once you figure them out).
Things New Players Should Know:
I found that it is difficult to identify what increases non-skill based mechanics. For instance: strength. I finally opened up the stats menu while reviewing my stats to discover that at the very end of what seemed like a general description was one sentence telling you how to raise the stat (carry heavy weapons or over encumber yourself and walk around). Well, duh that sounds simple enough. Wrong!! If you over encumber yourself and attempt to walk between cities, lets say to trade some goods, you will be found by any number of hostile entities and you won’t be able to outrun them. This led to more deaths than I care to list. You may want to cheese the mechanic by walking back and forth in town until you are as strong as you want. Stealth is similarly gained. Toughness is another – you will literally need to go get yourself KO’d over and over again to increase this state. Remember how I said anything looking at you could kill you? Yep, now go confront that and raise your toughness without dying. This is when the game becomes a “101 Ways to Die” situation.
While you level up your stats, you’ll begin to wonder how to get help if you’re all alone. Well, that’s easy! Just go to a tavern and hire some help. It only costs between 5000 and 6000 currency, so raise some money quick (hopefully, without dying). You get some hired help and head out, but wait! The average party size of common enemies is roughly between 15 to 20 and you only have 2. This is where I feel the game drags, because you can’t afford a lot in the beginning and so you wind up dying – A LOT.
Once you have enough people and are ready to make an outpost you will realize that it is easy to manage. However, be prepared to micro manage every character in your group. The building of the outpost is simple. It will remind you of most build style menus in which you learn how to build via research or blueprints and then you place your building. Just be sure to plan it out so that you make sure you have enough building materials to finish the building. Otherwise, you will be waiting to get the materials or you’ll have to trade for them.
Once you have an outpost going, things get dramatic. That’s when the bandits come and ask for protection money. But yeah – why not? Protection could be useful. Nope! Protection money doesn’t actually provide you with any protection when the next group shows up. It just buys the first group off no more, no less. Also, if you decide to get close to a city or an area passed through by troops in a nation, they will want taxes. Again, you get nothing in return for said taxes. Therefore, pay the money and keep your coffers full for the next group and hope you don’t run into a faction that just truly hates the person you select to speak on the behalf of your outpost (that got me killed once).
When it comes right down to it, I can honestly say that this game was fun and challenging at all times. It required a great deal of concentration. This is not a game that I will load up and goof off in – because it might force me to bang my head against my desk. Save often!!! The mechanics behind progression seem hard to figure out – at first, but can be simplified if you think about how you would train a specific skill in real life. The only true bug I found in the game was that sometimes NPCs would not load. That was easily fixed by saving and then importing the save from the main menu. Otherwise, I found no big glaring bugs in my short play time (16 hours is short for a sandbox game like this, especially since I died more times than I care to admit). If you enjoy a challenging game with stat progression mechanics directly set to reflect real life, then this game is worth your time. All in all, this game speaks directly to those that want to play a strategy game in an open world with multiple teams all playing against you.
Good luck to you wanderer!
Suggestions for the Developers:
As the developer I might add more to the tutorial menus so that the players understand how to improve each stat. The trade-off being that this will most likely lead to more cheesing the stats in town. I would also reduce the cost of low level mercenaries so they are more affordable in the beginning. In order to train stats like strength, maybe include some activities like breaking and hauling stone. This would be both useful with an outpost and provide progression of a vital stat. My favorite part of Kenshi are the origin stories, but I have a suggestion for an additional one – a recruit in the army of a nation. This would be a unique play through, and allow a character to be kept in the army to train, then break their oath, and run away to start a new life. Of course, you could also incorporate a bounty for desertion.