Enshrouded Mixes Great Gameplay Into an Epic Adventure

Published: July 21, 2023 11:27 AM /


Enshrouded Hands-Off Preview - Cover Image Player Character Sitting Next to a Campfire Near a Ruined Tower

Open-world survival crafting games aren’t exactly uncommon in 2023, making it harder for newer releases to get noticed. Enshrouded is yet another entry in this crowded genre, aiming to carve out its own niche.

Isaac Todd and I both attended a hands-off preview session of Keen Games' sophomore title Enshrouded. After years of work on Portal Knights, this developer's second game is wildly ambitious -- and we're both impressed by what it aims to deliver. Read on to see our thoughts!

Enshrouded Hands-Off Preview - A Creature in the Fog
The fog itself is dangerous, but it's also home to deadly mutated creatures who will smack you silly in no time flat.

Enshrouded Learned Its Lesson from the Survival Game Greats

by Robert N. Adams

I went into the Enshrouded hands-off preview with very little knowledge of what it's all about. I wanted to get a genuine first impression of the game -- and what I saw has definitely impressed me.

Two key things stood out to me with Enshrouded: it subverts classic story tropes, and many of its gameplay mechanics are inspired by some of the most successful games in the survival and action genres.

Enshrouded is, at its heart, a post-apocalyptic game. The very phrase "post-apocalyptic" brings forth images of ruined modern cities, but this is one of the major ways it subverts expectations: it's set in a medieval age.

This philosophy of mixing in familiar, successful mechanics from other games extends to all aspects of Enshrouded. The movement and climbing systems looked pretty darn close to what we'd see in Tears of the Kingdom. And yes, there's a glider.

Yes, the world has nearly ended and humanity is on the brink, but there are no massive skyscrapers and high-tech cities to loot. Instead, a magical fog has taken over the land and you'll be rescuing people from the ruins of ancient temples.

What I found most interesting, though, was how Keen Games took lessons from other existing games and integrated some of their mechanics into Enshrouded. The food system is similar to Valheim's. You have to rescue crafter NPCs like you do in Terraria. The voxel-based building system -- with no structural integrity limits, mind -- reminds one of the free-form building of Minecraft.

Enshrouded Hands-Off Preview - A Peaceful Village with Crops
Everything in the world is made with voxels, allowing you a lot of freedom to build your base however you want -- or dismantle existing structures for supplies.

This philosophy of mixing in familiar, successful mechanics from other games extends to all aspects of Enshrouded. The movement and climbing systems looked pretty darn close to what we'd see in Tears of the Kingdom. And yes, there's a glider.

These gameplay mechanics are only a small part of the greater whole. One of the most interesting unique features is the deadly fog that blankets the lowest depths of the world known as Embervale.

I'm certain that I'll be playing Enshrouded as soon as I can get my hands on it.

You cannot survive in the fog unaided for more than a few minutes. As you might expect, some of the greatest challenges and most important loot lie within this malevolent mist. Fighting a tough enemy is difficult enough, but the time pressure of the fog makes combat seem much more thrilling.

The danger of the fog will only grow as you leave the starting area and head out to new biomes. Much of the future content is still in the planning stages, but we already saw hints of a deadlier "red fog" that will kill you instantly unless you properly upgrade your character.

The one thing that gives me mixed feelings is the building system. I like the freeform, voxel-based construction, but I'm a little sad at the idea of your base being a safe zone. While I'd miss the challenge of having to defend my base, I also like the idea of being able to build whatever I want without worrying about attacks.

That one small reservation aside, the hour or so of live gameplay I got to see was extremely promising. I'm certain that I'll be playing Enshrouded as soon as I can get my hands on it. And if you love survival games like I do, then Enshrouded is a game that you'll definitely want to keep on your radar.

Enshrouded Hands-Off Preview - Preparing to Fight a Big Angry Warrior
Some of the enemies are slightly... tougher than your standard foe. And also massive.

Enshrouded Does Familiar Things in the Best Way Possible

by Isaac Todd

Enshrouded takes place in Embervale, a harsh land filled with monsters and a deadly fog covering many regions. Early on in the preview, we were shown how dangerous the fog can be, with constant monster spawns and a short timer forcing you to explore quickly or die. 

Dungeons and encampments are full of both tough enemies and loot.

Combat seems to be simple enough, consisting of short combos, dodges, and parries. As you’d expect, it won't rival action-focused games, but it looked much snappier than something like Valheim.

The world is made up of a number of different biomes, with the preview gameplay starting in grassy plains. We also got a brief look at some more desolate areas, and the winding cave systems -- Embervale is a hollow world with plenty to see above and belowground.

Exploration is incentivized by side quests, many given by NPCs that can be saved in the world and added to buildings that you create. Dungeons and encampments are also full of both tough enemies and loot, with certain objectives giving skill points as a reward.

While we didn’t get a comprehensive look at the skill tree, it does seem to be one of the main ways long-term progression is handled in Enshrouded. The tree was divided into three sections, Warrior, Ranger, and Mage, with the center offering generally useful skills like reduced tool degradation.

Enshrouded Hands-Off Preview - Using the Grappling Hook
Enshrouded will have a lot of different options for getting around the world, including a very useful grappling hook.

Overall, exploring the world should be a challenging but not overly frustrating experience. However, it was building that felt like the star of the hands-off preview. Created structures are handled via voxels, blocks that can be freely placed in the world. 

Even in Enshrouded’s current pre-early access form, the building system already seems to be working flawlessly.

This system was demonstrated via the creation of a small room, seamlessly added onto an existing building without issue. Voxels could be placed individually, or via the use of premade blueprints for things like foundations or walls. 

Even in Enshrouded’s current pre-early access form, this system already seems to be working flawlessly. Players that like to get creative can place blocks and decorative elements manually to make the perfect buildings, while those that are more interested in exploring can still put something together in a few minutes.

Bases can be used to place NPCs to unlock new features like gear upgrades, or to grow crops needed for food. Food works similarly to Valheim, letting you consume three different meal types to gain stacking bonuses — said bonuses include health regeneration and bonus stat points.

Building also ties into exploration, as you can turn them into fast travel points. Unlike similar games, fast travel in Ensrouded seems very generous. You can use it at any time (aside from when in combat presumably) and there are very few limits on where bases can be placed. It was even confirmed that you can have bases in the sky, making for a safe place to return to after a day of exploring.

Based on everything we’ve seen so far, Enshrouded isn’t doing anything wildly different from other survival crafting games. Instead, it’s doing familiar things but in the best way possible — simple but responsive combat, rewarding exploration, and building that can satisfy all types of players.

From what we both saw, Enshrouded has created some interesting gameplay systems that should perk the ears up of fans of survival games and action games alike. You'll definitely want to check out Enshrouded if you're the type of person who has spent dozens of hours in Valheim and similar titles.

Enshrouded is expected to launch in Early Access sometime later in 2023. If this sounds like your kind of fun, you can add Enshrouded to your wishlist on Steam and check out the game's official website.


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