Retreat to Enen is a Super-Tough Survival Sim

Retreat to Enen breaks some of the conventions of the standard survival game formula and remains a compelling experience that's worth exploring.

Published: June 11, 2022 3:00 PM /

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Retreat to Enen Preview - cover

Survival games will test your skills at staying alive in the wilderness while fending off all sorts of enemies. Retreat to Enen is a new game that has little in the way of enemies to fight -- but it still has more than its fair share of hazards.

Retreat to Enen is a survival game set over 1,000 years in the future and the first commercial title on Steam from developer Head West. Humanity has nearly gone extinct and has made some serious changes to its culture, one of which is a rite of passage where young people must survive on an island alone. Now, it's your turn to embark on this perilous journey.

Retreat to Enen Preview - Meditation
Meditation is an important part of your time on the island of Enen, and the player is encouraged to join their character in breathing exercises.

Trouble in Paradise

At first glance, the island of Enen seems like a tropical paradise. Water and foliage seem abundant and there aren't any hostile animals in sight. The apparent lack of opposition does not mean that this will be an easy experience.

Many of the survival game trappings are there: a health bar, hunger, and thirst meters, and a temperature gauge. Unique to this game is a "Spirit" meter, a special bar that can only be recharged by meditating in designated locations.

The island of Enen is deceptively dangerous.

I began my adventure with the traditional first move of survival games: picking up sticks and stones on the ground. This is usually a precursor to getting bigger and better resources, but that's not the case in Retreat to Enen -- humanity has sworn off chopping down trees and ravishing the land for material wealth. That means the various bits and bobs you find on the ground are your only resources.

That's not to say you're dropped onto an island with a loincloth and a rock. You'll begin your adventure wearing a futuristic unitard and a high-tech wrist gadget that is part A.I. advisor, part mining device. There's no diving underground for massive veins of metal, but you can break up smaller rocks to get the basic things you need.

A player will likely drink some water, pick some fruit, and build a basic shelter, thinking that they have a good understanding of the game. This moment is where you'll likely make your first mistake: the island of Enen is deceptively dangerous.

Retreat to Enen Preview - Snake
It's easy to miss a snake concealed in some foliage; carelessly moving through the brush can bring a quick end to your island adventure.

Hidden Hazards

Some of the deadliest things in the wilderness are that which you can't see. I'm not talking about a bobcat concealed in some bushes, mind -- I'm talking about bacteria.

Carelessly drinking water or eating uncooked foods can make you sick. In the worst-case scenario, this will deplete your health bar to zero and you'll have to load from your latest save game. You can create medicines to cure these conditions fairly easily, but you won't know about it until you've actually crafted a cooking station -- and by then, it may be too late.

Biological hazards, dehydration, and malnutrition are your primary concerns, but they're not your only danger. The opening area of the game has snakes that can poison you if you get too close to them. The developer told me that later areas of the game will have their own unique hazards, such as a bitter cold that can only be combatted with proper equipment.

Retreat to Enen Preview - Cooking
Cooking is a more effective use of your resources -- and also the only way to cure the diseases you'll inevitably encounter.

Retreat to Enen Rewards Preparation

I played the Retreat to Enen demo for some four hours and change, finally completing the 2 days of gameplay after several attempts. I must have died somewhere around 20 times, but I now know that I could have prevented a lot of these problems.

What is unclear at this point is whether this is by design or the symptom of a pre-release demo. Knowing about healing items (and how important they are) in advance seems like the kind of survival training that someone would get before they're dropped on an island alone -- I'd hope that players are given a proper tutorial about the hazards of Enen, at least at some kind of basic level.

I encountered some other bits of jank, too. Storing items (at least in the early game) involved dropping them into baskets placed on the ground. Occasionally, two items would collide and one would fly off into the woods due to wonky physics, never to be seen again. I think, perhaps, that this part of the game could do with some fine-tuning.

That aside, I found my short time with Retreat to Enen to be an enjoyable survival experience that departs from many of the genre's norms while introducing some new challenges. The demo clearly lays the groundwork for more complex building, farming, and crafting systems. I'll certainly be looking forward to its launch later this year. This is something that fans of survival games should definitely keep an eye on.

TechRaptor previewed Retreat to Enen on Steam with a key provided by the publisher.

Previews you can trust: To ensure you're getting a fair, accurate, and informed review, our experienced team spends a significant amount of time on everything we preview. Read more about how we review games and products.


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A photograph of TechRaptor Senior Writer Robert N. Adams.
| Senior Writer

One of my earliest memories is playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I… More about Robert N