Kenshi - Mount and Blade review for Gothic fans

Author: Mushroom
Date: 2018-12-12 12:00:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Kenshi is a production as huge as the biblical Leviathan. In its basic assumptions, it is a combination of an RPG with a real-time strategy, in addition to survival elements. The associations with Mount and Blade are most appropriate , although Kenshi is kept in different, Far Eastern climates.

The work of Lo-Fi Games studio differs one more from its spiritual father - the level of complexity and scale of Kenshi exceeds Mount and Blade in every aspect . Unfortunately, this is not necessarily an advantage. It is clear that during the 12 years of production, the creators tried hard to meet their excessive ambitions. They were as big as the Leviathan and eventually devoured the developers with their game.

We received a title so huge that it is difficult to find a place in it. Its potential and the number of possibilities offered are only surpassed by the number of wounds and shortcomings, which sometimes make it almost impossible to play comfortably. True hardcore fans will love this world and will soak in it for very long hours, but the rest will bounce off of it.

A humble start to a great adventure

Let's start with what's good about Kenshi . And we have a lot of good here. As a standard, we are welcomed by the character creation screen, where we decide on the appearance and origin of our hero. There are a lot of modification options and with the right amount of patience, we can carve any avatar . For example, I managed to create the most upright man in the world, which had a rather disturbing effect. However, I must admit that I have never had a special talent for handling character creators. We also decide on the race (there are four to choose from) and the origin of our protagonist, which has a direct impact on the conditions in which we start the game.

Depending on what story background we choose for our character, we start playing in different places of the world and with different objects. It is even possible to start it not alone, but with a ready-made team of daredevils, thanks to which from the beginning we have a chance to focus on setting up a settlement and more strategic aspects of the game.

Indirectly, the choice of the initial scenario also affects the degree of difficulty, because in some cases we get more money at the start or we have better relations with a specific faction. However, the determination of the level of the challenge does not end there, because in the later stages of the game the game world turns out to be equally merciless for everyone - no matter if we started as a rich merchant or a poor wanderer . Nevertheless, it is worth considering the identity and past of our protagonist, because this decision translates into the beginning of our character's story.

A new, wonderful world

After making all the initial choices, which, contrary to appearances, does not take so long, we find ourselves in the world of Kenshi . This one is really huge and I must admit that I didn't realize it at first. After we land on the map, no one tells us what to do. The beginning of the game does not involve any dramatic events. No mysterious order tries to hurt our loved ones, no fire-breathing dragons fly in the sky, and no one even mentions ancient prophecies or a chosen one who is to save the globe.

Instead, we end up in the street of one of the nearby towns, most often with only a few gold coins with us, and absolutely no one cares what we do with ourselves. The first moments in Kenshi are a bit like getting off the train in a completely new city - accompanied by a slight feeling of confusion and the question of what to do next.

The first impression is therefore quite unusual and I assume it may even reject players who are used to clearly defined game goals. However, I liked this freedom and decided to take advantage of it. In a nearby copper mine, I made some money, bought basic weapons, armor and a backpack, and then went out into the world. I had no destination or route, I was just looking for interesting places. It was then that I was struck by the enormity of Lo-Fi Games' production for the first time.

I covered a distance approximately equal to the length of the entire map for three days (!), With at least four hours playing solidly every day. Of course it was not a speedrun, I was in no hurry and I had many adventures along the way. Several times I lost a lot of time trying to get out of areas that definitely shouldn't be entered by a character with my level, and I've stopped in virtually every major city to replenish my supplies. Discovering new areas and getting to know the factions inhabiting them, I slowly absorbed the world of Kenshi . Before I decided to settle down somewhere permanently, I had a really atmospheric journey, full of interesting stories that basically wrote themselves , because I did not accept a single quest along the way.

Lots of possibilities

In fact, I didn't feel like giving up wandering at all. I wanted to go north, maybe take a drag somewhere, or organize my own band of nomads. However, I knew that the game also offers completely different styles of fun, and to get to know them, it is worth settling down somewhere. During my travels, I found one convenient place where I decided to come back and establish a settlement there. Here Kenshi has once again revealed its scale. Nothing stood in the way of traveling the world alone, playing in the style of a classic solo RPG. However, since I decided to build the base, I received a full-fledged economic strategy.

Building a self-sufficient settlement is not an easy task at all and apart from choosing the right place, I also had to hire people who had useful skills . New crew members must of course have regular access to food, which in turn means that I needed a steady supply of cash.

In order to systematically earn money, I delegated some of my people to work in the extraction and sale of raw materials. As you can see, a series of dependency chains, so characteristic of typical economic games, quickly appeared. All this is additionally complicated by the fact that each of the hired companions is a full-fledged character described with the same set of statistics as the hero we created . Thanks to this, we become attached to the members of our team and the loss of someone experienced turns out to be really painful. On the other hand, over time, we have to take care of the development of not one, but several, or even a dozen or so characters at the same time.

Much is not always good

Establishing your own settlement is also just the beginning of a new adventure. With time, we may have so many people that it becomes possible to take over cities and even conquer entire lands. Importantly, the game world reacts dynamically to our actions - people taken captive will want to escape from it, and enemy factions will try to recapture the cities we have captured . On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent you from giving up your fighter and taking up trade or the peaceful development of the city, because Kenshi also offers such styles of play.

So it may seem that the production of Lo-Fi Games is a perfect sandbox, creating almost endless possibilities. Unfortunately, such a large amount of content also has negative effects, and they are very bothersome in Kenshi . I will skip the initial confusion or the fact that we often have to cover extremely long distances, which takes a long time. The problem is that everything takes a long time in this game.

No matter what style of gameplay we choose, long hours will pass before we have even basic skills. I set up my first settlement after about 15 hours of fun , and I think I could spend as much on exploring the map as I wouldn't be fully ready to settle somewhere yet. The creators claim that they wanted to increase the realism in the game, in a way reflecting the hardships of real life.

For some, it may be an advantage, but for me, watching my character swing his pickaxe for 15 minutes to earn some peanuts, I was just bored . I understand the idea, but Kenshi is just a game, and such a sluggish pace of the game may reject it, especially since many activities are tedious and repetitive.

This is one of the many factors that make the entry threshold really high for Lo-Fi Games. I absolutely cannot imagine that a casual Sunday player is able to enjoy Kenshi . This is a hardcore title and I'm not talking about the high level of difficulty. We have to find ourselves in this huge open world, and the game does not make it easier for us.

Beautiful psychedelia

Despite all these complaints, however, I must admit that in the archaic Kenshi setting there is a certain charm and an amazing atmosphere. Looking at the angular and constantly reading surroundings, I understood what I had been missing for years - that surrealism that I remember from such classics as Giants: Citizen Kabuto or the now forgotten Sacrifice from 2000.

Traveling through various biomes, I stopped once in a while to watch strange, gigantic structures looming in the distance. Even the atmosphere of the post-apocalypse has its own unique character, thanks to its integration into the Far Eastern setting. I can reassure those who are allergic to manga, the game is not intrusively stylized as a comic book from the Land of the Rising Sun. On the other hand, the presented world could easily be born in the crazy dreams of Japanese artists.

If there is not enough of Kenshi , it is music. Most of the time, the speakers come mainly with background noise, not melodies. These pieces, which break the silence from time to time, blend in perfectly with the visual layer. The noises themselves are just correct. They do not interfere with the gameplay in any way, but they also do not impress - they simply are.