Core Gameplay (Combat, Action, etc)10.0/10
Story & Characters10.0/10
- The game world is fascinating. The various factions, what they're about, and how they came to be is interesting
- The mods available via Nexus or Steam Workshop are very useful and add to the game significantly
- The level of choice you have in terms of how to play the game is amazing. You can go to war, become a merchant, free slaves, ally with anyone, become a king...it's up to you.
- It is sort of a "build your own adventure", but that happens so organically it feels scripted sometimes
- The music is good, but subtle. It feels very appropriate for a post-apocalyptic wasteland
- The graphics aren't amazing. But the art style feels right for the game, so this is not a huge negative. There are also mods available to improve them a bit.
- Occasional crashes if you get too crazy installing mods. This is just part of the modding experience though. Same as with Skyrim.
- If you don't like difficult games, this might not be for you. It's very hard, especially starting out.
Kenshi is basically a game about survival and choice. It’s a true sandbox game, in that you can do pretty much whatever you want. You select a starting scenario, which sets you up with varying levels of money, friends, equipment, and locations. Then you’re dropped right into the world as a pathetic weakling at the mercy of Kenshi’s harsh environments and people.
The story isn’t on rails like other games; it’s completely player driven and your tale sort of weaves itself as you play. The world essentially has lore and structure that you become part of. The background is that you’re trying to make it in a world that has experienced at least one major apocalyptic event. The original devastation was probably based on a somewhat vague, ancient conflict between robots (called skeletons here) and humans. You’re left in the ruins of that once great civilization, with a few major factions to deal with like the Holy Nation, United Cities, and various other groups of bandits, outlaws, and creatures.
It’s a very tough game and world, but over time I found myself thinking about the history of my characters. I’d gained allies, experienced battles and adventures, and realized this all added up to it’s own story. Eventually, in my first play through, I built my own stronghold and destroyed one of the slaving factions after an all-out war. The complete flexibility has made me start the game over several times just to try something a bit different. Another great thing about the game is the built-in mod support through the Steam Workshop; if there’s an aspect you wish was a bit different, you can often find a mod that changes it. I basically sorted by “most popular of all time” and downloaded most of the first couple of pages.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, it’s a mouse and keyboard driven game, but I’ve been playing with a now-discontinued Steam Controller. You control characters by pointing them toward objects or people to have them interact (attack, steal, pick up, build, repair, bandage, etc), but you don’t actually press buttons during battles. There is still some micromanage if you prefer in terms of positioning and selecting which bandit to smack.
So, that’s the game in a nutshell. I’ve always loved sandbox-style games, and this is a really great one. It’s actually now my second-most played game of all time on Steam, behind only Skyrim. I’ve never played one quite like it. If the developer makes a sequel, or even just the base Kenshi game set in different worlds, I would 100% buy them.
Unlike a lot of the other games I’ve reviewed, Kenshi is only available on PC via Steam. I’ve included a CDKeys link from the “Go Check it Out” button. The Amazon link box has a few related things, but this one is pretty much a “buy Steam keys” or nothing situation.
From the Developer:
A free-roaming squad based RPG focusing on open-ended sandbox gameplay features rather than a linear story. Be a trader, a thief, a rebel, a warlord, an adventurer, a farmer, a slave, or just food for the cannibals.
Research new equipment and craft new gear. Purchase and upgrade your own buildings to use as safe fortified havens when things go bad, or use them to start up a business. Aid or oppose the various factions in the world while striving for the strength and wealth necessary to simply survive in the harsh desert. Train your men up from puny victims to master warriors. Carry your wounded squad mates to safety and get them all home alive.
- Freeform gameplay in a seamless game world in the largest single-player RPG world since Daggerfall, stretching over 870 square kilometers. The game will never seek to limit you or restrict your personal play style.
- Custom design as many characters as you want and build up a whole squad to fight for you. Characters will grow and become stronger with experience, not just in their stats but their appearance too.
- Original take on the RTS-RPG hybrid genre. No “hero” characters with artificially stronger stats than everybody else- Every character and NPC you meet is potentially an equal, and has a name, a life.
- You are not the chosen one. You’re not great and powerful. You don’t have more ‘hitpoints’ than everyone else. You are not the center of the universe, and you are not special. Unless you work for it.
- Build a base where you can research new technologies, upgrade your defences and craft new gear.
- Purchase and upgrade your own buildings to use as safe fortified havens when things go bad, or use them to start up a business.
- Variation and possibilities of gameplay. Be good, be evil, be a businessman, be a thief, live in a town, live in the desert, travel alone, travel in hordes, build a fortress, raze a city. Devote yourself to freeing slaves, or maybe end up a slave yourself.
- Dynamic, ever changing world. Support or hinder whoever you wish, or keep to yourself, the world won’t stop moving. This is not just a “game”, you are living and surviving in a simulated world.
- Get captured by cannibals and eaten alive, or sold off by slavers and forced to work in the mines. These are not scripted events, just a regular part of this chaotic world that ruins your life by chance. Anything can happen, yet anything can be overcome if you have the strength.
- Absolutely no Level-scaling. The world does not level up along with you, and the shops don’t change their inventory to only items matching your level. At the start of the game almost everyone will be stronger than you, and survival will always be a struggle. The game won’t hold your hand or help you when you’re down.
- Realistic medical system that affects gameplay. A character with a wounded leg will limp or crawl and slow the party down, wounded arms means you must use your sword one-handed or not at all. Severe injuries will result in amputees needing robotic limb replacements. Blood loss means you can pass out, and the blood will attract predators. A character’s stats are affected by equipment, encumbrance, blood loss, injuries and starvation.
- Intelligent AI that allows for characters to reason and work towards long-term goals and desires. Squads work together and carry their wounded to safety. Characters can be setup to take care of micromanagement for you and run production in your base.
- Aid or oppose the various factions in the world while striving for the strength and wealth necessary to simply survive in the harsh environment.
- Independently developed with no design influences, or alterations dictated by men in gray suits who have never played a game before in their lives.
- Original game world. There are no fantasy-knock-off cliches. No magic.
MINIMUM for Kenshi
GraphicsPixel shader 3.0 capable card
Disk space14 GB
GraphicsPixel shader 3.0 capable card
Disk space14 GB
SystemWindows 7 64-bit
4 Thoughts to “Kenshi”
I went back and forth about this review for Kenshi. The overall rating number is automatically generated based on how I rate the various categories. Now that I have a few game reviews down, there’s sort of a baseline I can use for comparison. After the initial draft, I paused to think about how the total score compared to some other favorites like Skyrim and Dragon’s Dogma.
I think it’s fair to say my favorite modern games of all time are probably Kenshi, Dragon Age, Dragon’s Dogma, Pillars of Eternity, and Skyrim. So, Kenshi had to have a comparable overall score. It’s just that good. The issue is that Kenshi’s graphics are not going to blow anyone away, and the music isn’t in your face (although it is good and feels quite appropriate for the game). I had to think about those things in context. So this was a tough one. But I’m satisfied now with how I’ve evaluated it.
[…] Kenshi […]
Well, it’s official. Kenshi just moved ahead of Skyrim into first place on my Steam “total hours played” list! I guess I love this game, eh?
I still find myself playing Kenshi all the time – despite the fact that there are other games that I want to play, I just can’t help but fire this one up when I sit at the computer.
One definite recommendation I have, especially for people who have played the base game already – check out the Kenshi Genesis mod. It’s a complete overhaul of the game, including tons of new content and animations. It’s honestly almost like a sequel or remaster! I highly recommend it, it’s a very impressive effort that makes the game completely fresh again.