Over the past few years, survival crafting games have grouped themselves into a few broad categories. There are hard core “realistic” survival games where you need to constantly attend to every bodily function. Foraging is slow and laborious, and if hunger, thirst, or cold don’t kill you, nature and monsters will. Then there are games like Enshrouded, which streamlines everything while adding in some action-RPG-style combat. Death comes for certain, but not because you forgot to eat an apple.
Developer Keen Games — the folks behind the popular Portal Knights — has pivoted pretty dramatically for Enshrouded. It’s an action-RPG, a Souls-lite if you will, because the combat is relatively approachable. At the same time, crafting allows the player to build expansive settlements and forge weapons, magic spells, and armor. In turn, these allow for safer exploration and fighting the open world’s monsters and other enemies. It’s a bit like Elden Ring’s crafting system taken to a more elaborate level, adding the ability to build a brand new Stormveil Castle. Well, that might be a bit ambitious.
Unlike many crafting games, you don’t need to saw laboriously to fell trees or stand idly over a berry bush. Gathering resources is a painless, quick click and there’s no worry about filling a bag with too many rocks or rabbit pelts. Cooking is streamlined and easy, too. I mentioned you don’t need food for survival, but you do need it to recover from combat or buff your character’s traits.
Built It and They Come
In the Souls games, NPCs are found at, or gradually make their way to, the player’s hub area. In Enshrouded, if you want a blacksmith to work his magic you need to build a forge at your home. After, of course, you’ve run into him in the world. It’s kind of logical, really. The same applies to all sorts of other NPCs like spell givers, combat trainers, and merchants. Enshrouded’s crafting system is an interplay of resource gathering, unlocking recipes, crafting, expanding your settlement, and repeating the loop.
Enshrouded is not a city builder or RTS, however, and all the crafting is in service of combat. You start with a simple torch but in no time will be wielding powerful melee, ranged, or magic weapons. Death means resurrection at a flame altar.
Not quite yet in early access, a time-limited demo is available on Steam and shows the promise of Enshrouded mechanics and style. It’s graphically not a cutting-edge, Unreal Engine 5 showcase but it has a pleasant, stylized art approach that in particular shows off the environments. There’s still quite a bit of optimization and bug-hunting in store, not to mention added content. My character got stuck in the scenery on more than one occasion, and the frame rate chugged to single digits here and there.
Enshrouded’s combat is perhaps on the easier end of the action-RPG spectrum, but that’s only based on a short experience. I don’t think the intention is to discourage the player with overly technical, rage-quit-inducing boss fights. Rather, combat is a more action-focused balance to crafting and building.
That balance is probably Enshrouded’s biggest selling point and opens its appeal to a couple of fan favorites. Action RPG-ers will come for the combat customization and exploration, while crafter/builders will find lots to do as well. The demo intrigued me and I look forward to dipping into the realm of Embervale again.