Enshrouded Early Access Review – Tree Punching With Magic

Enshrouded is a new survival crafting game heavily inspired by action RPGs. Here's our review to see if these ideas work well together.

Posted By | On 29th, Jan. 2024

Enshrouded Early Access Review – Tree Punching With Magic

When it comes to indie and early access titles, one of the most common genres you’ll see on just about any platform is the survival crafting game. Born from the influence of titles like Minecraft, Rust, Subnautica, and many others, survival crafting is an incredibly popular genre thanks to its emphasis on cooperation, teamwork, and the “me against the world”-styled gameplay you often have to deal with when trying to survive in the great outdoors. While there have been several survival crafting games, some going on to see incredible critical and commercial success, several others have been left to simply wallow in Steam’s Early Access program. Enshrouded is the latest survival crafting game, with the developer taking a stab at leaving its own mark on the genre.

There are a few core strings that tie just about every game in the genre together, ranging from aspects like freeform base-building, an emphasis on wilderness survival skills, dealing with things like hunger or thirst, and in some games, even having to get your hands on bespoke equipment to deal with different kinds of weather. With the exception of that last one, Enshrouded includes just about every feature from the genre you can think of, and adds its own unique flavor to this particular style of game.

"While there’s plenty of story to go around in Enshrouded, however, the quest themselves act more like guidelines for exploration."

A fresh playthrough of Enshrouded will be familiar to just about anyone that has even looked at a game like Minecraft. You’re going to be punching several trees and rocks in order to get some material that you can then use to craft proper tools to cut down trees and mine out rocks. Along the way, you’ll also have to figure out what kind of shelter you’ll be making, be it a simple hut made of four walls, a roof and a door, to something more elaborate, like maybe a castle. Typically the driving force behind survival crafting games tend to revolve around this single loop—get better equipment in order to find better raw materials, and along the way, survive against enemies and the elements. Within this simple loop, however, Enshrouded shows you what it’s really about.

In what is ostensibly a rarity for the genre, Enshrouded actually has a story that you can reasonably follow. Along with the use of environmental storytelling, the main plot of Enshrouded is told through an opening cutscene, notes and diaries you might find around the world, and most importantly of all, quests that you can follow. While there’s plenty of story to go around in Enshrouded, however, the quest themselves act more like guidelines for exploration. This is especially obvious with the earlier quests, which act as more of a tutorial, teaching you how you can unlock more crafting options by rescuing NPCs, and giving you hints for where you can go to get your hands on some early crafting materials.

When it comes to its base-building aspects, Enshrouded is a surprisingly stingy game. While base-building materials can be fairly basic and plentiful—especially if you’re using stone or wood—the cost for each individual part of your structure can get rather exorbitant. This means that, even if you devote enough wood and stone to create thousands of building blocks, the cost of a simple wall or even just flooring can easily eat up all of your wood and stone reserves. This is a bit of a shame, since the building mechanics themselves are quite intuitive, and base-building is an important part of the game.

enshrouded 2

"Enshrouded is a surprisingly stingy game."

Aside from the general survival and crafting trappings, the core feature of Enshrouded is its world, setting, and action-oriented gameplay. The world of Enshrouded is an interesting one—named Embervale, it is a fantasy setting that has come under siege by a mysterious magical force known only as the Shroud. This Shroud essentially acts as a signifier for which zones in the world are going to be more combat oriented, dangerous and inhospitable. Aside from the Shroud itself, there isn’t anything particularly unique about the setting of Enshrouded, and the game tends to lean pretty hard on its high-fantasy setting.

Throughout your time with Enshrouded, you’re going to be encouraged to set out into the wilds in the hunt for rare materials, NPCs to rescue, and bosses to fight. More often than not, this will mean going either into, or through a Shrouded area. This means that sooner rather than later, you’re going to find yourself going toe-to-toe against stronger and more powerful enemies. The combat system in Enshrouded isn’t particularly deep, with the most basic options being attacking or blocking. A player’s moveset does, however, get expanded quite a bit over time thanks to different skills that can be unlocked. An example of one such skill is the ability to essentially one-shot a standard enemy after having stunned them with a flurry of attacks or parrying at the right time.

Moving out of the realm of melee combat does expand combat options by quite a bit; there’s an entire magic system that revolves around what kind of wands and staves you’re able to find or craft, and there’s also the classic bow and arrow if you’re inclined to go for more of a ranger play style. Ultimately, however, the combat in Enshrouded never really gets too fancy, and more often than not, you’re going to be spamming your light attack against enemies, regardless of how deep you get into the game. Enemies also tend to have different weaknesses, both physical (slashing or blunt), and magical (elemental and status effects), and while they can be fun to exploit, outside of some of the game’s tougher enemies, they never really feel necessary.

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"The combat in Enshrouded never really gets too fancy"

It is worth noting, however, that the survival mechanics in Enshrouded do tie in quite nicely with the game’s combat. Rather than penalizing you for traveling and hunting on an empty stomach, the game instead provides buffs for eating right. This incentivizes finding and cooking the right kind of food. There are a lot of different types of food in Enshrouded, and experimentation is very much encouraged in this regard.

When it comes to survival crafting games, Enshrouded doesn’t really feel like it needs the Early Access label. While the game could certainly use some extra polish, especially when it comes to its combat and how much building things can end up costing. Otherwise, however, Enshrouded feels like it might be fairly close to completion. This ties in quite well with the studio’s own goal of leaving Early Access after around a year, indicating that the game only lacks content that you would find through post-game updates anyway, including planned new biomes and enemies.

As far as survival crafting games where you start off by punching trees go, Enshrouded is far from the most original one. Its emphasis on purely cooperative gameplay and combat, however, might put it in a closer league with games like Valheim, especially since it already has a fair bit of content, and epic boss fights that players can work towards finding and fighting. While its world feels like a fairly standard high-fantasy setting, the many stories Enshrouded tells through the use of its environments and different lore-related notes you can pick up do a lot to fill in the blanks of what might have been one of the more interesting fantasy worlds out there.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

Exploration and quest designed are tightly-knit; Quests do a great job of tutorializing the game; Intuitive building controls; The world is fun to explore.

THE BAD

Shallow combat; Building costs can be too high.

Final Verdict:
GOOD
While the genre itself is filled with games that are often too derivative of each other without a strong sense of identity, Enshrouded thankfully bucks that trend. Sure, it may not be doing anything new, but the game is able to expertly make use of tried-and-tested genre conventions, while also sprinkling in some combat oriented challenges for the action RPG fans out there.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.
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