Kenshi is a game. That I'm sure about. Kenshi is a lot of things within a game. This is something else I'm sure about.
Kenshi feels like the amalgamated material of Mount & Blade, The Elder Scrolls, and several survival games all thrown in for good measure. This brutal game is a challenge from the start, either from possible starvation, bandit attacks, or sheer bad luck. While there are tooltips and some helpful guides along the way (it's always worth asking around), the game drops you in and sets you loose without much else.
Before being dropped into the world though, there are things to attend to. These include what kind of scenario you're playing, character customization, and advanced option tweaking (highly recommended) that can give you a slight edge in your early games. The scenarios change the overall framework of the game, subtly influencing your gameplay to be more RPG-like or more crafting/trading oriented. One even puts an interesting spin on a more RTS-like experience within the confines of this game. The customization is also a nice treat as it offers a large variety of options such as everything from character race to individual traits. On your group experiences, you're able to fully customize every member of your group. They still come out looking like poor and haggard bums when you first hit the dusty world, but the sheer variety is impressive.
Upon actually entering the game, you're free to do as you please. Granted, going around and thieving everything in sight is not the easiest thing to do, but it still at least gets you some quick footing in the world. You can go around towns looking for NPCs to discuss things with; most tend to ask if you want any help in the world for a ridiculous sum of money from your poor characters, but they at least they are willing to chat. Others offer wares, while even others will sometimes help fill in some of the knowledge gaps you may have. Like what to do next for yourself.
Once you set out, the game is an absolute playground. It literally has bullies just like the real world. I learned that the hard way when a group of about 10-12 bandits came upon my roving band of misfits and proceeded to beat the ever-loving crap out of us with sticks. Our sticks were no match for their sticks, but it was quite the fight. Fighting itself is largely based on your positioning, flanking, and maneuvering around when possible. During the fighting, it's also possible to set your characters into defensive or passive modes if you're looking to last a little longer or protect your weaker members. However, after my group was beaten unconscious, I led the bandits back to the small town I spawned in since I figured the guards would put a stop to that. It turns out there were no guards, and they proceeded to beat my splintered party unconscious again. While that occurred, I tried healing up my other party members and carrying the comatose members back to town...they beat all of them with sticks again. It was brutal.
My next attempts were more focused on building the world for myself. I tried my hand at stealing and bartering stolen goods, but it turns out shop owners can spot their town's goods, and guards do not like thieves. However, this is an excellent way to attempt to survive in the harsh landscape that I still had trouble understanding. With some more effort and practice, I learned a bit of how to work trading to gain some easy credits, but there's also the ability to farm your own food and scavenge the land for necessary resources before crafting them into items.
Kenshi is a lot of ideas thrown together. A lot. I'm interested to see what a final version might look like. While Chris Hunt, founder of Lo-Fi Games developed the game himself over the course of six years, the team grew upon the game's success on Steam Greenlight. With that said, even I found there may just be too much going on at once. Kenshi has quite a steep learning curve, but I know there are many willing to enjoy the kind of freedom featured in the game.
I'm still finding out new things here and there as I play and considering the large size of the map, I'm positive I'll continue to do so. My only concern is the noted steep learning curve: it was a bit of a turn off when I initially started the game. I was appreciative of the tool tips and small guidance points the game provided, but there's so much out there even then. Some will also find this to be an issue when starting the game up, but for those looking to play something a little like Mount & Blade set in a fantasy type world with an incredible challenge, Kenshi might be a great fit.
Note: The Kenshi review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.