Enshrouded Early Access Review

So you're an undead hero using the power of the flame to save the world?

by Davi Braid
Image: Keen Games

Enshrouded is an open-world, voxel-based survival game developed by Keen Games. The game is set in the post-apocalyptic medieval world of Embervale, but is it good? How is it different from other survival games?

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Haven’t I Seen This Before?

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The world has been consumed and corrupted by a mystic, deadly fog called the Shroud. You’re a Flameborn, a hero neither dead nor alive who’s the world’s last hope. Does it sound like Dark Souls? Well, I can’t help but compare. Truth be told, there aren’t many apocalyptic games out there in which you play as an undying hero in an apocalyptic medieval fantasy world. That said, how original is Enshrouded?

Haven’t I Played This Before?

Enshrouded plays pretty much like most survival games, although it feels less annoying and punishing. You start with nothing and walk around to gather rocks and twigs that you’ll use to make tools, build your base, and craft structures that will help you make even better tools. It’s the same process you’ve seen in pretty much every game in the genre. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you aren’t a fan of the survival genre’s core mechanics, then don’t expect Enshrouded to resonate with you either.

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The same goes for the combat, adopting typical survival mechanics for duking it out with enemies. Press a button to attack, another to dodge, and another one to block. Learn the enemy’s pattern, dodge at the right time, and hit the block button right when the enemy’s attack is about to hit you to parry their attack. Again, there’s nothing new or particularly noteworthy here that makes Enshrouded stand out from the survival crowd, but it works.

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If I’m to be completely honest, at times, it feels like I’m playing Valheim with a Dark Souls-inspired mod and some Zelda tools. Enshrouded looks good and provides players with tools such as a glider that turns your character into a flying squirrel and a grappling hook that feels like it belongs to Link and I very much welcome those additions, but they don’t ever feel enough to make Enshrouded feel significantly distinct.

The biggest unique element of the game is the Shroud. Originating deep underground, it’s bursting through and slowly but surely taking over the world. Everything within the Shroud is corrupted, deadly, and dangerous. You’ll often have to go enter the Shroud to complete quests and gather materials that you use for better gear, but you have to always be aware of how far you are from a place above.

As soon as your character is touched by the Shroud, you’ll see a 5-minute timer on the top of the screen. One more second and your character dies, but if you leave the Shroud, even for a split second, the timer resets. This is yet another mechanic that is not necessarily innovative or elegant, but at least it fits the narrative and state of Embervale.

Although much safer, higher grounds are still not entirely unscathed. Even the tops of green mountains that are far above the corrupted lands sometimes often have small areas that have been claimed by the Shroud. These are not very relevant, but they work well as environmental storytelling. You are safe for now, but the world will be taken eventually.

Where Enshrouded Shines

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Enshrouded has a voxel-based world. That’s one element that makes it much better than Valheim in many ways. You can pretty much craft, destroy, or level almost any area of the world as long as you have the tools to do so. In this aspect, the world is amazingly detailed and functional. Mining in this game changes the world, similar to what you’d see happening in Minecraft. When hitting walls or the ground with your pick axe, you will destroy that area of the map, creating a hole in the ground or the side of a hill. You can even use this feature to create paths and hideouts and reshape the surroundings of your base. This is likely to be a big plus for those who love to spend hours perfecting their ideal base. Fancy carving yours into the side of a mountain? Be Enshrouded’s guest. Underground bunker, anyone? It’s all possible here.

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The Skill Tree in Enshrouded does a great job of allowing you to really fine-tune and customize the playstyle of your character. There are many different branches, each for a different class, which also connect into other classes making a huge interconnected circle. Each skill unlocks new skills and paths that can branch into another class. Few things in this game are as exciting as figuring out a way to build your character and take advantage of the synergy that can be created by using the skills of different classes, and I can’t wait to see some of the creative builds the community conjures up once they level their characters up.

For instance, I started playing the game as a tank and unlocked an ability called Evasion Attack. It allows a Tank to deal more damage by dashing toward an enemy and attacking right after. The best part about the system is that Evasion Attack was two steps away from the Battlemage’s Blink ability, which turns your dodge roll into a short teleport. So, after unlocking Blink, I became a tanky warrior who could dash up close to them, deal a chunk of damage, and teleport back to safety. And this is just one small example of the many things that you can do.

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Something that resonated with me, but could be quite divisive among fans of the survival genre was Enshrouded’s focus on making some of those typically-survival mechanics feel like of a time sink. Although some tasks related to survival and crafting can feel like a chore — and they should do, this is a survival game, after all — they never overstay their welcome in Enshrouded. I never had to spend way too much time farming items, gathering materials, or hunting, thanks to the way the game solves some of the tedious elements of these mechanics from elsewhere in the genre.

Your character doesn’t die from hunger in Shrouded. Instead, food provides bonuses like increased health or stamina regeneration that you’ll need at all times. Places that can be mined are usually marked on your map, and the materials cost of items is never high enough to make you feel like you’ve been chopping trees, digging, or hunting for way too long.

You can also use the glider and grappling hook to move faster toward a place with the materials you want, and because these respawn after a set amount of time, you’ll quickly learn where to head to, cutting down some of the guesswork from other titles. You can also fast-travel from anywhere whenever you want, except when in the Shroud, to one of your bases, saving you a lot of time when gathering materials.

All of this comes together to make base-building, exploration, and foraging a far more enjoyable experience and one that doesn’t feel like a constant grind or time sink for the sake of bloating my time spent in the game world.

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The Verdict

I’m having fun playing Enshrouded. The more you play, the easier it becomes to see what it is that this game brings to the genre. Unfortunately, many of the pros of the game are often easy to ignore when you’re surrounded by survival clichés. Ultimately, Enshrouded is a functional, fun game with a few unique elements like its Skill Tree system, but during my time with it so far, it’s failed to wow me. Even though I can appreciate Enshrouded, I also can’t shake that constant déjà-vu while I’m progressing through its campaign.

If you like survival games, I’m sure you will enjoy your time with Enshrouded but don’t go in expecting to see something that will blow your mind. This is a fun game to play, but it struggles to stand out as unique. It combines fun elements from different games, has a functional combat system, and looks pretty good. Even though it may not offer anything groundbreaking, you’ll likely enjoy Enshrouded if you’re a fan of survival games.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

- This article was updated on February 1st, 2024

About The Author

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Davi Braid is a devoted writer and gamer who's immersed in the world of interactive storytelling. Having worked in office jobs, he took a daring leap to pursue his dream job: writing about video games. His work is featured at many publications, and his journey has allowed him to explore the rich narratives and immersive experiences that this medium has to offer. In his quest to uncover the hidden gems within gaming, Davi embraces new genres and unearths unexpected delights in the world of video games.

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Enshrouded

  • Score: 3.5 / 5
  • Available On: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X, and Microsoft Windows
  • Published By: Keen Games
  • Developed By: Keen Games
  • Genre: Survival, Action RPG/ARPG, Co-Op, Building, Crafting, Fantasy, Indie, Exploration, Sandbox
  • US Release Date: January 24, 2024
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Even though it may not offer anything groundbreaking, you'll likely enjoy Enshrouded if you're a fan of survival games."
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