Kenshi is a game that has been in development for over a decade, and has both scale and detail to match. The strategy RPG is so deep and complex, that it can take over 40 hours to simply understand how the game works. Wow.

That being said complexity isn’t everything, and a high level of complexity makes it harder for new players to get started. Due to Kenshi’s huge scale there is a lot of bulk to work through before you can enjoy the juicy, juicy insides. For many people that initial investment may just not be worth it.

Kenshi - Town

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Kenshi is a game which actually earns the strategy-RPG genre. Instead of being an RTS game with stated hero characters or an RPG where you have to control a bunch of troops. In this case the gameplay is actually a blend of the two, being a squad based game with controls like an RTS and characters like an RPG.

When you first boot the game you have a set of different starting scenarios to choose from. Each one of these scenarios starts you out in a different area with different equipment and each is rated with different difficulty settings.

There are a couple of the scenarios that have the ‘default’ difficulty, presumably because these are the ones you’re suppose to start with. Regardless of which one you pick you’re going to spend at least the first hour or so reading tutorial messages…fun.

Kenshi - Swordsman

Barrier to Entry

Kenshi is a game that will almost certainly only ever be available on PC. The game has 50 different bars, menus, shortcuts and buttons, which would be nigh-on impossible to map to a standard controller. It’s obtuse to the point of frustration, and takes a special type of person to even begin to enjoy it.

Of course that isn’t to say that it doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities as well. If you do manage to figure out how to play it properly then you’ll find an experience that literally no other game has ever managed to pull off.

Apart from that Kenshi is overflowing with choice. You can spend your time building a base, farming, mining, trading, killing. Hell you can even become a thief and steal anything not glued down. There is almost no limit to what you can choose to pursue.

Eastern Inspired World

The world is pretty unique in Kenshi. A lot of things are drawn from Samurai and Ninja history and mythology, although there is no magic involved. There are no basic races in the game, meaning other than humans you’ll probably not have seen any of the races in the game in anything else before.

At first it’s difficult to find any of the actual world building dialogue or story, as the game doesn’t give you any from the get-go no matter which start you choose. After about 8 hours in the game with our 3rd character we started to pick up bits and pieces of what made the game’s world interesting.

The visual design goes a long way to help as well. There is a lot of desert and wasteland areas on the map, as well as a general feeling of desolation. In a way it’s a shame that Kenshi hides so much of its world behind it’s impenetrable learning curve. Then there might have been something to keep playing routing for through all the uphill slog.

Kenshi - Prison

Nothing to Stay For

As it stands there is only a very specific niche of people that will be able to get a lot of enjoyment out of Kenshi. If you’ve been following the development with excitement or think that games should require more research to enjoy then this is for you.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how fun and deep the game is, it doesn’t make the amount you have to do to get into it worth while. It’s certainly impressive, but why would anyone want to invest 40 hours simply to get the basics of a game, when there are so many deep experiences that can be picked up so easily?

It’s possible that it wont’ matter how hard it is. If you’re into the type of game that is so deep that you’ll need to play it forever to get the full enjoyment then you’ll love this. However anyone who doesn’t want to have to watch a 4 hour YouTube series before they even get to play should probably just let this one go.

Pros

  • Massively deep world
  • Control huge teams
  • Nearly endless choice
  • Super interesting visual design

Cons

  • 40+ hours to learn the ropes
  • Outside research required
  • Tutorial text dump for the first hour

Conclusion

Kenshi is a very impressive game, and if you can manage to invest the time into learning how it works you’ll find a stunningly deep and interesting game inside. However the initial investment for the game takes longer to do than most games even take to complete. No amount of deep and expansive lore or mechanics can make you get invested if you have up at the starting line.

William Worrall

William Worrall

W. S. Worrall is a free-lance writer and video producer who lives in the UK. He has an extensive collection of retro consoles and board games and in his spare time he solders stuff together to see if it works. It usually doesn't.
William Worrall

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