By blending voxel worlds like the kind Minecraft uses with Valheim-inspired visuals, Enshrouded presents an intriguing survival action RPG. In a notable shift from Portal Knights, Keen Games now introduces us to Embervale, an open world corrupted by a deadly fog. Keen recently invited me to a hands-off preview presented by creative director Antony Christoulakis. Though post-apocalyptic survival games aren't exactly uncommon, this one shows promise.
Playing as the Flameborn, Enshrouded tasks you with dispelling this fog and rebuilding this world from the remnants. You won't find any lengthy starting tutorials, though help can be found within your Journal if required, and Christoulakis calls this more friendly survival than Valheim. Not eating or drinking won't immediately kill you, but you'll miss temporary combat advantages like higher constitution or stamina endurance.
Enshrouded also ditches fixed class selection for a neutral build you can develop across an open skill net. New powers unlock through skill points earned when leveling up, and I spotted abilities split between Ranger, Warrior and Mage styles. For example, 'Runner' ups your sprinting speed while decreasing stamina consumption, while 'Quick Charge' halves the charge time for magical projectiles. An expansive set of options is available, but removing it to return your skill points is certainly appreciated if something's not working out.
If building interests you, everything is destructible for new materials. Essential items are craftable anywhere, though better items are available through crafting tables or NPCs. Don't expect to find substantial underground caves when tunneling, but you can terraform the land and build a base. Whether you prefer block-by-block or through pre-determined templates, I can see this appealing to both those who prefer simplicity and in-depth creation. An undo button eases potential frustrations if you make a misstep, too.
Instead of a randomly generated sandbox, Enshrouded uses a 25km fixed layout world. Much like Link in Breath of the Wild, a gliding ability is unlocked early on for quicker exploration. There's plenty to see between local chasms, abandoned dungeons, and fortresses or caves that become labyrinths. I'm interested in how Enshrouded uses lore items that hide within these areas, which go beyond detailing past events and provide hints about unique treasure locations.
Just be careful when approaching lower regions; many contain that dangerous fog known as the Shroud. Entering it puts you in an "Enshrouded state, " which sets off a time limit to get away, which you can extend through items or finding flames. That said, securing safe passage is easier said than done when dangerous monsters lurk within these depths. Though they can appear elsewhere, it's pleasing to learn they can't come near your base.
You’d best be prepared to fight when entering the fog. Select your armor, shields, and ranged and melee weapons using a standard equipment system. Prefer something more magical? Staffs use mana as magical spell ammo, while wands are better suited for mid-range attacks. Otherwise, you can use a basic attack, shield, parry, or dodge roll. Watching the Flameborn sneak attack after hiding among tall plant life holds a particular joy and though combat mechanics feel functional, they could be more in-depth. My hands-off presentation mostly stuck to a sword and shield combo, so while two-handed weapons play differently from single-handed, we couldn't directly compare them.
Each foggy area also has a Shroud Root causing the problem, guarded by a rather imposing foe. Defeating them awards randomized higher-tier loot, all upgradable to further unlock new perks like additional blunt damage. However, the fog removal resets, and Christoulakis confirms the world regenerates after a set amount of time. I'm disappointed as I prefer that permanent progression, but that mitigates the risk of any destructive party members destroying your world in multiplayer. It also lets you replay quests with friends and Enshrouded supports co-op with up to 15 people.
I didn’t get to see Flameborn's character creator, sadly, and though you can only judge so much from a hands-off demo, what's here certainly looks intriguing. By factoring in the more casual players too, this could strike a nice balance for survival gameplay. Enshrouded arrives in Steam Early Access later this year, while the full version arrives on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S in 2024.