Kenshi – Preview
Follow Genre: real time strategy, survival roleplaying game
Developer: Lo-Fi Games
Publisher: Lo-Fi Games
Platform: PC(Steam Early Access)
Tested on PC

Kenshi – Preview

Good: large open world, sense of freedom
Bad: steep learning curve, trial & error
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(3 votes)
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Rating: 8.0/10 (3 votes cast)

There have been loads of roleplaying games, loads of survival games and loads of real-time strategy games. But there haven’t been many developers who’ve tried their hand on mixing these genres into a single game. Lo-Fi Games is one of those developers who’ve managed to create the first of its kind. Lo-Fi Games calls it a free-roaming squad based roleplaying game. They’ve been working on their ambitious project called Kenshi for a few years now and now it’s time to take a closer look at what they’ve managed so far.Kenshi banner

Kenshi is not what you would call a story-driven game. It offers no story content whatsoever as it requires you to write your own story, your own adventure in what looks like a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland. But you’re not sent on your way without any guidance as you are allowed to choose from a couple of starting scenario’s that will form the foundation and origin of your character and its possible companions. Whether you’re a wanderer, retired soldier, trader or thief, the path you choose and choices you make are entirely up to you. Most of these scenarios either offer some money, some items or some skills, but the rest is up to you. Not a single scenario is an easier way to survive than the other as each will have their advantages and problems. F.e. when you play as a retired captain, it might grant you more combat skills, you won’t have any starting money and members of the Holy Empire (one of the in game factions) will hate you.

Kenshi isn’t the most beautiful game out there but because of the game’s large-scale game world and the fact it’s an ambitious tactical roleplaying game, it’s impressive what the developers have done so far. The world and its structures look a bit barren, plain and colorless, but as it’s still a work in progress, it’s far too early to give a final opinion about it. As for the character models and the quality of the ingame character designer, it all looks really incredible. As you would’ve guessed, the character creator allows you to modify and customize your character at your own leisure and make it truly unique.

If we take a closer look at the game’s soundtrack, it’s already quite impressive. The overall soundtrack is a delight to hear as it mixes ambient music with oriental tunes that match the setting of a seemingly barren world shaped like a post-apocalyptic wasteland with influences of different cultures. The game features no voiced dialogues or any voice work in general, but as Kenshi is still in the midst of its development, this might still be added in the final version. 

As we’ve mentioned earlier, Kenshi is mix of survival, roleplaying and real-time strategy. Lo-Fi Games even calls it a free roaming squad based roleplaying game. We’ve already stated that you can choose a scripted potential beginnings/character and continue from there although it can become quite demanding, especially because of its steep learning curve. It’s hard to stay alive as death stares at you around the corner. The game is a lot like that. You could go solo, you could form a group, or you could jump ahead and start a town. All of these paths are quite demanding in their own way and force a lot of problems on you. When you face the world of Kenshi alone, you will have to be on your guard when exploring, since you might stumble on a group of irritating bandits. If you attack the wrong people with your band, you might anger the wrong person or factions, eventually getting pushed aside with ease or being given an early funeral. If you decide to build your own settlement or town, you’ll have constant problems with bandits who will be interested in your money and resources.

Especially the rough start of this game might chase away a lot of players, but if you’re able to bite the bullet, the game might become rewarding. Kenshi doesn’t hold your hand in any way and that’s exactly what makes it such a breath of fresh air at the same time. There are many aspects you need to consider in order to survive in the world of Kenshi and being attacked is just one of many. For example, starvation. Starvation is a real thing. Depending on your starting point, you could buy food or supplies at a building supply store beside a lively bar, steal it during the night from one of the shacks or rob an unwary trader. You’ll have to steel those nerves and consider each move as Kenshi tries to create a more realistic survival experience.Kenshi Preview 05

Another interesting aspect about the game is its health system, which is at the same time part of the combat system. A character is divided into multiple body areas indicating head, chest, stomach, left and right leg, as well as the left and right arm. Each part has a “health” value of 100. Every character also has a varying amount of blood. If the arms and legs are hit or damaged, it will effect movement and combat. In other words, a character whose leg health is critically damaged, will move at a slower pace and possibly be unable to flee the battle. Being hit in the stomach, chest and head is really dangerous. As every character has a certain KO threshold, it’s important to keep an eye out for the amount of damage you receive. These injuries can be healed through first aid kits or at facilities in one of the strongholds. When you get injured, you could also suffer a blood loss trauma which might turn you unconscious or in a recovery coma. Blood loss traumas can’t be healed in the same way limbs can, so a character might have a long recovery time if he lost a lot of blood. The character might go in a recovery coma which means that when they’ve suffered negative damage to the chest/stomach/head, it needs to get that limb’s health back to 1. As long as you’re in that particular state, you’ll remain unconscious.

The combat in Kenshi is really worth mentioning. During combat, you can take a look at how your own characters, and the enemy, are parrying each other’s attacks, and how they react to damage being dealt to their different body parts. The tactical aspect is the fact of not being capable of defeating a huge army with just a handful of soldiers. Your character might be able to defend from frontal attacks but this doesn’t mean he will be able to fend off attacks from behind at the same time. Luckily, every fight spreads out as two opponents seek each other out and clash. The other fighters don’t gang up on you, but will look for duels with another and focus on defeating their current opponent. At the end, two groups of warriors will spread over the battlefield and you’ll be left with a field littered with dead, dying or unconscious bodies. A fun fact to know is, you can capture unconscious people, drag them to your camp and even demand ransoms.

An important fact about the combat is that you’re not a superhero or have superpowers. You’re just a regular person and possess no higher hit points or experience. Every character you meet or fight, will have the same stats, strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, at the start, you’ll be outmatched in every way and you’ll have to work up the ladder the hard way as there isn’t such a thing like level-scaling like in other modern roleplaying games. Both your own characters and the other characters you indirectly control, will gain experience over time, whether it’s taking down opponents in combat or improving the skills in forging, farming, building…

Kenshi isn’t only about survival and doing battle with others. When you decide to build a town or you’re leading a band of fighters, you can give orders to these people in order to let them focus on a series of tasks or objectives. You can order them to mine, farm, build, research… Although this might seem pretty easy and straightforward, the task system hasn’t been fine-tuned yet. F.e. certain members of your group might be specialized in building structures and research. When you place a building blueprint, that particular character would run up to it, ceasing research, to build it. Once he was done, he’d return to research. Some jobs, like forging or mining, can even occupy a character completely. When they’re idle, they won’t leave their current task in order to be designated to other tasks. Mostly, this might require some micromanagement to decide what tasks they should engage in. It’s really satisfying to see that most of your people perform their tasks independently and live their own lives. What is interesting about your town members is that they do their jobs without hesitation or don’t question your choices. They never become unhappy and don’t seem to have special needs. But who knows, these elements might still be added during further development of the game.


The concept of Kenshi is really an interesting and ambitious project which shows an incredible lot of potential. Whether it’s tackling obstacles solo or building a settlement with other characters/companions in this large-scale open world, you’ll be faced with a steep learning curve and major trial and error. This might turn away a lot of casual players and only invite those who seek some considerable challenge. Either way, we’re definitely hyped about this unique game concept and are looking forward to what the final version of Kenshi has in store for us.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (3 votes cast)
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Kenshi - Preview, 8.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

Being over 30 years old, I've been playing videogames since I've exchanged my pacifier for a game controller. I've only recently started reviewing games and it's incredibly fun to do and educational as I get to know a lot of new stuff about videogames and the industry. My favourite game genres are RPG's(strategy RPG, J-RPG,...), adventure, platforming, simulation and retro.

1 Comment

  1. | Kenshi – Fully released!
    December 7, 2018, 23:28

    […] The Sword punk style RPG, Kenshi has finally been fully released after being in development for 12 years. Kenshi had been in Early Access for four years where it received very positive reviews out of more than a thousand Early Access reviews. We also did a preview of the game which you can find here. […]

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