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Enshrouded Review

Enshrouded is, at present, an early access co-op survival RPG for up to 16 people.  You are the Flameborn, humanity’s literal last hope against the ever-encroaching Shroud, a corrupting fog which has caused an entire civilisation to fall.  The fate of the corrupted land of Embervale rests upon your shoulders as you attempt to cleanse it of the Shroud’s insidious grasp once and for all!  The scope of Enshrouded is truly immense, despite still being in early access.  The question is, in its current state, does it succeed or has it already been Shrouded by potential? Find out in our Enshrouded review.

Dipping your toes

I received a review copy of Enshrouded upon its early access release and, despite spending just under 30 (yes, 30) hours on it, I still feel as if I am just starting out (and quite rightly so).  Despite the world being finite and not procedurally generated, there is a truly colossal amount of terrain to explore and activities to partake in. It will keep you entertained and engaged for a very long time indeed.  Even after such a long time playing, I am still discovering new areas and activities and the sheer amount of detail is staggering. It’s clear a lot of research and thought went into this.

By blending survival mechanics with action RPG elements, Enshrouded crafts a compelling journey of exploration, combat, and base-building.  You’ll forage high and low for resources, hunt for food, fight to survive against foes of all types and build shelters to contend with the ever-present threat of the Shroud and its monstrous denizens.

Voxel based

Voxel Based

Embervale is not only stunning but made entirely of voxels.  This means that you can quite literally terraform it to your exact desire by knocking some parts down and building some parts up.  You can also use any mined materials – of which you will have loads – to build quite literally any structures you wish.  You are free to let your creativity run wild and do as it wishes.  You can design your premises on the fly or you can even plan what they’re going to look like by way of a plan – the choices are endless!

The story, although basic, provides enough intrigue and lore to hook your attention from the start and keep you both interested and invested in progressing through it in full.  

The moment you first load the game, you will be presented with the character creation screen.  Through a limited number of options, you can quickly craft your basic-looking character (I chose to make an ageing Geralt of “The Witcher” fame) and proceed to the next section: game type.  You can choose whether to play privately, host a server or jump into an existing server.

enshrouded glider

Mechanics

There are several game mechanics at play in Enshrouded at any one time, so I’m going to break the main ones down here:

Glider

Your character will eventually gain access to a glider.  This means no more having to traipse for literal miles around the side of a mountain to get to the bottom without dying.  You can simply leap off, deploy your glider and smoothly sail down to the depths below in relative safety.  I say it gets you there in “relative” safety, however, for a reason.  You see, by saying “smoothly” in the previous sentence I wasn’t being entirely truthful.  What I actually meant was that the glider – at least at first – handles like a brick parachute that happens to be on fire.  Don’t get me wrong – it does the job, but it often left me wondering how my character didn’t sustain any life-altering injuries during the descent and subsequent near-crash landing!  Either way, there are options to upgrade your equipment meaning that you will have increasingly-better experiences the more you progress!

Grappling Hook

The grappling hook grants you access to points which would otherwise be out of reach.  This can come in very helpful in a tight spot when you might find yourself surrounded and in need of a swift exit.  

Enshrouded damage

Combat

Overall, combat feels good in Enshrouded and makes you fight for the win (no pun intended) rather than merely being able to succeed through button-bashing alone.  You are required to learn how different enemies attack in order to evade at the right moment before swooping in with your own retaliation.  Some enemies are utter powerhouses, with the ability to one-shot kill you from the onset.  You have a selection of weapons, armour and throwables (such as grenades) to make use of in order to go about defeating each formidable foe.  There is some occasional clunkiness when attempting to orient your character’s attacks, with them often ending up facing the wrong way when swinging an axe, for example.  However, we should bear in mind that Enshrouded is still in early access which (hopefully) means that things will only get better in time.

Enshrouded building

Crafting

The main attraction – at least for me – is the much-discussed crafting aspect of Enshrouded.  Your character goes out and gathers a bunch of materials before returning to their base in order to turn those materials into building materials.  They are then able to construct pretty much anything that they desire using the resulting building materials and this is how hours upon hours are inadvertently lost.  One issue I had was when I went to my workbench in order to turn the immense amount of stone that I had just acquired into stone blocks.  Each “stone block object”, for example, grants you 100 stone blocks.  You can only craft one at a time.  Jumping ahead, by the time I finished crafting stone blocks, I had over 100,000 available in my inventory.  Yes – I pressed that “craft” button one thousand times!  A feature – which I have already put forward for consideration – would be a “craft max” option, whereby you can construct the maximum possible components given what you hold in your inventory.  Even a scale, perhaps, where you can choose a pre-determined amount based on what you have – a percentage, even.  Either way, crafting single elements when you possess literally thousands of raw materials can indeed become rather tedious and even immersion-breaking after a while.

Enshrouded The Shroud

The Shroud

The eponymous poisoned mist, which is taking over Embervale must be stopped.  It is your job to enter said mist, source the root of the problem – a literal root – and then kill it off in order to clear the Shroud from that area.  Simple, right?  Wrong.  The Shroud hosts a smorgasbord of monstrous, powerful, deformed creatures who all try to stop you in your tracks.  Worse still is that by simply being in the Shroud, your lifespan is reduced immensely, often to around five or six minutes.  As you watch the counter deplete, you are frequently warned to leave the Shroud before it’s too late.  Reach zero, and you die.  Not only that, but you cannot fast travel whilst in a Shrouded area – you have to emerge from it to be able to do that.  As such, you can’t spend more than a few minutes in the Shroud before it’s lights-out for you.  What becomes especially difficult is when you are facing off against a true monster of a boss with only two minutes of life to spare and other denizens chasing after you at the same time.  It is moments like this that make the Shroud a very fun and immersive experience to play within.  You are constantly required to think, change tactics and make important decisions in a flash.

Enshrouded Skill Tree

Skill Tree

There is a large selection of skills that you can unlock as you progress through Enshrouded.  By picking and choosing the ones that you desire, you are able to tune your character’s approach to the game to that of a particular skill set.  Such skill sets could include Ranger, Beastmaster, Battlemage, Barbarian or even Trickster.  The possibilities are vast and fun to explore in more detail.

Weather doesn’t play much of a role in Enshrouded as yet, with “sunny day” seeming to be the default weather type.  This doesn’t pose a problem, as such, but having a dynamic weather system would most certainly improve the already decent immersion levels even further.

Enshrouded Survivors

Fellow Survivors

Rescued survivors do nothing apart from the stand wherever you plop them down and holler out at you from afar, like a nagging older relative.  It would be great to see them perhaps milling around the home areas, carrying out little tasks in the background.  At present, they are merely slightly animated, bossy statues!

One major issue that I did face, however, was almost certainly linked to the fact that Enshrouded is in early access, and it delayed my review by an entire week. An old-school game-ending crash.  However, there was no reason whatsoever for it as nothing had changed between plays.  There was no system update, no software added or removed – nothing.  At present, it still crashes occasionally and randomly, but not as often.  However, that doesn’t make it any less infuriating, especially after having spent 15 minutes travelling to a checkpoint only to crash out of it before a save file can be created!  However, as mentioned at the start, I put this down entirely to the game being in early access and thus it will probably fall under the ”teething issues” category.

Multiplayer

Co-op play is at the very heart of Enshrouded and it’s clear to see why.  Embervale is so vast and expansive that it makes sense to traverse it with others in tow.  You will encounter several enormous, massively powerful enemies who can only be comfortably defeated by a team attack.  You can choose whether to go in guns blazing, so-to-speak, or whether to position your members more carefully and attack from afar and/or above where possible.  Sometimes it’s just best to run away, turn back to shoot an arrow, then turn back around and continue running.  Whatever the choice, it will no doubt be easier with teammates to assist!

To give you an idea of how popular co-op play is in Enshrouded, only a few hours after release, I discovered over 100 pages (and counting) of servers to choose from (see screenshot above).  They vary in party size, level requirements and password-protected servers among other variations.  This means that whatever your play style, if you want to quickly jump into a co-op game, then there is likely an option out there for you.

Enshrouded co-op

Sharing is caring

You can also share resources with others in your co-op game, meaning that if you find yourself running out of space, you can simply transfer some items across to others.  (However, what they choose to do with those resources is their choice, nefarious or otherwise!)  Strategy is often always the key when facing boss-level enemies, with a key focus on how best to obtain the objective.  The oft-adopted “some high, some low” tactic tends to work well in most cases, but not all.  You can indeed attack from high up and from down low, but you also have to consider how best to orchestrate your members for when things undoubtedly change, such as the enemy changing position unexpectedly or some members being wiped out early on.  Essentially, you have to adopt a strategy-first mindset and try your best to hold back from a guns-blazing approach.

Enshrouded hosts a plethora of reasons to return to it over and over again.  There are so many missions, collectables, side quests, and items to build among several other things to do that you will most likely want to keep going back for more.  Despite the shallow narrative, the gameplay and building mechanics make for a highly engrossing and entertaining experience.

Enshrouded Vista

Both breathtaking and lacking polish

Enshrouded boasts a soundtrack which is a true highlight of the game, featuring sweeping orchestral pieces that perfectly capture the grandeur and melancholy of Embervale.  The sound design further enhances the immersion, with the unsettling whispers of the Shroud and the clash of steel in combat creating a palpable sense of danger and excitement.  However, the visuals are a bit of a mixed bag.

While Embervale boasts breathtaking landscapes and atmospheric Shrouded zones, character models and animations can feel dated and lack the polish of the game’s other artistic elements.  This is most certainly a shame, however it is merely aesthetic, meaning that it can indeed be improved upon in a future release.  Therefore, I’m not going to let something so minor affect what is overall a truly brilliant start.  Also, most people won’t be focussing on how their character looks during the experience – they’re going to be looking all around and taking in the sheer beauty of Embervale – and sheer horror or the Shroud – every time!

Conclusion

Even in early access, Enshrouded already possesses several key ingredients that make a truly epic game.  The vast landscapes of Embervale beg to be explored.  Its inhabitants are varied, unique and wild.  Some will evade as fast as their furry feet can carry them the moment they detect you sneaking up on them.  Most, however, will try to immediately kill you on sight.  If you find yourself stuck or unable to get somewhere, you can quite literally carve a path (often through a mountain) to get there.  If you are unhappy with your residence, then you are free to remodel it or even build a whole new one from scratch!  Or several residences depending on how you feel!  The possibilities are endless in terms of creative freedom and that is what the main attraction of Enshrouded will be to the majority of players.

Boasting some of the best building mechanics in any game to date, a genuinely entertaining multiplayer experience with progression for all, and stunning vistas to explore, Enshrouded has certainly gotten off on the right foot.  Despite some initial teething issues, low-quality character models and occasionally clunky combat mechanics, Enshrouded boasts a huge amount of potential and it’s incredibly exciting to see what the developers will release in future iterations!

Pros:

  • Embervale is vast yet beautiful.
  • The Shroud is grim, bleak and scary, but in the most awesome way possible!
  • Building mechanics are some of the best out there.
  • Plenty to do from the onset.
  • Multiplayer is well-developed and fun.
  • A vast array of mineable materials.
  • Creative freedom is of significant importance.

Cons:

  • Finite world.
  • No procedural generation.
  • No weather system – only sunny days.
  • Clunky gliding mechanics.
  • Rescued survivors just stand there.
  • A craft-max button would be SO helpful!

Grade: 8

Enshrouded is currently available through GeForce Now. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Enshrouded review.