Under the Radar: Kenshi –
X-Com + Oblivion, with a dash of Stronghold
Developer: Lo Fi Games
Genre: open world Strategy RPG
Kenshi is set in a rather nondescript world crafted from a number of influences, ranging from traveling Japanese ronin to post-apocalyptic wastelands and dusty cowboys. If you play games purely for a well-crafted story, Kenshi will hold little value for you as the allure is similar to EVE’s. Lo Fi Games is focusing on creating an open world, resplendent with a reactive “ecosystem” of NPC and factions. That leaves you to put together a story from the events that take place in your, either through your meddling or the NPCs’ own dynamism. Though you could play this game similar to Dragon Age with only a single, or a small number of, character(s), the controls scale nicely until you’re managing entire squadrons of swordsmen. And that works into Kenshi’s gameplay design where no character is just inherently better.
In other RPGs, you play as a hero and you are destined to do great things, no matter if you decide to roll as a mage, “thief”, or warrior. In Kenshi, you could end your game dead and forgotten in a valley somewhere as bandits make off with your hard-earned gear. There is no great prophecy to fulfill, no world-ending evil that needs stopping. You’re just playing to eke out a living and copy down any stories of the wars you might have fought in or the bandits you’ve brought to just. Or maybe you led those bandits on a massive killing spree and turned every city on the map into a smoking, burnt-out ruin. None of that would have happened because the story or the game demanded it. It would be because you, the player, are an upstanding citizen or a raving lunatic that wants to see the world burn.
But, either way, that’s the beauty of the potential I see with Kenshi. And my faith is bolstered even further by the continuous progress shown through community interaction, as well as, in development. At the start, Lo Fi was a single guy developing Kenshi by his lonesome but, in the year since I’ve kept consistent tabs on him, he’s managed to pay for the help of a number of freelance musicians, coders, and artists to rocket-boost the quality of the game to new levels. It’s incredibly heartening to see.
Adopting the recent trend of many independent games, players can buy early access for a cheaper price while simultaneously donating to the game development process. And since Lo Fi Games is so very free with his copyright permissions, on-the-fence consumers can find videos of Kenshi to see if they like the current state enough to purchase it. Either way, I’m glad I found Kenshi again.
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