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I’m sure all of us gamers have seen and experienced our fair share of open world games. Some games are open world, but have an engaging overarching storyline that essentially takes us places, like the Witcher 3. Some are sandbox style games, with a story built in, such as Skyrim. Then there are others that have no objectives whatsoever and it’s up to the player to create whatever story they’re interested in, such as Minecraft. The thing is, even Minecraft has it’s own “endgame”, i.e. killing the Ender Dragon. To get a lot of the cool end game stuff, that event is necessary. Why am I mentioning this, then? Well, it’s because in this week’s Underground Saturday piece, I wanted to bring a similar sort of game to your attention. An open world sandbox RPG, where the entire world is open to you to basically do whatever the hell you want. We’re gonna be taking a look at Kenshi, developed by LoFi Games.

As I mentioned, Kenshi is an open world sandbox. It’s both very similar to and completely different from Minecraft. It’s similar in the sense that they’re both completely open. In Kenshi, you spawn in a random location on a fixed map in a “sword-punk” world (which is sort of like steampunk, minus the guns), unlike minecraft which is a procedural world. From here, you’re free to go wherever you want and do whatever you want. Seriously. Now, where this differs from Minecraft is that there’s no “Ender Dragon” here, no “endgame”. Your goal is to survive, no matter the means.

Kenshi is played from an isometric perspective, and you control the character with the mouse. Now this might be an immediate turn off for most people


this MMO-esque system works here. You can pause the game, use right click to move/issue a certain order (like attack or loot), and then unpause and continue. It’s natural and flows really well.

You also don’t have to always be a human. There are other races to check out, such as skeletons or a member of a hive mind. These have their own unique buffs and debuffs. Expermient with them to see what style best suits you, each is sufficiently unique to warrant multiple playthroughs.

The unique thing with Kenshi is, you don’t have to do anything alone. You can hire a bunch of people to be in your “clan”. You can set characters to do certain ‘jobs’ that they will exclusively do until you tell them to otherwise. Basically, you can play the game as a glorified MMO/RTS without the Multiplayer or the Online.

Now while some people might not inherently like this gameplay style, it fits into the theme of the game, and it works really well here. Controlling your character (s) with right click commands is quick and easy, and lets you take a look at the bigger picture while simultaneously offering granular control over what is happening in the game.

Now, yes, the game doesn’t look the best, even though it released late last year


That would be a by-product of years of development I would guess. Many years of a tense development cycle. As far as I know, Kenshi has been in development for around 11 years. In any event, though, the HUD is clean and the interface makes it simple to understand what is actually happening. You have all the information you could possibly need in front of you.

Let’s talk a bit about what you can do, then, because “anything you want” is kinda vague. You can trade goods and be a merchant, you can mine for ore, convert it into something useful (like weapons) and sell them, use that money to hire farmers, or just farm manually yourself. Join up a faction by pledging allegiance to the leader, or start your own. Fight bandits with your weapons and earn the gratitude of the locals, or just go about on a mass murdering spree. Do note, however, that you’re nothing special. You have average stats and a real body, which can individually get damaged. There is a high chance that your first playthrough will end within the first 20 minutes.

Don’t let that stop you, however. Because getting one-shotted by a Samurai isn’t the end of the world. Sure, you might bleed to unconsciousness with both your legs broken, but it’s mostly not the end. You might be picked up by a slaver, and locked up in a jail cell. Or, you might be rescued by a kind passer-by. Then begins a saga to fix yourself up with robotic parts, Adam Jensen style. This does give you a few buffs, but it has a tendency to make people more cautious about you.

You haven’t properly experienced Kenshi til you play it like a proper role-playing simulation. Think of it as a medium to tell a story, any story, be that be yours or purely fictitious. Your power fantasies and worst nightmares can come true in Kenshi. A roving bandit, a cunning trader, a humble miner, or an unconcerned nomad. you can be anyone and anything (almost) in the game, provided you have the patience and imagination required for that sort of thing. Better yet, think of Kenshi as a solo pen and paper game, but this time, you’re the adventurer as well as the Dungeon Master.

On the whole, Kenshi is a great example of how to make a truly sandbox style gameplay experience in an open world. Yes, there are a few issues in the game, but nothing game breaking. And if you’re bored with the vanilla experience, you always have the option to spice it up with mods. There are mods for everything from lightsabers to cybernetic suits, and they’re all extremely fun to add into your main game. Give this game a whirl, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

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