Enshrouded is already huge, and it’s only going to get bigger | Early access review

by on January 24, 2024

I’ve played over a dozen hours of Enshrouded’s Early Access build now and I still can’t tell you what it is about Keen Games’ fantasy adventure game that makes it stand out for me amongst so many others. Just recently we’ve had Ravenbound and Frozen Flame, both of which present beautiful fantasy worlds ripe for exploration, and both of which have their fair share of fresh ideas. But neither struck a chord with me like Enshrouded has.

Even the mighty Valheim, one of the most popular recent examples of the genre, didn’t manage to keep me hooked. Part of Enshrouded’s appeal, though, is that it doesn’t feel like an early access game. There’s a decent level of polish here to keep the bugs away, and a chunky if somewhat straightforward suite of quests and objectives to get stuck into.

It’s set in a vast, gorgeous fantasy world slowly being overtaken by a deep, menacing fog known as the Shroud. Often covering the valleys of the world, this Shroud hides all manner of undead monsters and mutated beasts – but also treasures in the form of rare artefacts, armour and weapons. All that keeps the Shroud at bay is the Flame – and it’s your job to kindle that flame across the world.


You begin by waking up in an ancient Vault and lighting the first Flame Altar, and from then your gently nudged towards the first few objectives. Find a place to build a base, set down a second Altar which gives you a protected area in which to build, and then seek out other Awakened to help you in your campaign against the Shroud.

Building is simple, and reminiscent of Valheim, with premade pieces that click together easily even if you’re playing on controller. In not time you’ll be constructing a home, then furniture to fill it, and crafting rudimentary weapons and clothing. With a Workbench you can turn wood, stone and plant fibres into building blocks and thatched roofing, and use your trusty Construction Hammer to assemble buildings. So far, so standard. But then you’ll be tasked with finding the first of the Awakened: Oswald the Blacksmith.

You’ll need to gear up for the journey to Oswald’s Vault, and once you find it, construct a Summoning Staff to bring him to your base. He’ll craft a few bits and pieces for you right away, but if you want to make the most of his talents you’ll need to build him a shelter, craft him a furnace and smelter, and provide light for him to work by. And as you uncover more materials and reagents, his crafting list will grow.


There are five such NPCs currently available, and you can bring them all back and build them homes, furnished with useful items and decorations. Later you can add second floors, and unlock more build options thanks to the discovery of one NPC in particular. But these characters will also give you quests, sometimes to find items to increase their services, sometimes to find new and useful items for you.

The more powerful your Flame Altars, the more you can place around the world, slowly and steadily building a fast travel network to help you get around. But while it’s nice to have, be aware that it takes some time to build up enough of a network to reduce your walking time – and you can’t remove placed altars.

Thankfully, travelling by foot is still pretty fast, and a handy grappling hook helps you reach higher places. Early on you’ll also craft a wingsuit that lets you fling yourself off cliffs and glide across valleys. A Breath of the Wild-style stamina system dictates how long you can run, glide, and climb for, which you can increase by drinking water and consuming various foods. Unlike many survival games, Enshrouded doesn’t really punish you for not eating and drinking. Food isn’t necessary for survival, nor is sleep, but resting and eating convey buffs to health, stamina, mana, regen, and other attributes. It’s always best to make sure you eat and sleep before embarking on a journey.


Items you gather can be kept on your generous quickbar or in your upgradeable backpack, but you’ll run out of space quickly, especially if you’re just exploring as the world is filled with crafting materials, weapons, and items, often at the end of a short quest you’ll find just by leafing through a discarded book. The landscape is dotted with destroyed or rundown homesteads often inhabited by bandits and monsters, but always worth exploring for secret tombs, hidden rooms, and precious resources.

Your questing will take you to huge towers that afford you a view of the land, or into deep caves where a pickaxe will yield all manner of treasures. Enemies level by area though, so be careful about where you wander. Combat is pretty straightforward, with new skills and abilities available via a huge skill tree that can lead you down any of twelve paths such as Tank, Healer, or Ranger.

It’s here that Enshrouded gives away its early access status, though. Because levelling up takes an absolute age. I’m constantly building, mining, fighting, and discovering, and yet I earn XP incredibly slowly. You get one Skill Point per level and right now it’s just too slow. At only Level 8 I’m being forced to enter areas where the enemies are level 15 or higher and they’re killing me in a few hits, even with the best gear I can currently manage. It needs some balancing to bring character progression in line with the quest progression.


I’d also say the fast travel system in Enshrouded needs work. It takes far too long to be able to place more Altars, and once you do you can’t uproot them at all. They’re permanent and you’re going to have walk everywhere. It’s not a great system for a world this big and there needs to be an option to put down temporary travel points or perhaps fast travel to certain towns or landmarks besides the Towers, which are also well spread out.

But this is early access, after all, and Keen Games have laid the foundation for something genuinely great here. The ability to build underground bases or even construct a floating hamlet away from it all means the potential for creative bases is off the charts, and there’s so much more likely to be added later. One thing there isn’t much of is water, since most rivers are now Enshrouded and therefore dry and corrupted; it would be nice to see lakes and fishing added at some point.

There’s also a multiplayer element. Upon loading in you can choose to take your character into a private world, join another host, or step into an open world that others can join. I haven’t been able to test the online yet, but once the game launches into early access fully I’m keen to see how the world responds to having multiple players working together. It’s early days yet, and I still have a lot to see and do in Enshrouded. I’m utterly hooked though, and even when I’m away from the game I’m thinking about the next adventure, where I’m going to put my next Altar, or where I’m going to build Oswald’s breakfast nook – and for me that’s the best sign of a great early access title.