Enshrouded Early Access Review
Gamers aren’t starved for choice when it comes to survival or crafting games nowadays. Not including Palworld, an entirely different beast in terms of size and popularity, you have games like V Rising, Valheim, and old favorites like Rust or specialized Minecraft servers just to name a few. Thankfully, Enshrouded does just enough to feel a little different from other games in the genre.
A little bit of prelude, though: I did not “complete” Enshrouded for this review. Being a survival/crafting game, it’s hard to tell where or when the endpoint is. I also did not get the chance to try a multiplayer session, so this is a purely solo experience — but I can imagine pretty clearly how things will work with friends.
The game starts off with a story cutscene, before loading into a brief tutorial in a crypt, or “safe zone,” where you figure out how to move and jump around. While the other survival games I listed start you off somewhere safe, usually there’s…no story to be had. V Rising hints at a greater war between Vampires and Humans, and Valheim has the runic slabs that offer a glimpse into the goings-on in Midgard, but Enshrouded offers so, so much more.
You are Flameborn, a nearly-extinct brand of human, and the world has been mostly consumed by a mist-like entity known as the Shroud. Your goal is to free the world from the Shroud, and create Flame Altars to help you in this quest. Linking the flames and defeating the darkness seems familiar, but in a good way.
As you step outside the crypt, you get a beautiful shot of the terrain you’ll be exploring for the next few hours, and this is where the magic of Enshrouded started to take hold of me. The environments look fantastic, and the vistas are gorgeously detailed. It’s a rare moment where the thought of “oh, I can go there” popped into my head, because indeed, anywhere you see, you can visit.
To make it to the plains, however, you have to become acquainted with the Shroud mechanic. Certain areas of the map are covered in Shroud, and while you are Enshrouded, you have a time limit placed on you. You cannot fast-travel or build while Enshrouded, so you either have to defeat the source or exit the radius first. The otherworldly vibe of the Shrouded areas is extremely well done too — memories of exploring Zangarmarsh back in the old World of Warcraft days sprang up.
The crafting and building system is fine, but could use some work. Some quality of life features like allowing your Build menu to draw from nearby containers are missing, which is a shame — no one likes playing “find the resource” when they want to build a shelter addition. Other oddities, like making the build piece count requirement double digits for some reason, are also apparent. To explain this a bit better, you will generate 100 material blocks per two resources (such as Stone or Wood), but to create a Wall Block, you need 64 of the 100 material blocks. It’s a little confusing, and I’m not sure why they didn’t keep it simple — two Stones make one Wall piece, or something similar.
Like all survival games, you must gather resources to build a base, which you can then fill with crafting tables that will allow you to upgrade your gear. You then take that upgraded gear, and hunt stronger materials to further upgrade your base and gear, and so on. Progression is somewhat difficult as a solo player, since you are hunting and gathering all resources by yourself, but as a team, I can imagine this going a lot smoother.
To progress, however, you also have to hunt down specific bosses that carry Shroud Cores, which are used to upgrade your Flame Altar and allow you access to larger plots of land or provide global benefits like stat bonuses and increased Enshrouded time. There’s also a pretty nifty skill tree too that allows you to specialize your character any way you want — from gatherer supreme to headstrong warrior to a mage with near limitless mana. The customization, in this regard, is leagues above its competition (excluding mods, of course) as you can specialize in one of twelve or so different archetypes — from Warrior to Tank, from Ranger to Assassin, from Battlemage to Healer as examples.
Finally, it would be remiss of me to not mention the best part of Enshrouded: the movement. In addition to your standard sprint, climb, and tumble action phrases, Enshrouded gives you the ability to grapple (to specific hooks), and eventually Glide. Once you build the Glider, you can really see the world open up in front of you — leaping off of the Fast Travel tower towards an interesting vista I spotted in the distance is incredibly cool. You can upgrade the Glider multiple times as well, allowing for larger distances to be covered.
Enshrouded is undeniably a game to play with friends, as I struggled a bit playing by myself, but the way the world is crafted, and the way the expansive environments are filled with interesting points of interest is wonderful. The crafting and building system could use some work, but they are minute changes and quality-of-life fixes that only detract from the experience a little bit. Despite this, the detail put into the world and environments was enough to convince me that there's something magical going on here, and I could personally see myself losing days of my life to exploring Enshrouded's wilds.