The phrase ‘make your own story’ is one that fills me with dread. Back when I played Mount & Blade that phrase was fine, the game let you run and wander around and commit to any ideal you like. However, after Fallout 76 that phrase leaves me with some dread, as it has become a marketing phrase and you end up with a buggy mess.
A game like Kenshi aims for the former and lands closer to the latter. A sensible ambition of emulating Mount & Blade ends a poorly built mess which has just left me more confused than anything else. A game sells itself to the player very early on when you load it up, and this game has good goals but poor execution making it sell itself short of what it could be.
Loading up the game the first issue struck straight away: The game has little optimisation graphically. Firstly the game failed to match my screen resolution, 1920×1200, despite the fact that the graphics menu told me so. Now unfortunately for my screen, this means that the colours all washed out due to stretching the image but I am compensating for that. But this was just the start of a litany of graphical problems.
After the loading screen which did not fill the screen completely, showing me the menu graphics behind it I hit the character creation. The game looks like it was built in 2006, textures are rough round the edges and immediately look dated. This alone wasn’t killer for me, and character creation is fairly robust with plenty of options to make any sort of weird and wonderful character you wish. You even get a background choice to add to how you are going to play the game; whether as a traditional RPG or a straight RTS or a blend of the two.
You would assume a game which looks 12 years old would play well. But it does not. My 1070 heaved at points to try and keep the framerate above 30 but that was often not the case. It detracted me from the experience heavily as clicking to move the character around takes a lot more effort when the game does not hold a consistent framerate while shifting the camera.
Now the internal mechanics are not terrible: The fighting is solid, the character interaction possesses good depth and customisation is plentiful. But finding out how these systems work is an absolute battle. It involved a large deal of trial and error, which also meant several restarts. None of this is fun, it is laborious and slow and just drains any fun in the story you could make away by dragging you through glass just to figure out how to do it.
I don’t particularly like hating this game because the underlying idea is so sound, and games like Mount & Blade show that graphical fidelity is not everything when the systems underneath work so well. But Kenshi knackers those systems not by ruining them but by hiding them under such poor graphics and explanations that once you get there you probably don’t want to keep playing anymore, exactly like I did.
Dig through and Kenshi is a solid shot. All the underlying work is there to have a great game which will stand out enough against other RPG/RTS blends. But the bad overcoat makes the game terrible to play: Poor graphics which just cannot stand up and little help learning the systems leaves you adrift, and why be adrift in this game when you could play one you already know well? Given time, it could get there. But right now it’s not.