You feel the blistering heat boiling your skin as you stare onto the endless waves of arid sands. It doesn’t help that you’re now starving and missing your left arm. Welcome to the world of Kenshi.

Kenshi is an open-world RPG, and I can assure you, it’s as brutal as it sounds, both in gameplay and atmosphere. It manages to catch the feeling of an old, classic RPG while merging it into a creatively unique and harsh alien setting. Although you should keep in mind that the difficult nature, outdated graphics, and odd mechanics are definitely not for everyone.


Every great RPG should have a strong focus on building an atmosphere. Kenshi does this through visuals and sound design impressively well. The combination of an interesting map and an immersive soundtrack helps build the narrative along with the choices of the player. In Kenshi, you explore your own path by travelling through various climates across the map; each zone having its own strange personality and likely even hazards.

Opinions aside, there is one thing about Kenshi’s map building that is a fact. It’s ambitious. It moves away from the typical Earth-like setting many modern RPG titles use and heavily sways to the side of fantasy. It’s a colourful blend of creative and crazy, mixing multiple cultural themes and placing them in an unfamilar, unworldly enviroment. This approach is very hit or miss and I can understand why some people could be confused, that for example, a dry desert would neighbour a wetlands swamp or that outcast cities inhabit samuari robots. Zone borders can also feel unnatural at times as if the map is a puzzle rather than a wilderness. Yet the positives largely outweigh the negatives. The sheer size and variety of the map is enough for me to still be exploring, even after 175 hours of playtime. All sorts of bizarre creatures roam these lands, including bandits, caravans and lonely travellers. Sparsely plotted ruins are always waiting to be explored. Kenshi is a dangerous place, and the atmosphere alone is enough to imply this.


Kenshi’s difficulty and mechanics share the same harsh nature as its atmosphere. It’s all about surviving another day; and not just for the player. In the beginning, you’re simply a commoner attempting to find your way of sustaining life, and in Kenshi, there are many options for that. Be a bounty hunter, a drug farmer, a thief or a trader; the list continues. It’s entirely the player’s choice for what path they take, and the whole game revolves around this concept. Though, you should remember. In the beginning, you’re just a useless oyster, and I’d bet my Cats on the pack of goats in a fight.

Hardship plays a big role in the world of Kenshi. Losing battles are even endorsed. This is due to the ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ mentality the game heavily advocates. It can be frustrating watching bandits looting your dying squad members after losing a brawl, while you helplessly wait until they leave. But this actually benefits your characters in the long run and allows them to level up. You become stronger. Your skills start at zero and increase in a linear fashion, the levelling system is yet another retro-RPG inspired mechanic. Slowly your characters turn from weaklings to macho warriors; it’s this journey that makes Kenshi enjoyable while challenging.

This may sound fun, or maybe not. As I mentioned before, Kenshi isn’t for everyone, and the mechanics are not particularly beginner-friendly, especially due to the lack of a proper tutorial. Keep in mind there is a basic help menu, but it doesn’t suffice for most of the situations you’ll encounter. It boils down to, you adapt to the game or you will lose, and considering the current casual direction of the games market, many new players could be turned off.


If you’re reading this review to decide if you should buy the game, consider this portion important. In all my playthroughs of Kenshi, I haven’t encountered any game-breaking problems and other players I’ve spoken to say the same. Although it is expected to crash once or twice every ~50 hours into a save. Fortunately, this doesn’t cause any other issues and can be easily countered with the power of auto-saves. The most annoying problem I have discovered was that having a very high walking speed doesn’t actually change how fast I could travel in real-time, due to zones on the map loading and pausing the game. This is because the engine is loading assets such as trees.