Enshrouded Hands-Off Preview: Clearing Things Up

Only a few months since its reveal, the team behind Enshrouded is ready to show off more of the game’s misty world. For most, that means a new building and terraforming trailer, complete with soaring towers, underground dungeons, and fertile farms. You can check all of that out below, but this preview will go far beyond those topics. I was invited to a hands-off presentation that unveiled things from combat and exploration to how the world’s toxic fog changes the gameplay.

Like many good fantasy-inspired adventures, this one starts with a character creator, though we don’t get walked through its options. Our host’s dark-haired figure is already made and ready to travel to the flame at Longkeep.

The densely wooded area opens into an inviting meadow just perfect for a home base. Despite the peaceful sunbeams streaming through the trees, the world is actually undergoing a cataclysmic event. Deadly fog clings to the game’s lowlands and this creeping enemy has already claimed the lives of many.

Though I’m not told exactly what brought it about and how it affected the world’s inhabitants, I learn every playable character has been “brought back by a mysterious force called the flame.” My quest, when stepping into Enshrouded, will be to rid the world of this fog and rebuild civilization. Seems simple enough.

The second step of the mission, the rebuilding part, starts with my own dwelling. Very much like Valheim — a game the developers admit to taking inspiration from — shelter will give you resting buffs which increase as your domicile grows more lavish.

Building seems to be both easy and extremely customizable. The voxel building blocks have large templates, like windows, doorways, and foundations. However, players can also build brick-by-brick to tailor every structure to their own tastes. It’s hard to tell without getting my hands on it, but it looks really satisfying.

Survival is another integral part of gameplay. Once again referencing Valheim, the developers explain their interpretation of the genre is “more rewarding than punishing,” with food giving players a boost to health and energy rather than a necessity for staying alive. However, food-based buffs will certainly tip the scales when it comes to facing the fog.

Heading off toward the fog, I get a glimpse of one of my favorite elements from the reveal trailer: The glider. It got my hopes to see it in action so early, but I was quickly told having it for the presentation was “cheating a bit.” So, I won’t be soaring off my irresponsibly tall tower any time soon, but, from how fun it looked here, I still can’t wait to try it out.

Descending into the misty waste, a new meter appears over the character’s head. This tracks the time until succumbing to the fog. Balancing my desire to loot and explore with my limited time is likely to prove challenging but at least my task will be easier with The Flame’s help. Owing to my connection, empty lanterns along the way come to life, illuminating the path in the dense shroud and leaving a handy bread trail to mark the places I’ve already been.

Enemies also wander in the haze. Once humans, the unfailingly aggressive creatures come in the form of low-level grunts to intense bosses. Combat features a lock-on system, a parry, and serious damage-dealing counters. It appears Soulslike in nature but telling how similar it feels is difficult from simply watching the screen.

Near more difficult encounters, the developers have placed Beacons, which not only lower your fog meter but also act as a respawn point. You’ll be a little worse for the wear, but you’ll retain vital gear like weapons after you come back which will help you retrieve anything left on your corpse.

Downed enemies drop loot, and, in the case of the first baddie we encounter, this manifests as a ring that grants stamina and health. Not a bad prize. In this same enemy camp lies a deeply helpful object: An hourglass. The magical item clears the fog meter allowing the player to stay in the depths longer without dying. But enemies aren’t only found in the mist.

Other humans that survived the spreading haze make a living by preying on anyone that happens along. To avoid this fate, players can choose to go in sword blazing or low and slow, picking potential threats off with a bow or with a special sneak attack. I’m super into that last option and it looks like it deals extra damage to unsuspecting targets.

Our first quest comes near its end in an ancient vault, which holds the soul of Oswald Anders The Blacksmith. When brought back to the safety of home base, we can resurrect this NPC to help better our gear. But getting back doesn’t take as long as I expected. Instead of tracking back the way we came, it turns out every base players make enable fast travel. So, it’s a simple matter of pulling up the menu and selecting the destination.

Another small detail that makes shifting from adventuring to homebuilding more convenient is the introduction of a second hotkey bar. You can swap between them at any time and on one you can keep weapons, shields, pickaxes, or anything that makes a journey easier. On the other, you can keep building materials, plants, or whatever comforts you might want at home.

This is the last stop on the tour for today. While a ton was packed into the brief presentation, I’m still aware I know exceedingly little about the game’s narrative. Enshrouded is set to release in Early Access later this year. So, hopefully, that will give me some of the answers I’m looking for.

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