I've just had a sinking feeling while playing the demo of co-op survival RPG Enshrouded. It wasn't while I was skulking through the dark and spooky shroud that covers large portions of the world (though those cursed areas are extremely unsettling to explore). It wasn't because I went into a creepy forgotten tomb and was attacked by a bunch of glowing, skittering spiders (though I did nope out of there pretty quickly.)
It wasn't even when I ran out of stamina while gliding in my wingsuit and plummeted to my death at the foot of a mountain (pleasantly, my gravestone appeared at the spot I jumped from, not the spot I landed on, so I could collect my loot easily).
No, the sinking feeling was due to seeing I only have three hours left to play in the eight-hour demo of Enshrouded. Only three more hours? Yeah, that's just not gonna be enough, sorry. I'm having a fine time adventuring, crafting, building, exploring, and faceplanting into the ground. And there's still so much more I want to do.
Keen Games, developer of Enshrouded, describes it as "Valheim meets Zelda'' and I can definitely see the influence of both games. In the first couple hours I'd crafted both a grappling hook and wingsuit, letting me yoink myself up hard-to-reach places and glide my way down from mountaintops and towering spires. The lock-on, dodge-roll combat feels Zelda-ish, there are a few puzzle-filled ruins to figure out and traverse through, and those big old metal treasure chests containing magic items as a reward for solving them.
But the Valheim vibe is much stronger. I've built myself a tiny, cozy little base in a meadow and could happily spend the rest of the week doing nothing but building additions, deciding I hate them, tearing them down, and rebuilding them completely. I've got chests full of crafting materials I haven't found a use for yet, including beeswax: Enshrouded, please let me farm bees.
I discovered an abandoned, broken down farmhouse with fields full of dead crops, so I claimed the land it was on to make it my second base because I wanna fix it up and grow my own crops there. A huge, mysterious world to explore but all I want to do is stay home, grow crops, and raise bees? That's definitely how I played Valheim.
Many of Enshrouded's survival elements are light: even lighter than Valheim's. Eating isn't a necessity but a bonus—before I leave my base to complete quests or go exploring I'll cook some wolf meat, roast a mushroom, and take a healthy glug from my canteen, because that boosts my max health and stamina. (Even with an empty stomach, your health doesn't drop nearly as low as it does in Valheim.) Weapon and tool repairing is even easier than it is in Valheim, too. In Valheim it requires no additional materials, you just have to visit a crafting bench and bang on each weapon or item you want to repair. In Enshrouded, just clicking on your workbench will repair everything in your inventory that's been worn down.
Stamina regeneration also feels more forgiving than Valheim, which makes swinging weapons, blocking, and parrying much easier. I suspect a lot of players will want a greater challenge, so hopefully there are some truly tough enemies beyond the demo's borders. Even a clutz like me has found surviving Enshrouded a pretty easy experience so far.
Weirdly, even five hours in, I can't even decide what kind of character I want to be yet. After finding an NPC blacksmith out in the world I built him a room for him in my base, set him up with a forge and charcoal kiln, and now he can help me craft stuff. But right after I completed a set of armor that made me feel like a fighter, I found a magic wand in a treasure chest and then crafted a magic staff. Flinging fireballs and ice orbs now kinda makes me want to be a wizard. But then I've also got a bow, so I kinda also want to be a ranger. Luckily, you don't really have to choose—there's a big skill tree for each of those builds but you're never locked out of any class. Fighter/mage/ranger it is, then.
The fantasy trappings of Enshrouded feel a little on the generic side, but I've enjoyed the scraps of lore I've come across, and it's a lovely world to explore—especially since you can make nice big holes in it.
Detonating bombs and explosive barrels will take huge hunks of the landscape with them, which never gets old. I aimed my magic wand at an enemy who was foolishly standing too close to a red barrel, and not only was he gone when the smoke cleared, but there was a giant satisfying crater in the ground. At another bandit camp I blew up a whole row of barrels and it took out part of the cliff wall behind it, meaning I now had a shortcut through the rocky ridge instead of having to go around it. And I was able to climb up to tall mountain peaks by chiseling grooves in the sides, giving me a rough staircase to the top.
After big hits like Valheim in 2021 and Sons of the Forest earlier this year, I know players are always on the lookout for a new open world co-op survival game. The five hours I've played isn't nearly enough time to judge if Enshrouded will take the Steam charts by storm, but so far it feels pretty promising.
Case in point: I just booted it up again to take a quick screenshot of something, and wound up playing for another hour. Damn. Now I've only got two hours left. That just won't be enough.