Kenshi: A Grinder’s Early Access Review

An early access review of the game Kenshi, available for $20 USD on Steam.

We Been Spending Most Our Lives Living in A Grinder’s Paradise…

Preface Note: Game was pur­chased by the re­view­er, not pro­vid­ed by the de­vel­op­er.

Kenshi is avail­able on Steam, for $20 USD and is present­ly in an al­pha state. Anything fea­tured in this ar­ti­cle may change with new up­dates. This is us­ing the cur­rent sta­ble (most­ly) ver­sion of 0.69.2, with an op­tion to jump to the ex­per­i­men­tal (And un­sta­ble) 0.70.x, or 0.71.x, or 0.72.x. It is de­vel­oped by Lo-Fi Games, by a six per­son team at present, with the mu­sic by Kole Audio Solutions.

Rules of Nature

Kenshi – Grind or Die

0daa310a77c8afb6bbd2a2ad8d0c48fdb485d3b0Kenshi is a game of over­com­ing fail­ure. Mainly, fail­ure that you seek out; in the game I am present­ly play­ing, my char­ac­ter has been beat­en up and left for dead in over one hun­dred bat­tles. Her win:loss ra­tio would make the Raiders feel bet­ter about them­selves. Unlike the epony­mous foot­ball team, los­ing makes the char­ac­ter bet­ter. Each blow suf­fered makes you tougher. Each failed de­fense makes your character’s mêlée de­fense grow high­er. On the same hand, each use of an at­tack does the same for one’s mêlée at­tack. Strength re­quires ei­ther us­ing a heav­ier weapon in com­bat (I switched to a frag­ment axe af­ter grind­ing out Dexterity with a katana stolen off the corpse of a dead sand jounin), or drag­ging hun­dreds of kilo of ma­te­ri­als across the sandy waste­lands to be­come stronger.

Live by the Sword.. 

My char­ac­ter start­ed out as an old sol­dier, hav­ing served for years for the United Cities as a cap­tain of the guard. Competent, but not in­vin­ci­ble. After days of time in­vest­ment and grind­ing, she is ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing 87 kg as a light load, able to move near­ly half a ton (1200 lbs!!!) on her own, has craft­ed a frag­ment axe that is ca­pa­ble of killing three men with a sin­gle blow, is fast enough to block the at­tacks of near­ly a dozen at­tack­ers, and is able to out­run all but the most trained of op­po­nents. Not that she has need to do so, as she is ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on en­tire squads of Dust Bandits by her­self. She has con­struct­ed the en­tire­ty of her base by hand, af­ter min­ing for the ma­te­ri­als her­self (And with the help of about 10 oth­ers), and has man­u­fac­tured every­thing she has worn per­son­al­ly. The grind is re­ward­ing, since she came from a fair­ly hum­ble beginning.


.. Get knocked Unconscious Repeatedly by the Sword

All of this is earned through hours, upon hours of grind­ing. I must em­bold­en this. Kenshi is not a game for the light of heart; the grind­ing will try your pa­tience, and the mu­sic, while at­mos­pher­ic, is am­bi­ent and tends to get grat­ing af­ter a while. Blood will be spilt. Arms will be bro­ken. Tears will flow. Salt will accumulate.

Expect a whole lot of this.

The craft­ing sys­tem, pow­ered by choice of end prod­uct and the speed of pro­duc­tion de­pends on the skill of the cre­ator. Quality has no bear­ing on the skill, thank­ful­ly, con­sid­er­ing the hours nec­es­sary to craft sim­ple weapons and ar­mour. The frag­ment axe men­tioned above (which is a steel maquahuitl with sav­age, sharp teeth) took five days to craft. Chainmail and oth­er ar­mours are in the same boat, with craft­ing time rough­ly in a week, even with the my high­ly trained chain­mail mak­er cum chain­mail ar­mour manufacturer.

There are present­ly only four styles of at­tack (Five if you in­clude har­poons) avail­able to train in as well as craft. Hackers, which are odd square sharp planks of met­al, Cleavers which are curved cut­ting swords, heavy weapons which in­clude clubs and the frag­ment axe my char­ac­ter uses, and a va­ri­ety of east­ern katana, and wak­iza­shi variants.

Thankfully, this is all mit­i­gat­ed, in part, by a speed up func­tion that speeds up the world to fur­ther re­duce real craft­ing time, which is still some­what slow for the reviewer’s lik­ing. But this is just how Kenshi do.

A Tale of Savage Enemies, Creation and Survival

Enemies in this sta­ble ver­sion are, now, few and far be­tween; be­ing main­ly made up of Starving Bandits, Dust Bandits, Sand Ninja, and Cannibals. Roughly in or­der of dif­fi­cul­ty, one will end up fight­ing these en­e­mies over and over, un­til your skills are good enough to de­fend your­self and your al­lies. Depending on start, the oth­er no­table fac­tions (United Cities Samurai, Mercenaries, and Holy Nation) will be your en­e­mies as well, pre­sent­ing a high­er dif­fi­cul­ty for your char­ac­ters as they are high­ly armed and dangerous.

The wound sys­tem is one of ad hoc sur­vival, with the game track­ing wounds to dif­fer­ent parts of the body.  Parts, no­tably be­ing the head, stom­ach or chest area, are re­quired in ef­fort to stay con­scious . The oth­er limbs present a com­bat malus in the form of in­abil­i­ty to use the limb or slowed down run­ning, which may make flee­ing dif­fi­cult. Kenshi is un­for­giv­ing in this respect.

I made dis – u like?

Base cre­ation is RTS style, re­quir­ing build­ing ma­te­ri­als, time, and some­one to build the build­ing. The over­all process is like weapon and item craft­ing as above, with a num­ber of build­ings avail­able for craft­ing or research.

The game’s re­search and sci­ence is, again, mere­ly an is­sue of time; Purchasing blue­prints is a mat­ter of head­ing to stores that sell sim­i­lar prod­ucts. Researching re­quires leav­ing a team mem­ber be­hind to chip away at a work­shop ta­ble to un­cov­er for­got­ten con­struc­tion secrets.

Graphics and Technical Bits

Now, con­sid­er­ing the game is in al­pha, it’s un­sur­pris­ing that the mod­els start off kind of dumpy. However, this is made up by the abil­i­ty to ma­nip­u­late and change the character’s fea­tures to some­thing more flat­ter­ing or to your ap­proval, with the abil­i­ty to ma­nip­u­late every­thing from height to weight to much more in­ti­mate de­tails. This all comes with a warn­ing; at present, many of the com­bat an­i­ma­tions do not work with some of the more ex­treme body shapes, with su­per small or su­per tall, or su­per wide char­ac­ters hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty mesh­ing with the an­i­ma­tions. This presents most­ly when us­ing fe­male mod­els, which were re­cent­ly added.

Graphics are an­oth­er is­sue as well; the game’s at­mos­phere is one of post apoc­a­lyp­ti­ca and due to this, the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ments are var­i­ous shades of brown. The oc­ca­sion­al green­ery from still liv­ing shrubbery/trees pops up from those plants that sur­vived the un­ex­plained death of society.

I made dis – u like?

Many things have changed since I pur­chased Kenshi orig­i­nal­ly (some­where around ver­sion .56) with changes and up­dates com­ing rough­ly every month or so. With new up­dates come new cloth­ing or cloth­ing re­placed, or mod­els slight­ly changed. Game saves are in­val­i­dat­ed be­tween ver­sions; how­ev­er, there is an op­tion to Import char­ac­ters from ear­li­er saves, al­low­ing in­com­pat­i­ble but high stat old char­ac­ters to be brought into a new system.

There are also quite a num­ber of bugs, main­ly to do with path-finding or oth­er odd­i­ties. As this is an al­pha, ex­pect lots of this to pop up.


This isn’t too bad. Honest.

I men­tioned the mu­sic. Kenshi’s mu­sic is an am­biance track, that does not seem to match to any event or ac­tion with­in the game it­self, and is en­tire­ly ran­dom. At present, how­ev­er, there is lit­tle to rec­om­mend, as it has a num­ber of east­ern in­spired ad­di­tions, and lit­tle else for the mo­ment. More mu­sic and more am­biance tracks are promised to match fur­ther ex­pan­sions of the map and the sur­round­ing environments.

As stat­ed be­fore, Kenshi is not for the light of heart, as many things are time in­vest­ments. Grinding is the norm for every­thing. I have spent many an hour mak­ing each mem­ber of my character’s group into one-woman armies, if only be­cause that is the only way they will survive.

Final Thoughts

Floating over parts of the en­vi­ron­ment isn’t nor­mal. But on meth it is.

After 85 hours of game­play, there is still some­thing to Kenshi that has drawn me back again and again to it’s blood soaked bad­lands. The game of­fers an ex­em­plary amount of per­son­al free­doms, idol­izes a pat­tern of con­tin­u­ous per­son­al growth. It’s a game of grow­ing num­bers and see­ing their im­pact in a world that is filled with dan­ger. It is also a game that is easy to get into, and to play with noth­ing more than the mouse, which makes it eas­i­er to play for those with a busier sched­ule. It thrives off of swift and bru­tal com­bat with only the best sur­viv­ing to the end, and the weak be­ing cut down dead; the mediocre lay­ing un­con­scious. It is un­for­giv­ing, and at the same time, for those who are will­ing to put the time into grind­ing a char­ac­ter out, rewarding.

The grind is the draw of Kenshi. It is a vi­cious and sim­ple game, that can be ca­su­al­ly put aside (It has a full save/loading sys­tem) and start­ed up again im­me­di­ate­ly where one had left off. The grind is pun­ish­ing; en­e­mies con­stant­ly chal­lenge you to grow and adapt, to sur­vive, and even­tu­al­ly con­quer those around you. Yet it is just le­nient enough for your char­ac­ters to sur­vive; though of­ten there were mo­ments I thought I had al­most killed her with the strug­gles I was forc­ing her through. But it was for the bet­ter, with each mo­ment of work en­sur­ing she’d sur­vive the next bat­tle a bit bet­ter off than she was in the last. Making her hard­er, bet­ter, faster, stronger. So that each group of ban­dits is not seen as mere­ly a chal­lenge, but a re­ward in it­self whether whether she won or lost.

Overcoming weak­ness and trad­ing it for new strength is ful­fill­ing, and af­ter tri­als and com­bat, this old sol­dier walks around the bad­lands, a walk­ing god­dess of death.

Purchasing Recommendations:

Buy Kenshi at full price if:

You en­joy long term sand­box games with a high de­gree of ad­ver­si­ty, and games that fo­cus on build­ing char­ac­ter skills and equipment.

Buy Kenshi at a dis­count if:

You aren’t will­ing to in­vest as much time, or are frus­trat­ed easily.

Don’t buy Kenshi if:

You are not a grinder at heart, or you do not have time to spare.

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
My name is Michael Campbell. I am a bud­ding writer, pro­duc­er, and the content-manager for off-site opin­ion pieces. I fo­cus on Early Access Game Reviews, Traditional Games Media (Primarily Pen & Paper Role-playing Games), Steam Games, Origin, and Indie Titles. My in­ter­ests in­clude draw­ing re­al­ly ter­ri­bly, run­ning far too many RPG games a week and hor­ri­fy­ing my co-workers and friends. I also get re­al­ly an­gry on Twitter at in­jus­tice. I am also like­ly go­ing to be­come a fix­ture in the ed­i­to­r­i­al sec­tion of this site, due to the above anger. You can reach me at if you have ques­tions or com­ments; As well, you can reach me @EvilBobDALMYT on Twitter to see some of that anger in motion.

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