The Editor-in-Chief had a review for me to do. Nothing out of the ordinary there. A game no one had heard of called Enshrouded World. It looked a little wonky, so right in my wheelhouse. Who knew that spending some time with this game would cause me to think so deeply? Just, not about what the game was hoping, I suspect.
Anyone who has read my reviews doubtlessly knows I follow a format. Start with a hook, introduce the basics of the game, talk about the good stuff, then talk about the bad stuff. Summarise and conclude to bring everything together.
Please bear with me as I enter some kind of reviewers existential crisis.
Enshrouded World purports to provide (and I quote) “a vehicular combat experience that features non-linear progression and survival elements not seen in the genre until now.” What I became a part of was 30 minutes of running through generic sci-fi corridors pushing buttons, with a brief five minute break to drive a hovercraft to pick some flowers. Followed by 15 more minutes of wandering around, before getting back into a hovercraft for THAT LEVEL.
THAT LEVEL, as I am calling it, is a level where you walk out of an airlock and a security drone inexplicably pumps your poofy-sleeved form full of bullet-lasers. You can leg it to a nearby hovercraft, but then the security drone pumps that full of bullet-lasers instead.
So you die, and the first enjoyable thing in the last hour happens. The game immediately stops running and returns to the desktop.
Most sensible people would call it quits there. But I have a job to do, dammit. And I figure the Editor-in-Chief owes me a 100% pay rise after this.
Back into Enshrouded World I go. Back to being filled with bullet-laser. But wait! When I am in the hovercraft I discover that I can press ‘1’ and a turret magically appears on top of the hovercraft. There has been no prompt about this, save for a cryptic message that quickly appears the first time you enter the vehicle. Now you will get your comeuppance, you dastardly drone!
I make quick work of the security drone, and the second one which appears after the first’s destruction, and then get to picking flowers. No, this is not hyperbole, that is what you do. Drive your hovercraft to a waypoint and collect a large flower.
Previously, I have had a waypoint appear when there is a new objective, like a button to press or an exit to leave through. But not in THAT LEVEL. I am left unsupervised in a level with five or six possible exits. So I drive to an airlock and check to see if the door is unlocked. It is not.
Unfortunately, on leaving the airlock I discover that my hovercraft has disappeared! It turns out that whenever you enter an airlock the hovercraft resets. Whether it is an airlock you can pass through or not.
So I leg it to the next likely candidate. Success! An unlocked door! I enter it and…
Perpetual loading screen. I left it, just to be sure. Ten minutes, and multiple attempts, yielded the same results. I would have face-palmed, but by this point I wasn’t surprised. All Enshrouded World had brought up until now was boredom and confounding issues.
Now, let’s take a moment to look outside the game, at the wider world from which this game was conceived and, ultimately, scratched into the very disc of my hard drive.
Our erstwhile PPN Editor-in-Chief, Toby, received an email from a PR company we will not name here. Written in said email (and I again directly quote), “Steam keys for Enshrouded World, a vehicular combat Leadwerks-designed game, are now available for your reviewing pleasure.” The word ‘review’ appears a few more times in the email exchanges, so everyone understands this thing is a game review.
The game lands with me, and as I do, I take a look at the store page to get a feel for what it is I am looking at. Now I don’t have a way to support my belief (like a screenshot, for instance), but as far as I can recall the game had been released when I looked at the page, and there was no mention of anything like Early Access.
After my issues I hit the discussion forum of Enshrouded World on Steam to raise the issues and see what feedback the developer could provide. When a response did eventually appear it was a little vague, but it talked about the game being in Early Access. I was of course confused; I thought that the game was a finished release. And on returning to the store page, to my bemusement, there is an Early Access disclaimer.
Now I am left in a difficult position. I have been supplied with a game (provided by a representative of the game in an official capacity) to review when it is in nowhere near a state that is review ready.
What is one to do? I fully realise the work that goes into creating a game, even a bad one. To this end I made a decision when I started writing reviews, that I look not just at the game as presented but also attempt to interpret the intention of the developer. A lot of the time even a poor game has the kernel of a good idea somewhere, and shows the creators ability to think conceptually, even if their execution is completely lacking.
What we have here with Enshrouded World, though, isn’t even a preview ready build. There are no ideas to find, no concepts to explore. There is just empty levels and a couple of game halting problems. Even with the Early Access label on it I think the publisher has a lot of gall asking for USD$16.99 for this product (and make no mistake, even if it is a game still in development, it is a product).
In the end, PPN and I were asked to provide a review. And review we shall.
Do not buy Enshrouded World, as it currently stands. Please don’t misunderstand me, given time to fix the game-ending problems and work on the experience some more, Enshrouded World could become the greatest game of all time. Or it could perpetually stay a blighted mess. My experience with it so far requires me to warn you away. Spend your money elsewhere. Nowhere does this game (Early Access or not) provide me with the confidence to say that the developer will be able to deliver on even a fraction of the promised experience.
In the very least I hope the developer, and you the reader, have learnt an important lesson. You should not ask for an Early Access game to be reviewed, especially when it has so many known problems. It is an old saying, but sometimes, you have to put your best foot forward. Enshrouded World doesn’t do this in the slightest.
Because the video of the game doesn’t represent anything that is going on at the moment, instead, here is what is possibly THE original cat video.
Enshrouded World is being developed and published by Brandon Gallo, and is available now (as Early Access) on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 1.5 hours