One of the first things
The thing is, though, that a lot of survival games make the survival part their major emphasis. You head out into the world in search of particular mushrooms or ore deposits or animal skins because you need them to make better tools and crafting materials and building blocks. Adventures are, oftentimes, things you do between building your latest log cabin condo development. You have timers for hunger, thirst, and exhaustion to contend with, so venturing too far from home comes with a major risk of death.
In Enshrouded, most of the survival systems enhance your character but don’t hold you back. Food and water, for example, expand your life and stamina bars, but you’ll never starve or dehydrate. Resting at a settlement or sitting by a campfire gives you an extremely useful Rested bonus to your stats, but you’re not required to have it. There’s a ton of crafting to do, but by and large, everything you make is aimed at letting you go farther out in the world and bring back more with you. And an expansive fast-travel system makes getting around Enshrouded’s big map generally pretty easy, so whenever you’re done (as long as you’re not standing in the deathly Shroud fog), you can just pop back to the safety of your home and bounce.
I play a lot of survival games, but I have to admit that I’m not an especially big fan of the genre. Often, they feel like a lot of work for not a lot of payoff, with each one requiring me to go through the same steps of picking up rocks and gathering sticks so I can make the same set of tools to get more rocks and more sticks. It’s an endless parade of boring tasks to kick a crafting system into gear that eventually leads to something interesting. While Enshrouded has a lot of these systems, too, the size of the world and the density of things to do within it feel like developer Keen Games has put its emphasis on what’s out there over what’s back home. You can still engage with all the tech tree-climbing and house-building and crafting automation if you so desire–but the building and survival elements facilitate the adventuring, and not the other way around.
That’s what I find interesting about survival games, and that’s what I’m enjoying so much about Enshrouded. Much of the fun comes from having a group of brawlers and wizards that lets us take on tougher challenges, for sure. I’ll admit also that I’m lucky enough to play with a team of people who really like doing the building, the crafting, and the farming–I hang out in their town and go out with them on our adventures, and then always find a convenient excuse to log off when people start talking about our town’s need for additional bonemeal or wood acid.
Even when I play alone, though, Enshrouded scratches the particular itch that also made me enjoy games like Valheim and Sons of the Forest–that desire to figure out what the developers have left waiting for us out in the wilderness. So far, every time we head out into the Shroud, we’ve been rewarded with something that’s worth finding, and being able to seek farther and handle more is what drives our desire to spend the time to build up our town and craft new stuff. I like Enshrouded because it’s a survival game that uses survival mechanics, but isn’t just about surviving. It uses those genre elements as a starting point for everything else, and there’s a lot of “else” to discover.