Seven (Hundred) Samurai: Kenshi

By Adam Smith on September 8th, 2011 at 1:36 pm.

Every building is filled to bursting with samurai
It’s becoming increasingly common for ambitious indie projects to invite people into their unfinished worlds, for a price, so that developers can gather feedback and funding. The latest title I’ve spotted that’s hoping to take this approach is Kenshi, a single player “free-roaming squad based RPG” that plonks the player into the sandals of an everyman samurai. It’s at a very early stage but Lo-Fi Games are hoping to release a playable version next month so that people can have immediate access while helping with development. Reading the planned feature list was actually more enjoyable than playing some games and I’d strongly recommend taking a peek at the trailer below. It’s probably not the most cinematic video you’ll see today but it makes its point well.

At first I thought it was going to be a samurai stabbing simulator but it turns out it’s actually hoping to be some kind of samurai doing-everything simulator. The most obvious comparison is probably Mount and Blade. If nothing else, I can see this being a source of endless frustration as I F5 the site repeatedly in the hopes of an update. And now everyone reading this can be frustrated with me too. I believe in sharing.

Here’s a few quotes from the developer that will haunt my waking dreams with their vision of one of The Ideal Games.

“Be cautious and grow. You don’t have to win all the time, if a character loses a fight, he actually gains more experience from it. After all you never forget a lesson if it involves getting stabbed.”

A brilliant idea. Give me a reason to survive a fight that is going badly rather than making it an excuse to reload. In the words of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried? Ever failed? No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail harder. Fail better”. Yes. If mistakes lead to a failure state, or to a more undesirable place, then freedom becomes the choice of different kinds of success. True freedom shouldn’t simply allow different approaches to a goal but different ways to accept missing a goal.

“You are not the chosen one. You’re not great and powerful. You don’t have more ‘hitpoints’ than everyone else. You are not the center of the universe, and you are not special. Unless you work for it.”

I don’t think this is inherently better than being the chosen one but it’s certainly not as common. I suspect a large part of my excitement about not being the centre of the universe is linked to the fact that it requires a more detailed and simulated universe. Other things must be happening without me nudging them into action. In many games, one of the reasons the player is powerful or important is because nothing can happen without him/her. It’s heroism by default, to hide limitations.

“Think of a combination of X-Com Apocalypse and Oblivion.”

I would be happy to.

“Absolutely no Level-scaling. The world does not level up along with you, and the shops don’t change their inventory to only items matching your level.”

Good.

It could be nothing more than noble intentions but the development blog on the site gives an honest and engaging insight into the problems and possibilities of game design. This level of thoughtfulness and ambition is why I learned to love the PC in the first place and I’ll be damned before I put on my cynical hat before I have good reason.

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73 Comments »

  1. inertia says:

    Hot piss. Sounds brilliant! The last bit in the video reminded me of my all-kensai armies in the original Shogun Total War, so yes, I will support this endeavour with my money and hope, just to re-live that memory in more detail.

  2. max pain says:

    At first it looked like a normal rpg, but then BAM buildings, business, bases! Looks good.

  3. Anthile says:

    The Magnificent Seven Samurai: The Game

  4. Scroll says:

    This is the kind of indie Pc development that I really really like. It seems to have a combination of so many weird elements that might just work.

    Well now I am very excited.

  5. thepaleking says:

    Just a few months ago – while playing Arcanum – I was thinking about how much I would like to see a Samurai themed RPG; this game incorporates everything I could have hoped for, and then some. I usually don’t go in for the early purchase offers, because I’m always paranoid over the fact that the developer might be hit by a truck, but as soon as the option is open for this game, he will have my money.

    Also if anyone is desperate for decent Samurai games, check out the Way of the Samurai series.

    • ArcaneSaint says:

      I normally don’t do preorders either, based on past bad experiences after which I promised not to get ripped off like that again. But right now I’m seriously considering breaking that promise. If these guys really can deliver what they promise I’d be more than happy to throw my money their way.

      Hm, there’s no word of a possible demo or something? Though I guess not, as this seems to be the kind of game that is quite difficult to properly show in a demo. You either have to cut away too much of the content that makes it so unique, or you have to risk the demo being too much like the full game and thus it becomes unnecessary to buy. And well, time-trials are easily hacked, so I don’t suppose they’d go that route.

    • thepaleking says:

      Looking at the forums, apparently there was a demo, but he stopped hosting it; now a new one is planned for October.

    • Renfield says:

      Wasn’t there a samurai-themed (i.e. Far Eastern) Diablo clone, once? Though not a ‘samurai RPG’ in Arcanum terms, I remember it as being vaguely fun.

      Edit: Fantasy, though – demons and whatnot.

      Edit 2: Throne of Darkness! Took me long enough…

    • ArcaneSaint says:

      @thepaleking: Thanks! I’ll be sure to check it out coming October. Perhaps I can find someone who still has a copy of the previous demo, I’ll have to look into that. That’s not illegal/immoral is it?

  6. Eclipse says:

    It’s a very ambitious project, I really like it but I’ll wait further impressions. I’d rather wait a bit that play a bug ridden, unfinished alpha. For that kind of stuff I have my own games in development :-P

  7. cpeninja says:

    Day 1 buy. I am serious. I enjoyed M&B so much that I’ve started trusting indie devs with awesome ideas.

    • Amun says:

      This guy really just needs to get a loan and hire a team.

    • Ysellian says:

      Honestly Im not sure if you’ve tried getting a loan lately, but it’s hell. I don’t blame the guy for trying this method. Because the risk is shared amongst all those interested instead of just a single person. It’s not that 10 $ is that much of a risk either. If it ends up failing too bad, but I’ve wasted more money on more trivial things.

  8. Eclipse says:

    Also the music on the trailer reminds me a lot of the post rock\stoner I love to hear. More of that please.

  9. Nullkigan says:

    I am conflicted.

    This looks awesome, but the potential for being MORE AWESOME at a later date is such that I don’t actually want to buy it in October, but instead wait until it’s “finished”.

    I have a nasty habit of only playing early builds on this business model (see: M&B, Minecraft, Star Ruler, SPAZ, etc), and whilst I generally get my money’s worth I get kind of envious of the people who get the “full” experience on the first go, when everything is still new and fresh to them.

    (Plus early builds are still a gamble, anyone remember All Heroes Die?)

    • lhzr says:

      i don’t think it’s fair to include minecraft on that list, since it’s basically the same as it was when word first started getting out about it. the only thing that’s different is that there are now a lot of mods out.

      minecraft would fit better in another list, next to that all heroes die game that you mentioned.

      i also have that habit of playing alphas ’til i get bored of them and then not playing the full version when it’s out (spaz being the most recent example). i’m avoiding getting every update that indie stone put out, for that exact reason, project zomboid seems too precious to allow myself to go down that route.

    • Nullkigan says:

      Minecraft promises to be a bit different with the Adventure update, plus there are increasing amounts of major mods as you rightly pointed out. Up until now it’s basically been “throw up shack, make megastructures shortly thereafter” which isn’t much different from creative. Not saying it’s a bad game, just that I burned out on it, and the final product is going to be different to what I experienced.

      I most certainly would not put it on the same list as AHD because Minecraft is still in development. AHD took my money (all £4 or so) then folded after putting out a very buggy early alpha. They didn’t even have the common courtesy to send out an e-mail saying that it was no longer viable to continue developing the game – they just VANISHED. Which is a shame, because the concept of King of Dragon Pass + Crusader Kings + etc etc etc was pretty good.

      I’m asiduously avoiding Zomboid too, for the same reasons as you. This will probably go on the same list.

    • lhzr says:

      king of dragon pass is amazing. i don’t think it ever left my pc after installing it the first time. and even if i don’t play it that often, i want to have it close at hand. at all times!

      is crusader kings similar? i took a brief look at metacritic, but quickly closed the page after seeing europa universalis mentioned (i’m not very keen on spreadsheet games).

    • mike2R says:

      While I love Crusader Kings, and personally believe the forthcoming CK2 will be the best thing since sliced bread, if Europa Universalis is a complete turnoff for you, you will probably feel the same way about CK.

      CK is character based, you play an individual noble who marries and has children. Nobles can hold little land themselves, so the higher ranks have lower ranks as vassals – leading to all sorts of intrigue, and being about the only game of this type which has a decent negative feedback loop for when you grow larger: more vassals == more chance of rebellion and civil war, especially when your latest king is an inbred moron with an attitude problem and a habit of killing relatives.

      But it is still a Paradox grand strategy game, and if you simply don’t like Paradox grand strategy games then it probably isn’t for you…

    • lhzr says:

      all that getting married, having children and vassals sounds nice, but from your description and from looking at some pictures i’m thinking that you’re probably right, perhaps something with more .. visual feedback, like the guild series would be more up my alley, although, due to middling reviews and claims of wonkiness, i haven’t yet worked up the courage to give them a try..

    • Buttless Boy says:

      I’ve been having the same thoughts. The Guild looks decent, but what I really want is a game with the politics and treachery of Solium Infernum and the epic length and progression of Civ. With less emphasis on war than 99% of strategy games. A turn-based, grand-scale, politics-and-economy sim. Does that exist?

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      @Buttless Boy

      You can’t really get SI level of scheming and treachery in a single player game. But *many* games can become that treacherous if you play them against other people.

      The dynasty system in Crusader Kings is definitely the single player grand strategy Ive played with the best emphasis on political maneuvering, incestuous machinations, and familial backstabbing. That’s actually the high point and focus of the game, at the expense of other areas. But it’s really fun getting a sense of attachment to all these different personalities with their different perks and attributes, and watching them squabble.

      Your best bet might be Crusader Kings 2 or Sengoku, depending on how much Crusader King DNA it has, for epic, politically based grand strategy. They’re not strictly turn based, but the “pause and issue orders” system makes it play little different.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      Thanks for the tips. I guess I’ll keep waiting for CK2, then. Maybe I’ll fire up EUIII again in the meantime to try and wrap my head around the Paradox approach to UI.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Well, this does look promising indeed. I am just not so sure about the whole “I CAN TAKE ON A WHOLE FUCKING ARMY BY MY OWN” bit and the combat system as showed in these videos (Yeah, let’s attack one by one, that will be simpler for him, and mook chivalry also.). The design of the swords is a bit disappointing too as far as I am concerned, but if it keeps half the promises it seems to be making at my brains, then there will be a buy.

  10. PopeBob says:

    Looks exciting. I can’t wait to be one of the famed Gobi Desert samurai who walk the dunes eking out justice to all those who stand in their way.

  11. poop II says:

    looks really interesting even though I still dont know what it is, shame about the investmentware though, no thanks.

  12. Juan Carlo says:

    So basically it’s Warband only without the “world map” mode?

  13. resignation.speaks says:

    Sweet! Hope they manage to implement everything thay are planning.. could be great, definitely supporting.

    Thanks for bringing it to our attention, and nice use of Becket:)
    This came to mind: “You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.” Albert Camus.

  14. Groove says:

    It sounds magical……

    BE GOOD DAMNIT.

    It is worrying since it strays into, as mentioned, ‘Ideal Game’ territory, but a lot of the ideas are actually old ideas. Just now they’re married with a modernly huge world, humility, and a couple of extras (defeat experience).

    I am watching.

  15. Teronfel says:

    This is fucking awesome!!!

  16. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Been following this one for a while on that greatest of, “spot the awesome up and coming project” resources IndieDB and yes, it looks and sounds really exciting. If they pull it off then it’ll be one hell of a game. Glad to see it getting some attention.

    Edit: Also if anybody is interested in this game I do recommend “tracking” it on IndieDB, they update on there fairly regularly so it’s probably one of the best places, if not the best place to keep an eye on it.

    http://www.indiedb.com/games/kenshi

  17. lhzr says:

    “a free-roaming squad based RPG”
    “Think of a combination of X-Com Apocalypse and Oblivion.”

    yes, please! it sounds a lot like mount & blade, indeed. that onealso sounded great, until i’ve played it and it proved to be too clumsy for me. and let’s not mention fort zombie (sorry), which is probably the definition of having a ton of potential and then pissing on it (and on the customers).

    so yeah, trying to keep my hopes in check for now.

    btw, starfarer sounds like another one of “these”, and it looks quite nice. and they’re selling it for the same price, being in alpha and all. might wanna give it a look, adam.

  18. Rii says:

    Desert… Samurai? What?

  19. Hanban says:

    I can’t wait till October! I want to throw those 10 bucks at him and play it NOW!

  20. BobsLawnService says:

    I’d love to see a publisher like Bethesda pick this up and give it the budget and support it needs while still allowing for creative freedom and expression. I mean – isn’t that what publishers are supposed to be for?

    • Ultramegazord says:

      Bethesda? Hell, jesus, no.
      To turn it into a simplified action game with stats? No thanks, Bethesda already ruined the Fallout franchise, that’s enough.

    • Grygus says:

      I think half of the appeal here is that they’re making a game no real publisher would allow them to make. That does include Bethesda.

  21. CMaster says:

    It looks a lot like Fallen Earth, bizarrely (not as in it looks like they play anything the same, but the environment, animations, etc).

  22. HexagonalBolts says:

    Looks really good, I hope the world is ‘alive’ a bit, and not just the way in Oblivion where they wander around aimlessly, but in a way where there’s a little bit of an economy and some faction wars going on

  23. Moni says:

    Ooh, I hope it’s a bit Samurai Champloo. As in traipsing about trying to scrape together enough money to eat, rather than anachronistic hip-hop stylings. Although that would also be cool.

  24. Renfield says:

    Finds like these are part of why I love RPS so much. Looks lovely!

    • Cramdown says:

      Did they design this to go directly to the pleasure centers of my brain? It appears that way.

      Another indie-game to obsess over as I await release, or pre-release, or whatever. I hope they get where they’re hoping to go. I’m certainly willing to help fund the journey based on that trailer.

  25. sakmidrai says:

    Wait wait… is this an MMO or like Path of Exile where you can find other players and make parties in hubs?

  26. Tams80 says:

    No cherry blossom.

    This is no Samurai game!

  27. mbhlin says:

    Top game goods in http://bit.ly/5jbkVf ,there can help you to play games so easy

  28. Iskariot says:

    I am very interested in this, but only if it is a single player RPG/action game.
    It is not an MMO I hope? I am sick of all these short lived MMO’s.

  29. Tei says:

    Wow.. a 7 Samurais simulator!!! :DD

  30. Vexing Vision says:

    VERY interested. As soon as there is a slightly less sketchy roadmap ahead, I’m going to support the guys.

  31. varangian says:

    Love the fighting with what looks like a blade from a wind turbine. Please let there be shurikens of similar size I can throw and cut down scores of the opposition with.

  32. Joof says:

    This looks awesome.

  33. RyuRanX says:

    It was made for me. I love ambitious games that doesn’t rely on the cinematic experience (scripted events, linearity and cutscenes).

  34. snv says:

    Reminds me a lot of Mount & Blade. One of the very few games where i actually bought a pre-release version. Also one of the even fewer games where this turned out to be worth its money.

  35. Davie says:

    Holy crap, if they make this work it might end up being one of my favorite games of all time. Giant battles, samurai, desert-punk, base-building, ragdoll physics…what’s not to like?

  36. Ultramegazord says:

    Wow, this looks extremely promising, really excited about it!
    Those guys really deserve our support, I’m sure the game will turn out great.

  37. Unaco says:

    Fingers crossed on this one.

  38. cosmicolor says:

    This is either going to be amazing or a complete, ambitious bomb. I am hoping for the former.

  39. Ysellian says:

    Worth a shot to try this out.

  40. Sludgecrawler says:

    The pressure on my F5-key is rising. Naumachia, Infested Planet, Running With Rifles, Starfarer and, now, Kenshi.

  41. dsi1 says:

    This is the kind of game I dreamed of as a kid.

  42. MrEvilGuy says:

    Am I the only one that thought this looked rather dull? Implementing the promised features does not make the game well-done unless the implementation of those features is done well. Run your own business? How much complexity are they willing to throw into that feature? Warband was a thrill but I found it became repetitive after awhile because the variety of features had restrictive limits placed on them by the developers. I see this sort of restriction in so many games that it surprises me to see such high expectations!

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