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Seven (Hundred) Samurai: Kenshi


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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