[Kenshi]: Tales of true biopunk suffering and the eternal wonders of Beep

Indie WinterIndie Winter die KräheRudi Hurzlmeier (German, b. 1952)Registered User regular
edited July 2022 in Social Entropy++

Kenshi is a videogame mostly made by one man in his Bristol flat over the course of 16 year. It is like if Trigun and Mount and Blade had a child, and that child grew up to be Morrowind.

The setting of Kenshi... look, shit got fucked up real bad, ok? then it got fucked up a second time by skeletons, but not the kind of skeletons you're thinking of. It's also a tidally locked moon, and a continent, and A Mood.


Kenshi doesn't feel so much as a post-apocalypse as an apocalypse-ongoing. Shit isn't just recovering, it is actively being kicked in the teeth because a decision made by some asshole a thousand years ago. Take for example the quaint region of Venge, constantly being bombarded by deadly solar beams from an orbiting weapons satellite. Or the Ashlands, eternally filled with low-hanging clouds of poison gas inimical to all organic life. Or the Cannibal Plains, which absolutely live up to their name.


Kenshi is full of weird stuff - from murderous Beak Things (ooohh, the Beak Things) to albino Landbats to mighty Leviathans, Kenshi is choke full of things trying to kill its sapient inhabitants. And these come in several varieties: the humans range from the agrarian, combative Greenlanders (i.e. basic-ass humans) to the savvy Scorchlanders with their obsidian skin, glowing eyes and silver hair (i.e. humans But Cool). Aside from them you also have the Hivers, stick-like humanoid insects who are bound together by pheromones, unless something goes wrong and they get separated, outcast and disconnected. Then there's the Shek, menacing, strong and full of bone-like protrusions from their skin and their heads. And finally the aforementioned Skeletons; made in unknown ages past, they reformat their memories every few centuries to avoid suffering mental traumas and so they too have lost all track of when and how they came to be.


Kenshi is mostly ruled by three big factions: The United Cities, a cosmopolitan desert empire embracing any and all who come with money. Ruled by the Nobles, backed by the Free Traders and based on the broken backs copious laboring slaves, the United Cities are the largest and most powerful polity currently ruling. Nearby you have the very anti-slavery bucolic Holy Nation; the good guys right? Sure, if you can abide their xenophobia, male chauvinism, and religious bigotry. They are currently at war with the Shek Kingdom, who are Klingons suffering from steady population decline as generation after generation continues rushing into honorable battle to reach Valhalla Stovokor Gateway.

But what do you actually do in Kenshi? Well, anything you want. There are no goals but the ones you make for yourself. Become a master swordsman, recruit an army, kill every king and watch their empires fall before you, smuggle weed across the border, discover the ancient mysteries of the past, lose your arm to a rampaging Gorillo, replace your arm with a superior cybernatic prosthesis, establish a town, have that town raided by anarcho-reavers and all its inhabitants taken as slaves, track down the anarcho-reavers to their base in the dilapidated hull of a downed spacecraft and murder them all to free your people, start selling your own handmade furniture, whatever. The world is your oyster.


Kenshi uses the OGRE engine, which I never heard of before but that doesn't matter because the game still looks pretty good by default. But with mods? With mods it can be stunning.


and speaking of mods, there's a reason why I brought up Morrowind as a comparison before. This game inspires creativity among modders in very much the same way - which means yes, you do have your "clean faces" +18 stuff but so, SO much more. The Kenshi sandbox extends to the ability to edit it - you want to fix some issues with clipping? You can fix some issues with clipping. You want to put backpacks on crabs? You can put backpacks on crabs. You want to completely overhaul the game with a ton of new lore friendly content and gameplay improvements? Hey. Hey. Guess what.


Okay that's all kind of big picture, where's the personal narrative, the intimate connection? Well gang, let me introduce you to The Squad:

Up first we have Jab, anime protagonist extraordinaire. With a magical sword from a bygone era and a bounty on his head from both the Empire and the Holy Nation, Jab is out to grab Kenshi by the unmentionables. Jab might be the starting character, but he ain't special - if he dies, then he just fucking dies. It's not game over though, so long as there are active characters in the squad the game goes on; but who knows, maybe Jab will eventually die a hero's death and leave us when the manga's in hiatus


Then we have Shryke. Not a femme-fatale, just fatale a plenty. Stuck in the city of Mongrel for far too long after being traumatized by the dying screams of her brother as he was dragged off into the unceasing mists of the Fogland by "ghouls", Shryke joints the gang after we offer her a way out that doesn't involve getting her legs eaten. She's the Misty to my Pokemon the Animated Series, and that is absolutely meant as a compliment.


This is Beep. Beep is Hiveless, driven from his home for "being defective". He is determined to prove them all wrong by becoming THE STRONGEST WARRIOR THAT EVER LIVED. Beep's stats, all of them, are at 1 when you recruit him; he is quite literally as weak as the game will allow a character to be. So naturally I decided he must defeat the world with his bare hands. That's right, Beep is training to be a martial artist. He is also my precious special boy and nothing bad must ever happen to him.


Izumi's the latest squad member, and she's our Ed Cowboy Bebop but if instead of a magic pixie dream non-binary person Ed was a chain-smoking police chief who's had it up to here with your wild shenanigans, you hear me McTavish?! She does science good, and you need science if you want to move past bedrolls and scavenging into a force to be reckoned with. Useful with a crossbow and when you need to break into an ancient laboratory and no-one knows how to work this mysterious "kee pa'ad" that's locking the door.


so, yeah. Kenshi! You should try it, I guess. also if you want to know what mods I use I'll post about it separately because currently there are 54 and I am still on the hunt for more.

Indie Winter on


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    DepressperadoDepressperado I just wanted to see you laughing in the pizza rainRegistered User regular
    Kenshi looks so dope and I bought it a million years ago but I every time I start it up my brain starts to overheat

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    Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    I haven’t played this but I really want to. It’s exactly my jam. Especially in terms of the world itself.

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    The Cow KingThe Cow King a island Registered User regular
    Kenshi looks so dope and I bought it a million years ago but I every time I start it up my brain starts to overheat

    Just pick the captured by cannibals start

    You will spend a long time running across the desert but it's a hoot

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