This is a guest post by: Salmon Slammin  or @imSalmonSlammin on twitter.

Alone in the desert, left unconscious in the scorching sands by a band of Rebel Farmers who stole all my food and water. Bleeding, dying. And I’m only 30 minutes in…

Kenshi is an open-end squad based RPG with RTS elements. It is an ambitious game, and is incredibly unforgiving. So far I have mixed feelings about it. Perhaps I’m just not good at this game, or perhaps I haven’t sunk enough time into it to really thrive in the open-world sandbox. I’m also not used to the complete lack of direction. While there is a basic tutorial system, I initially felt very overwhelmed by it all. Boasting an enormous map, “largest single-player RPG world since Daggerfall, stretching over 870 kilometers,” there is much to be experienced, and I doubt any player could run out of places to go, or adventures to create, in short time. I do have my issues with the game, however it is still Early-Access, and there is certainly room for change.

First impressions often count for a lot. Upon opening the game, we are met with a wonderfully classic game menu. I liked this very much, and it reminded me of the hours upon hours of joy I have had in games such as Age of Empires. The backdrop is a beautiful painting with the Kenshi game logo in the corner. Nice, pretty, functional. So far we’re off to a great start.

The game modes enthralled my interest and I began to get all giddy about playing this. We’re not so much choosing a level of difficulty, rather a starting scenario. Are we a lone traveler? A band of outcasts? A man with his dog? A trader bearing dreams of grand prosperity? In each game mode we start with either one or more characters, and varying amounts of currency and resources. The element this gives to the RPG side of the game is welcoming, and is also the only kind of story we get. The rest is up to us.

Character creation can be viewed as having huge importance in any RPG, and the customization available in Kenshi is quite apt. A lot of options and choice, but not too much. I certainly enjoyed the posture slider. Though I am yet to experiment, I do wonder if bad posture will affect how my character functions within the game world. We are also given the option of four races and a few sub races. I did not spend a lot of time in the creation menu, as I have a penchant to spend hours creating a character, and I just wanted to dive in. The number of characters you start with depends on which game mode was chosen. Though I believe there is no limit on the amount of games/characters we can have. I am unsure if there is a character limit within a squad.

So, how does the game play? It does depend a little on which game mode was selected, but we often start in a random, podunk town within the wastelands. There are many ways to succeed and generate currency, and even more ways to die. I found it exceedingly more difficult and daunting to begin with only one character in my squad. It helps to be able to perform more than a single task at a time. Although, there is the option to increase production speed and decrease the chance of death (or increase, for the masochistic) among other game mode multipliers in an “advanced options” menu found when selecting to create a new game. I feel like playing with these a bit could tailor a more desirable game experience, adding to my notion that this game really is what you make of it.

Most NPCs want to be paid to join your squad, or are only hired for limited times. It was difficult for me to muster up the 3000 cats to get a buddy in my squad. Oh, yes, the currency is “cats.” I’m not sure why, or if it means anything, it is amusing nonetheless. When I began a game with a squad, one of them was an Old Soldier. Interestingly, this fellow had a bounty on his head and could be turned in to the appropriate faction for 20,000 Cats. This could be a viable way to get an early upper hand, but it would leave me without a Soldier and there was also the issue of finding said faction. Needless to say, there are so many starting points, and so many possibilities right from the get go.

I felt let down by the lack of direction. I realize this is a sandbox survival game, and that clear direction would detract from this, even make it redundant. However, I feel it could do with an optional helping hand when starting off on your very first adventure. The tutorial features currently included are helpful in telling us what each button does and how certain things are affecting our characters.

What I mean is, it would be nice and more welcoming to brand new players (in particular players new to the concept of sandbox games) if some tools/tips gave suggestions of what to do when starting out. Like “build this building to get this under way and do this to begin generating reliable income so that you can hire these guys” etc. until you’re on your way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel it is imperative. When I was in the throes of it, I felt frustrated, lost and alone. I didn’t have a clue what to do or where to go. Huh, I guess that is what it could feel like out there in the wastes. So, this could very well be intentional, but my thoughts were that this initial frustration could turn players away from the game.

Although, right now I can tell you I’d much rather be playing Kenshi than writing about it. I need to finish building my shoddy wall around my attempt at an outpost, to stop the Rebel Farmers from constantly raiding me. I need to give my man and his dog a fighting chance in the world, now that he has an inventory of stolen food and building supplies. I need to train my soldier so that he is feared by all, and become strong enough to kill every last member of the faction who so defiantly issued that bounty on his head. I need to play Kenshi.

Now, we need to talk about the UI. I hate it. In my opinion, the UI is too big. It takes up too much of the screen, and becomes somewhat of a barrier to the immersion of the game. I feel like it could be trimmed back a bit, and some of the buttons could even be removed completely and accessed via hotkeys. To some people this might seem petty. To the developers, it might seem like I don’t know what I’m talking about. But it remains, the UI is my biggest issue with this game.

Overall, the hardest part of writing this review is trying to keep it succinct. There are so many things I haven’t touched on. Heck, there are so many things I haven’t even experienced in the game yet! Like I said, it’s ambitious, it’s huge. It’s unlike any game I’ve played before. Will it succeed? Time will tell. I feel like it has real potential. When I started writing this review, I wanted to trash this game. But the more I talk about it, the more I find myself discussing it with other people, the more I get the urge to keep playing it, I realize there is something here. It is addictive. There is nothing inherently wrong with Kenshi. It is everything it promises to be. And for the most part, it functions quite well. There are bugs, of course there are bugs – it’s currently in Alpha State Early-Access, with a Full Release set for “around the third quarter of this year.”

You’ll either love it, or you’ll hate it. But if you hate it, try playing with the options. The best part of this game is the ability to tailor it. Give it a chance. And, on that note, I’m off to play more Kenshi!