Video games are a big part of my life, and I wish I wanted them to stay that way.
It has been a long time since I first picked up Kenshi on sale in the Steam store, and still to this day it is the hardest game I have ever played. With over 100 hours in the unforgiving environment, only now am I beginning to understand all the tips and tricks for living—and not just struggling to survive. However, everyone had to begin somewhere and as a seasoned veteran I want to make it easier for those who'd rather shed a little less blood, sweat, and tears.
Spoiler alert: This is all the warning you're going to get for spoilers, so don't read any further if you're that person.
Without further ado, let's hop straight into the best start in Kenshi.
The Best Start: "The Slaves"
The first big choice you're going to face in Kenshi, and probably the most consequential one, is which starting story you are going to choose. There are quite a few to choose from, especially if you have mods installed, but I'm going to choose from the best of the vanilla Kenshi choices. Of all the choices available to you, the best start is "The Slaves".
"The Slaves" is the best start because it offers you a simple and easy way to level many of your important skills without any real risk of dismemberment and/or death. It can be a bit boring, and it most-definitely is a grind, but it is unarguably the best start anyways. Let me give you all the pros of choosing the best start, "The Slaves":
- No real threat of dismemberment and/or death
- No need to worry about food because your masters will feed you enough to keep you alive
- Easy, hassle-free skill leveling
- Stealth and lockpicking training made simple
- Free companions if you can manage to save them
- Start around the left-center of the map near tons of useful locations
- It's an idle game until you get bored and want to leave
Be wary, though, as this start can be very boring if you want to jump straight into the action. The best strategy will always be one of patience, and "The Slaves" is going to test just how patient you can be. Don't worry, so long as you follow everything in this guide you'll be well on your way to success at an efficient pace.
Just make sure that when you choose the race of your starting characters you make them both human!
The Best Race: Humans
So long as we aren't discussing Scorchlanders—because no one wants to start as a Scorchlander— humans are the best race to have in Kenshi. Everything about the humans is balanced, from their abilities to their health, and you'd be making a mistake not to gather as many humans as you can. The best starting race, the race you need to choose, is human.
The Shek are all well and fine if you want a mindless warrior with their other skills debuffed, but why would you want the most crucial parts of the mid to late-game to be made more difficult? Humans provide a much better balance between raw power and skilled trades than the Shek.
As it concerns the Hive, well, I'd have to ask you why you're even interested in them to begin with? The Hive subraces are amazing for their skills, but they die faster than any other race. Their longevity is so miniscule that humans have the ability to outdo them in every way; the Hive are true slaves, so hold off on using them until end-game.
Finally, the Skeleton race is one I advise you avoid due to how difficult it can be to repair them. Their parts are expensive and rare, they aren't very versatile combatants, and their only real benefit is that they don't eat meat. These are strictly late-game characters you should utilize only for guarding your outposts, because humans are much easier to maintain.
Once you've designed your new human characters, it is time to start your life as an obedient slave!
Be an Obedient Slave
Though it should go without saying, once you spawn into "The Slaves" start you're going to have the role of obedient slave assigned to you. This is actually a really important role for you to maintain, because the game will basically idle-play for you. During your time as an obedient slave your laboring and strength skills will be leveling consistently, and you want those skills as high as you can get them.
The reasons why remaining an obedient slave for as long as possible is the best strategy are as follows:
- Strength and laboring are both being auto-leveled for you in relative safety
- Strength and laboring both play a part in the best skill in Kenshi: Martial Arts
- You don't need to worry about finding food, getting eaten by cannibals, or otherwise losing limbs
- You can always let your masters beat you to raise your toughness skill
- Athletics will be auto-leveled
So long as you remain an obedient slave, you will be leveling some of the most important skills in the game without even having to play actively. Let the game idle for a few hours as you check back in periodically to save the game. The longer you remain an obedient slave, the higher your skills will be and the easier the game will be later on.
Once you feel that your levels are sufficient—I usually wait until my strength is about level 30 before doing anything—it is time to start planning your escape. First, though, a crucial piece of advice for you: Save crawl!
Make Sure to Save Crawl
Kenshi is a notoriously unstable game that can crash at any time, and though it may seem like cheating you need to do what everyone likes to call save crawling. Save crawling literally means that you save before doing anything important that may end very badly for you, but I'm using the phrase colloquially. When I say save crawl I mean, "save the game often so that when your game inevitably crashes you don't lose six hours of hard work."
I can't tell you how many times I've been playing Kenshi only to have it crash on me after 3+ hours of grinding. It is gut-wrenching to have a game hard crash, but even more so in a game that is almost nothing but grinding and the autosave feature can become bugged. You have been warned, my dear adventurer!
With that warning having been offered, it is time to move into losing that title of obedient slave and training to escape your masters!
Easy Lockpicking and Stealth Skills
When you finally feel comfortable with where your strength, athletics, and laboring skills are leveled to it is time to really start planning and training for your escape. Though you can start training your lockpicking and stealth any time you want to, I suggest waiting until your other skills are leveled just to avoid limb damage before your escape attempts. An important note: The best time to train your stealth and lockpicking skills is from 2300 to 0500 hours.
From the hours of 2300 to 0500 you need to be picking the locks on cages and shackles, no sooner or later. During this time all the guards will be in their bunkhouses sleeping—excluding the gate guards who never leave. There are cages and shackled slaves all around the area, so drop down into stealth and go to town on those locks.
Once you get your stealth and lockpicking skills to around 50 you can then stay out of your cage for longer periods of time without getting caught in the daylight. However, once you're comfortable with the level of those skills go ahead and get caught on purpose over and over again! Getting caught by the masters won't get you killed, but it will put you back into that obedient slave role, and that means more opportunity for training without the worry of starving to death.
After being caught a few times over again your toughness skill will be leveled up, and both your dodge and martial arts skills should be going up at a smooth pace as well. Eventually you'll be able to escape completely, and if you play your cards right you'll also get a handful of free companions from freeing other slaves upon your escape!
Now you should be able to brave the unforgiving lands of Kenshi after reading this best start and strategy guide!
Final Note: Be Patient as Heck
Kenshi is the hardest game I have ever played and it takes all the patience I can muster to build a thriving empire, so don't rush into the game with the mindset that you are going to be a hero right out of the tutorial. The designers of Kenshi made sure that life in the game would be really hard, and that you are nothing in the scheme of things if you can't have the patience to build a lasting empire. If you utilize this guide to the fullest then you'll be able to do it, though.
After 100+ hours in game, hundreds of in-game days spent making mistakes and learning how to correct them, this is the best start and strategy I have landed on for myself. Hours upon hours have been spent staring at my characters slaving away, many escape attempts have failed only for my players to grow stronger, and now today I have a thriving community that can run autonomously. If I can do it, I know you can too.
I wish you the best of luck in the Kenshi universe, and I hope my guide helped you!
© 2021 Kyler J Falk