Just when I think I have Kenshi figured out, it throws me for sure a loop it makes my head spin (analogy mixing!)
I’m on day 60 or so now in-game, and have a roster of 28 characters. The roster is split into three squads: home base, turret, and combat. Home base squad is what it sounds, the characters that work at my base, harvesting crops, crafting items, and generally keeping things running. They typically don’t leave the base, which is now self-sufficient in terms of food production and basic materials (stone, copper, iron). They are mostly weak in terms of combat, though each raid on the base toughens them up a little. This group also contains my two bonedogs, which are now fully grown adults and can hold their own in combat. Turret squad also stays at home, but these 7 characters are special in that they are skilled in using the crossbow and harpoon turrets on top of walls and buildings for base defense. Having them in a separate squad just makes setting up base defense easier. Each raid they learn how to shoot the turrets a little bit better. Finally combat squad comprises my strongest 8 characters, along with the two pack animals that follow them to haul supplies and loot.
With the base defensible and running smoothly thanks to the brilliant jobs system, my focus of late has mostly been around combat squad; sending them out into the world to explore and gather rare loot (advanced research books, blueprints, and high-end weapons). The crew here is now well-geared thanks to the smiths at home base, and their stats are in the 30-40 range (out of 100). They can easily defeat the lower tier enemies like dust bandits and the like, and this success gave me the false impression that they were actually strong. Below is the story of why that is very much not the case.
The first target for exploration was an abandoned military site, a location we became aware of off a map we bought. The back story for the world of Kenshi is mostly a mystery, but what is very clear early on is that there was a powerful and advanced civilization in the past, and some cataclysm happened and they (mostly) went poof. Many of the ruins and special sites are from that time, including this military site.
What was initially odd about this site, a large tower-like structure, is that it looks completely intact in a world of ruins and rust. The entrance gate was locked, but easily picked open. However, taking a single step inside revealed why the building was in such good shape; inside was a swarm of 20+ mechanical spider defenders, along with a single cyborg leading them. I had hired two mercenary groups to follow along as we explored, so in total we had 20 fighters, yet the defenders of the tower obliterated us without a single loss. Limbs were severed, some instantly died, and everyone was on the ground and bleeding in short order. This site was so much stronger than my group at this time it wasn’t even close.
A quick reload (I’m savescumming this playthrough, but I’m eager to play different playthroughs in the future just accepting what happens at all times), and we decided to move past this site and to a different one. This next site was labeled as a research site. It was again a singular tower-like structure, although smaller than the military site. Rather than a gate, there was a locked front door, which again was easily picked. A similar surprise awaited us inside, with the mechanical spiders emerging and engaging us. Here however there were only 6 spiders, which seemed more doable. The spiders still hit like a truck, and they were difficult to bring down as they didn’t seem to care about damaged limbs.
The first time trying the fight, the surprise of the spiders and our poor formation resulted in a bad defeat. The second attempt went much better, but the mistake made here was not finishing downed spiders, who would reboot in short order and return to the fight. The way to fully kill the spider (and any non-human in Kenshi) is to loot the body. With animals, removing some meat means you butcher the animal. For the mechanical spiders, removing a circuit board destroys them. The third attempt I would have a character loot each downed spider immediately, ensuring they did not get back up. Even doing this, the battle was not winnable. We downed 3 spiders, but the remaining 3 finished everyone off. What came next is what really surprised me.
When my last fighter went down, I expected the spiders to return to their building to continuing defending. Instead, they rushed outside. Initially I thought this was the game bugging out or the AI messing up, but when I followed the spiders I saw that their status was still ‘defending structure’, and that the reason they had rushed outside was to attack everything in a radius around the building. By opening the door, I had quite literally unleashed its defense system back into the world!
This resulted in the spiders slaughtering some unfortunate goats that were nearby, as well as a gorilla. They also engaged a traveling tech hunter (random NPC characters who explore the world, who are fairly powerful) and a group of bandits. They killed everything, but not before one of the spiders got knocked down and the other two were badly damaged. Thanks to this, and the time the spiders spent fighting, my group was able to recover a bit, and when the two damaged spiders returned back to the structure, we were able to finish them off.
The price for the victory was high, as most of my characters were very badly damaged, though luckily no limbs were lost. The hired mercenaries were not so lucky, with two losing arms and one losing a leg. Hope the pay was worth it guys, and sorry. We set up camp outside the structure (you can build a temporary tent to protect from acid rain, and lay down sleeping bags to increase healing speed for characters), and while most rested, one character began to explore and loot the inside.
The building contained more valuable loot than I had encountered to this point, including a large number of advanced research books. These books are the only way to open more advanced items like automatic ore drills, plate armor crafting, and higher tier walls and defenses, so they are incredibly valuable to the player. Other notable loot was a lot of robotic parts that sell for a high price, which along with advanced research and production benches, hinted towards this site being a robot factory or lab. Kenshi is often amazing in telling stories or worldbuilding not with words, but with the environment and little details, and this building was a great example (it’s insane this game was made by one man for a long time).
The journey back home was mostly uneventful, with the group easily dispatching the odd bandit group that crossed us. The trip into town to sell resulted in a huge infusion of cash, and the research books opened up many new buildings and items at base. The difficult fights also meant great skills gains for the combat team, toughening them up for the future. That said, the gap between our current power and the power needed to successfully clear that military site is still vast, so there is far more work to be done.
(If I had to estimate, I’d say I’m somewhere in the mid-game for Kenshi. Strong enough to travel around and take down average foes, but not near end-game power. My base is also established and strong, but again isn’t what I imagine a fully-formed base is capable of in terms of production and defense. As mentioned, character stats are around 40 in most areas, and with the max being 100, again lots of room for growth.)