Don’t worry. There’s dueling, but no banjos.
Life in medieval Bohemia is tough. You can’t just go to the grocery store for food, making money is hard work, rough folks are everywhere and ready to take whatever you have, and there’s this too:
Kingdom Come: Deliverance doesn’t pull any punches. Henry, the main character, doesn’t have it any easier than the other folks in the kingdom. He either has to scratch out an honest living, or he can live well at the price of skirting the law. Similarly, the player doesn’t have it any easier. There’s very little hand-holding in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and I have to say that while it does come with its frustrations, I actually like it.
To say that Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a slow-paced game is an understatement. It takes a while to even get past what’s considered the introduction. Combat is slow, and deliberate. Each move is a calculated decision (unless you’re like me and you just swing wildly). In a way, the length of time it takes to get a handle on the combat mimics Henry’s lack of experience in martial skills.
As an example, combat takes a form rather similar to For Honor, with attack types depending on what direction you want the attack to come from, the strength of the attack, but that’s not all. You can feint an attack, block, and dodge. Attacks carry momentum with them though, and stronger attacks like slashes with a sword take greater time to carry out. That’s why sometimes it’s beneficial to do a little poking with the pointy end of your sword. Plus, it’s a little humorous. It lets me pretend I’m Malcolm Reynolds on occasion.
I honestly thought the combat would be off-putting when I first saw it in action prior to release, but the more I thought about the combat, the more I realized that even though it looked clumsy in action, it’s far more intuitive than Oblivion or Skyrim ever was. It’s not a perfect system, and I’m definitely not a great shot with a bow, but I’ve never found myself thinking the game is unfair.
Complexity doesn’t end with combat though.
Saving the game is limited to a few mechanics, like when you hit milestones in quests or go to sleep (when it works). Well, you can also save the game if you have some Saviour Schnapps in your inventory too. Frankly, it reminds me of older games, making saving the game a resource. Sure, the limited nature of game saves carries with it a measure of frustration, especially when you die in combat and are forced to replay a large section over again… Damned Cumans… However, the limitations add to the experience in my opinion.
The save system exemplifies Kingdom Come: Deliverance in a way. There’s fast travel, but you’re vulnerable as you travel. You can overburden your character to help you carry away some loot, but it hurts you over time as the weight presses on your joints and spine. You can drink to get a little boost to your stats, but drinking too much will burden you with drunkenness and give you a hangover once the alcohol wears off. You can pay a weaponsmith or armorer to repair your gear, or you can take a stab at it yourself, if you’re willing and able. And let’s not forget that you can pig out on food to heal a little, but getting stuffed makes you about as mobile as your uncle at Thanksgiving after his fourth helping of turkey and potatoes.
The thing is that the complexity is refreshing to me. It’s… fun? I guess it’s fun to have to think about the little things. To consider your energy levels before heading out into the night. Speaking of the night… It gets really dark in Bohemia. It’s best to carry a torch.
Where Kingdom Come: Deliverance shines is in the countryside. Roaming rural 15th century Bohemia is striking. If only Warhorse put in a photo mode or allowed you to disable the HUD for screenshots…
That’s a hint, if one of the devs are reading this.
I can’t say that I’m surprised that it looks so breathtaking sometimes, given that Kingdom Come: Deliverance runs on the Crytek engine, but the strengths of the engine don’t seem to be applied to many of the character models… Even Henry’s Skalitz girlfriend is remarkably under-detailed considering her proximity to the main character. I don’t believe it’s a complaint worthy of writing the entire game off though. There are a fair few RPGs that suffer from the same issues.
If anything, the biggest problem with Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the number of glitches found throughout. Most of these glitches come in the form of camera issues and character placement, or texture pop in issues, but there are current problems with the save system (as of February 20th), among other things. Like wildlife not reacting to being shot with any sort of noise, or boars that are eerily silent… Seriously, why are the boars able to sneak up on me and ambush me as I’m trying to ambush someone else? Luckily, many of bugs are manageable, and while the camera issues and whatnot are everywhere, they don’t break the game.
Still, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is beautiful in its musical score as well, reminding me of fantasy RPGs… It just occurred to me that this isn’t a fantasy RPG; it’s something else entirely. It’s full of soothing instrumental music, along with the occasional tavern song when you venture in for an ale. The music is perfectly suited for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and even though it isn’t exactly unique in that regard, it’s nice to have plenty of nice music to play along with.
What Kingdom Come: Deliverance does, is meld different genres together. It’s equally an RPG, historical game, and simulator. You can pretend to be a peasant, soldier, or bandit, and do a reasonable job in any role. You can even learn to read!
What I love about reading in particular, is that someone like Henry wouldn’t have known how to read. Interestingly, reading plays a little more of a role in Kingdom Come: Deliverance than in other games like Oblivion or The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. During one quest, Henry literally finds some writing on the wall, and if the player hasn’t gotten Henry training to read yet, he just notes that he wishes he could read. However, if he has gone to train, Henry is able to read the message and analyze what it means.
Of course, like in other games, there are skill increases that can be found while reading, which is good since becoming a more powerful character relies on using skills. I also found the way that Warhorse depicted Henry’s reading ability to be a fairly accurate representation of how it would be to not be able to read, with words being jumbled up like in all those Facebook posts from your grandparents that tell you that you’re a genius if you can read a sentence with the letters rearranged.
I’ve been writing a lot about reading… Let’s move on.
Like with games in The Elder Scrolls series, you improve based on what you use. Do you want to be better at riding horses? Ride horses. Do you want to be better in combat? Go spar or kill some people. Do you want to be a better drunk? Time to party! The way Kingdom Come: Deliverance‘s mechanics were designed seem to be an attempt to make them as close to life as possible. Skills are improved through practice, guards will stop and frisk you if you’re wandering around with a sword out or look suspicious, money is hard to come by honestly (and you’ll have to delve into grey areas a lot), and you’ll learn your place in the world as you’re pretty mediocre at everything.
I still remember Henry’s first battle against an imposing opponent…
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when Henry leaves Skalitz. Like any game that starts the player in a near-idyllic life, you should know full well that everything is going to go to hell, and it inevitably does.
Something to remember though, is that Kingdom Come: Deliverance‘s story is Henry’s story. You don’t create a blank slate to wander around Bohemia, righting wrongs. You’re experiencing Henry’s tale, through his eyes. There are a number of ways that you can influence the story, but there are going to be multiple times where you shake your head, ashamed that he would make so many stupid decisions.
What I find to be remarkable about this story however, is that Henry doesn’t just become an adventurer. Instead, as a broke peasant without anything to fall back on, Henry becomes a servant of local nobles in exchange for martial training and a chance to correct the injustices thrown upon him. Sometimes he’s a bumbling moron; often held back by his pride and ignorance, but it’s hard to not like him most of the time. Even more so, I found myself surprised by some characters throughout the story, as even the nobles themselves show… Well, nobility.
Update: Kingdom Come: Deliverance suffers from many quest issues. At several points, I found myself stuck as the game just refused to acknowledge progress made. There’s one quest that I can’t access due to the quest giver being locked behind a door, and a part of the main quest that almost broke completely because I couldn’t trigger the correct conversation. Hopefully this will be mended soon.
WILDCARD: MAJOR HISTORY
It might just be the history nerd in me, but if I had to try to pin down one thing that made me enjoy Kingdom Come: Deliverance, it’d be the history behind it. Now, I won’t make the claim that the game is 100% historically accurate, but then again, the developers even acknowledged that they had to take some liberties with history anyway. Still, it’s clear that Warhorse did their homework, because the way Bohemia is depicted is strikingly accurate.
Additionally, many of the events that take place in Kingdom Come: Deliverance took place in actual history. Many of the major characters from the game existed, and their antics took place. I can definitely appreciate this attempt to meld entertainment with education, even if the education part takes a back seat for some video game shenanigans. I honestly appreciate Warhorse’s attention to detail, and their willingness to keep things (mostly) grounded in reality.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance isn’t a masterpiece. Like I said in my impressions of the game, I originally thought I wouldn’t like it after months of hearing nothing about it. I’m glad I was wrong. Sure, there are many bugs as of the release date, and the camera issues during conversations are often comically bad, but even though it isn’t perfect, I can’t help but like it.
I like it a little less when I lose multiple hours of progress because a Cuman jumps out of the woods and murders me, and I hadn’t saved the game manually since I stupidly figured the sleeping autosave was working…
Regardless, if you’re in the market for something different, something that’s a mix between a feudal life simulator and the good parts of games like Oblivion, I’d say this is worth taking a poke at. However, don’t go into Kingdom Come: Deliverance expecting a Skyrim-like experience. Life is hard in medieval Bohemia, and Henry is kinda an idiot. Bring torches, bandages, and your 3.5″ floppy disk booze on you, just in case.
Just keep in mind that the game is in a rough state. Perhaps that will change as further updates are added to the game, but right now it’s a bit buggy.
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