Kingdom Come: Deliverance stands as an odd-ball in a room filled with first-person RPGs that delve into fantasy and sci-fi. It stands across the room, gazing at games such as Skyrim and Fallout, wondering to itself, “what if we remove the fantasy and ground ourselves in reality? Would it be boring as f*ck?” The answer is an astounding no. Relatively young and small studio, Warhorse Studios, decided to make a game that finds its home in during medieval times, doing away with the magic and guns, instead making use of swordplay and some backwater charm.
From Peasant to Master Swordsman
The player starts life in Kingdom Come: Deliverance as Henry, the son of a master blacksmith. The game is set in 1403 in the kingdom of Bohemia. Times are tough as having to deal with diseases, mysticism, and the possibility of getting mauled by bandits, is an everyday concern. Aside from watching the clouds and pasturing cows, the only entertainment left for the commoners are the joys of ale and talking about the complexity of the current royalty.
But bigger still is the looming threat of war. See, Bohemia at that time was having a major power struggle in its royalty. Sucked into that conflict was Henry’s town of Skalitz and this is where the game begins.
With his town in ashes, Henry vows revenge for his fallen friends and loved ones. But as a peasant and with no experience in warfare, how would Henry exact vengeance upon his foes? That is for the player to decide.
As an RPG, the game makes use of a leveling system similar to that of Skyrim – the more times you use a certain skill, the better you become at that skill. Say, using strength-based weapons increases your strength as time goes on. Getting hit also increases you vitality, given that the blows are not lethal.
Other than those combat-based skills, the game also focuses on conversations. Persuasion is very powerful here in Kingdom Come: Deliverance and it can net you a lot of possibilities by simply persuading the opposite party. The more times you use conversation, the better you become in going through sticky situations and in haggling down the prices in shops.
Stealth is also something which can be used here. Stabbing foes while they’re sleeping isn’t that honorable but these are trying times. The player can also steal and lockpick for some easy loot and to accomplish certain missions.
To go across the vast expanse of the country-side, the player can simply do the proven means of travelling: walking. If that doesn’t sound great, a horse can be used to traverse. Once certain towns and locales are discovered, the player can simply use quick travel to go through the motions without breaking a sweat. As with every RPG, encountering some weird people and events is part of the experience.
Aside from taking care of all those things and living through a day. The player must also monitor hunger and sleep. These are parameters that can be easily satisfied as scattered around the map are steaming cauldrons which the player can freely partake in. Beds or their cheaper counterparts are also abundantly scattered across the map. Should the player fail to satisfy these needs, a reduction of stats would be incurred.
Part of what sets Kingdom Come: Deliverance apart is its combat system. It can be said that it is somewhat similar to Ubisoft’s For Honor, but deeper and more merciless. Upon entering a fight, the player is presented with a reticle with five points. Each points correspond to a direction and angle of slashes. The middle point is for stabbing. Depending on the opponent’s stance, strikes can be blocked and sometimes riposted for a counterattack. Health and stamina are also closely intertwined. Whenever the player attacks, stamina is drained. As you get damaged, the more stamina you lose. Consequently, the lesser your stamina is, the more damage you get. So with that, careful consideration of these resources is important when fighting in this game.
As you go on through the game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance teaches new styles such as quick-time prompts to block and commence a counterstrike. These techniques are absent from the main game’s tutorials and it is not impossible for a player to progress without these essentials.
The player can equip weapons such as maces, short swords, long swords, spears, and bows. Sadly, most of them are thrown in the shadows, with the game concentrating more on historical swordplay. The player can also equip a shield, but this added protection also renders him unable to make use of combos that can be learned as the player progresses through the game, an instruction absent from the game’s tutorial. I was equipped with a shield halfway through the game and I wondered why I wasn’t able to do sick combos, so a quick look at the online forums told me that equipping a shield was the cause.
Also, the opponent’s armor should be sized up during each fight. Heavily clad dudes are more likely be resistant to slashes, so carefully pointing out their weak points is a must. If this is not done correctly, duels can go up to ten minutes, with the player and the AI bonking each other until one’s armor gives up.
Dress It Up!
A feature that Kingdom Come: Deliverance is proud about is its multi-layered armor system. Instead of just having a piece of thread or metal to cover your whole body, the game makes use of a mix and match system. For example, the upper body can be covered by up to four layers of clothing. Underneath that shiny armor might be a chainmail, further supported by a luxurious red thread. These layers stack in defense while also directly affecting how people perceive Henry.
After travelling and going about the lands, Henry’s clothing can be dirtied with either mud or blood. Worse, they can be worn out by the battles and continuous stabs and slashes. These stains and creases have an effect in conversation, with your partner’s perception getting lowered depending on Henry’s appearance. This in turn could affect some speech checks and Henry’s convincing power will undoubtedly be lower. To remedy this, a simple wash in the game’s numerous troughs and a visit in Bath Houses will render the clothing and armor washed and mended.
With this in mind, the higher and better Herny’s armor, the more chances of him getting through trickier conversation checks. Also, who doesn’t like wearing shiny armor? They also have an effect on stealth and spreading fear. Obviously, wearing clunky armor while sneaking isn’t something someone would do. In that same line, fighting someone wearing a full regalia of gothic armor isn’t smart, so at times, foes would run away instead of fighting a medieval tank.
Graphics and Presentation
Kingdome Come: Deliverance makes use of Crytek’s Crygenine. You know, that engine that’s been touted as one of the best in rendering virtual objects. If you don’t know Crysis, then you best start by opening a new browser tab to search about it.
Regrettably given the already impressive track record of the engine in crafting worlds, I was left mostly left unimpressed. The game might have some of its moments when it comes to portraying armor and the likes, but as with its gameplay mechanics, the graphics also have some issues.
I know that texture popping is a given sickness when it comes to open-world games, but goodness, this one certainly has upped it by a notch. There were times that cutscenes would have unrendered armor and characters, some of which have skins reminiscent of PS2 models. There are even times that the characters themselves have yet to load, presented only by floating garments and underpants. Either that or some of the game’s objects are just downright horrendous to look at. While minor, this does remove some of the charms of the game and heavily affects the immersion.
But then again, when it works, the sun and the light rays are astounding to see. Dueling at noon puts emphasis on your opponent’s glittering armor and the dents that appear on it. In terms of graphics, the game is both a hit and miss, it’s eye-gougingly ugly when it’s not working, and impressive when everything works well.
To tell you guys the truth, I’ve been heavily invested in the game since I bought it. Every night, I tried to inch closer to the conclusion of Henry’s story. But sadly, upon finishing it, despite being almost glued to the game, it’s something I can’t recommend in its current state. While we can excuse games such as Fallout and Skyrim as bug-filled cesspits, Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s bugs are worse as it has sometimes stretched my patience. I’ve encountered bugs that rendered some quests impossible to finish. Aside from the bugs, I also had some glitches that made the journey horrendous and equally memorable.
Another gripe of mine is on the game’s design. One of which is the game’s decision to limit saving. While I think that having limited saves does increase the game’s difficulty, Kingdom Come’s system is neither forgiving nor pleasant to those with limited time to play. Autosaves weren’t that much of a help too. I remember getting pummeled to death in a mission, only to get revived and restart it from the start – a ten minute ordeal consisting of passing speech checks and some travelling. The problem was too much that it made me decide to download a Save mod which GREATLY increased my satisfaction with the game.
Also apparent are the game’s cut content. Some things were just left out. I feel that the game would’ve had a jousting mini-game as horses can be equipped with armor. But alas, even until the end of the game, mounted combat and jousting have yet to be found. I think it’s safe to say that those mechanics would be found in the sequel as Kingdom Come: Deliverance has been said to be the first of a three-part saga.
But enough of the spots and dirt. Let’s go to the good stuff. I really liked how the game portrayed the medieval Bohemia of that time. While the story is set in the countryside, the game makes good by constantly introducing tidbits of information about that time, and I really appreciate that in a game. Exploring the towns and the castles (given they are rendered properly) is easily one of the best parts of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. A good marriage of learning history and enjoying a game at the same time.
The swordplay, while admittedly not for everyone, is something I found enjoyable and tense. The five points and center-type of maneuvering your weapon makes every duel a challenging skirmish. Will he expect me or is he doing a feint? Would it be wise to attack now or simply counterattack? Those kind of thoughts permeate during each fight and it does feel great to see yourself getting pummeled and slowly mastering the mechanics.
The game is quite addictive in a sense that when all the mechanics work perfectly. It’s great to adventure while feeling that incessant itch to fight in order to be better at the game’s fundamentals. Kingdom Come: Deliverance also has that empowering feeling wherein you see yourself become better, in terms of economical and fighting prowess, as the game progresses. At the start, you’re simply a peasant with neither the skill nor the armor to show, then come late game and you’ll be a lean mean slaughtering machine.
All in all, it is a great game, but not so in its current state. It would be wise to wait for it in a couple of weeks or months once most of the bugs are stomped, and the game rendered to its perfect condition. It is a game that I would want every RPG fan to try, just not in its present condition. It’s an indie-game that has the ambition, drive, and qualities as that of a triple-A title. It is unmistakably promising. It has its charms and getting glued to it isn’t that far-fetched, but the problems are just so pervasive. Should it have been released with far less bugs, it would’ve been unmistakable for me to recommend it.