Development newcomers, Warhorse, take us back to 15th Century Bohemia with a first-person role-playing game that’s a tale of swords, chivalry, mud and shit, and not necessarily in that order.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance tells the story of a young nobleman, already a dab-hand with a sword as he rides about medieval eastern-Europe saving damsels and fighting evil black knights.
The paragraph above is a lie made up by me, the game isn’t like that at all.
Take your romanticized vision of life in the middle-ages and put it to one side. At the same time forget about any visions of shiny armour, glistening castles and the like. And you can certainly lock away any thoughts about wizards and dragons.
Life in the middle-ages was short and rather horrible.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance goes to great lengths to establish a game world steeped in real-world history. The story starts with Henry, the humble son of a blacksmith, running errands for his father.
The game starts slow. Very slow. It’s also packed full of exposition and historical information. This serves to give the game a very real-world feel, but may turn off the more casual gamer looking to take on the enemy horde. If you want that sort of thing, you need look no further than Ubisoft’s For Honor.
A good comparison between the likes of Skyrim and Kingdom Come, would be the difference between the relatively light real-time strategy of Age of Empires and a hard-core RTS like Wargame: AirLand Battle.
In Kingdom Come, nothing comes easy for poor Henry, and you are with him every… step… of… the… way.
My first mistake was to rush things. You start off pretty rubbish at surviving in the game’s brutal Medieval world. Whilst the game is happy to let you do what you like, if you just embark on your own adventure without the required training, you won’t last a minute against the first group of brigands that you meet on your travels.
The realism doesn’t stop at the environment. When confronted with a poorly-dressed boy, acting like the big I am, non-player characters won’t just spout scripted dialogue to keep things moving. They will take one look as the sad-looking bugger in front of them with delusions of grandeur, and likely tell him to be on his way.
The game world invites emergent gameplay. For instance, in order to get out of a castle, I needed to look the part. The mission marker pointed me in the direction of a locked chest, I assumed that it contained a guard’s spare uniform. My lock-picking skill were poor (in fact the game’s lock-picking mechanic is a bit rubbish- something the developer as promised to fix), and I kept on getting caught. Eventually I ran out of lock-picks. Taking matters into my own hands I followed a guard patrolling the wall, until he was on his own, knocked him out and stole all his stuff. The quest updated and I was able to leave the castle.
The game’s RPG elements follow a classless model that enables players to craft a unique character based on their play style, rather than follow a prescribed path.
The game’s combat takes some getting used to. It’s similar to the zoned combat in For Honor, with you determining your swing direction before carrying out the movement. The combat requires a lot of practice to even stand a chance at winning a battle. And this is what is at the core of Kingdom Come. It’s about progression through actual gameplay experience more than in the game itself, your character improves as you improve in combat. This may not suit everyone, but the sense of real achievement, that you won the battle because you got better at the game, rather than the game gave you better abilities, is very rewarding.
Kingdom Come started life as a Kickstarter project and has been a long time coming. Despite in being a phenomenal achievement by the developers, the game is still a bit rough around the edges. This is not a super-polished EA title, nor is a Bethesda title, for that matter. There are some bugs, but I encountered nothing in the Xbox One version the actually broke the game.
The voice acting isn’t too good. Why an Eastern-European blacksmith’s son sounds like someone from the north of England is beyond me. The dialogue is stunted and awkward a lot of the time, often packed with long sections of exposition.
The long, drawn out gameplay is complemented by one of the most ridiculous save systems you’ll likely find in an RPG. Whilst the game occasionally autosaves after quests and also when you sleep, if you are out and about, mid-mission and away from a bed, you need to take a swig of a very expensive potion. OK, so this gives saving an in-game cost, stopping players saving every five minutes (like we all do in Skyrim), but if you just need to put the controller down to get on with a busy life, you are at a disadvantage.
The games visuals do a good job of painting a picture of life in the middle-ages. They are not bad at all, but perhaps missing a bit of flair. The graphics are a good representation of the game as a whole, very good, but could have been better. Similar to the Witcher’s first outing and the early Arma games, Kingdom Come shows a level of promise that I can see really shining in future instalments, if we are lucky enough to get them.
From the above, it doesn’t seem like I like the game. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Kingdom Come is a great game. A great game with quite a few faults. And this is something that potential players need to know. If you want to play a no-nonsense authentic medieval RPG you will need to take the rough with the smooth.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a is great effort, from Warhorse. It could be better, but you have to hand it to them for taking on such a ambitious project and by and large succeeding. The historical setting gives the game an authentic feel.
The plot, on the other hand, is a bit a slave to realism, making the game a very slow burner. Still, it’s a game that delivers on it’s promises. Players that what an RPG that they can get their teeth into need look no further, action fans looking for a fast-moving dynamic adventure should perhaps look elsewhere.