Pure escapism is what gamers crave in RPGs. Being transported to a distant land and battling colossal beasts is every player’s dream, and that desire for fantasy is regularly satiated in the games we play today. However, Warhorse Studios has aimed to flip that notion on its head. For a good few years, the developer has been working to create an RPG that focuses completely on realism. With a smaller budget, numerous crowdfunding campaigns and a whole lot of faith, the developers have finally been able to release Kingdom Come: Deliverance
and it may well be one of 2018’s biggest surprises.
Developed by Warhorse Studios and published by Deep Silver
Unlike properties such as The Elder Scrolls
, Dark Souls
and Dragon Age
which flood the RPG market regularly with fantastical settings and stories, Kingdom Come
is solely grounded in a historical period. No dragons. No magic. No fantasy. We find ourselves in medieval Europe and the monarchy is in disarray. The rightful king of Bohemia, Wenceslas, apparently not being fit for the throne, has his rule threatened by his half-brother, Sigismund of Hungary. All of this is helpfully set up in a narrated scene before the game even begins, explaining the historical context in which we are placed. It’s an enjoyable and artful opening, but one that soon outstays its welcome. That is because the game loves to leave us hanging as it loads, forcing us to sit through half of this scene every time we start up the game.
Once you do make it into the game, though, you are quickly introduced to Henry. The main protagonist of Kingdom Come
is a simple son of a blacksmith who is somewhat naïve when we first meet him. Working alongside his father, we realise that he is basically a nobody who has no particular set of talents. However, Henry is drastically thrown into the wider context of the game in a dramatic opening, which then leaves him needing to fend for himself.
In this respect, Kingdom Come
is a hero's tale, but not one that leans on cliches. Henry starts his journey as a witless average joe, but then he eventually starts to grow on you. His charming clumsiness makes him an endearing character, and although there is no character creator to mold him into a hero unique to you, he is a likeable character who fits the tone and pacing of the game.
He may be strangely charming, but Henry still has his work cut out for him.
While Henry may come across as very innocent on first impressions, the land that he inhabits is very much the opposite. 15th century Bohemia presents a rather engaging story and the land itself is surprisingly immersive. This is one of Kingdom Come
’s greatest strengths as world-building has clearly been one of the developer’s biggest priorities. It primarily comes down to greenery and medieval towns scattered across the map, but the game really aims to immerse you in its world. A calming and perfectly fitting soundtrack will play as you wander the wilderness as the sun permeates through the trees, or a catchy tune will commence as you walk past the local tavern while the town’s denizens shout “God be with you, Henry!” Texture pop-in is an issue that the game does regularly face, though, so immersion may be lost, but Warhorse has been patching issues that players bring to light so this doesn't appear to be as much of a problem since the initial release.
To add to that immersion, time is also a key factor. Whatever you're doing, the world has its own routine. In the day you will notice people working, begging and conversing, but as day shifts to night, shops will close and townsfolk will go off to sleep. This also affects certain quests, as you may be told to arrive at dawn or dusk, or take a lady out on an evening stroll. Even as you fast travel, time continues to move. It's an interesting concept and as you grow accustomed to it, you will feel like you need to make every minute count and plan what time you do specific activities.
Audibly and graphically, Kingdom Come
is definitely a surprise. As we've already alluded to, the soundtrack can be beautiful at times, mirroring the desperate grief that Henry experiences, or accentuating the brilliance of the sun-glazed planes that we gallop across on horseback. Having focused on motion capture technology, that work also shows in the game's cutscenes. We aren't talking Naughty Dog levels of detail here, but animations look fluid and real, quickly hooking you into the characters and story. Within regular in-game conversations, there are a few wooden faces, and more technical hiccups cause characters to quickly load out of their T-poses, but if you immerse yourself in the story, then it may be more forgivable.
It may not be the most diverse, but Kingdom Come's world does have its moments.
Immersive worlds and endearing characters all help to create a great RPG, but Kingdom Come
's gameplay is where opinions may split the most. Warhorse's vision was to create a game focused on realism, and they have most definitely done it, but perhaps a little too much. As Henry is a novice in almost every aspect, it means that he has to learn how to do anything worthwhile. From pickpocketing to sword-fighting, training is paramount to success. Even Henry's own health and well-being are regularly at risk, as you have to allow him to sleep and eat so that he can perform at his best. This level of character maintenance is rarely used in games of today, and it can be jarring at first, but it eventually becomes an easier process to manage, and one that a certain contingent of gamers will eventually grow to appreciate, even as others likely never do.
Henry is presented with a large number of skills with which to play in Kingdom Come
, and this is where the RPG elements really shine through. It's your choice how you evolve as a fighter, whether that's with sword and shield, or through a more agile approach with a bow and arrow. Multiple secondary skills and perks can be activated as you level up, but they regularly come at a price. Want to focus on brute force? Then in order to gain the upper hand you will have to choose a perk that in turn lowers your agility. It's a bit of a bargaining act so every decision has weight to it. Therefore, it's ideal and even perhaps crucial you choose which route you want to take quickly as Henry will soon start lagging behind.
Combat itself can be incredibly tough if you aren't adequately prepared. The developers have informed us that they have trained with real sword fighters in order to accentuate the realism that Kingdom Come
requires, so be prepared for a steep learning curve. If you want to rush right into hordes of enemies, you will be slaughtered. There is a lot to learn about the combat and it may cause some unwanted frustration when you experience your first few deaths. Henry isn't equipped with the best gear when he starts out either, and coming across better equipment requires work, so patience is paramount. There is an art to combat, with various combos, stabs, slashes and angles to approach the enemy, so get ready to train, train, and train some more. The urge to simply give up may loom over you but if you let patience take precedence over immediate gratification, you will be rightfully rewarded.
Don't expect to be the guy who's winning.
If you aren't struggling in combat, then you'll probably be struggling elsewhere. Conversation is another prominent element of gameplay in Kingdom Come
and there will be times where you'll need to think carefully. There is an enjoyment to be found in simply picking up quests and learning about the world as you engage with NPCs across the land, but important conversations may require specific skills to reach the best outcome. Henry has his own speech, charisma and intimidation skills that can help persuade extra information out of someone or alleviate a guard's concerns over your questionable activities. The game will line up your skills with those of an NPC in conversation, and you will have to guess what may be the best way to go. With guards, you will regularly fail, which is irritating, but similarly to combat, patience will allow you to level up and improve, thus coming out on top in more conversations.
Patience can only go far in some areas of Kingdom Come
, though, as a few design decisions will leave you baffled. Frustration with combat aside, lockpicking can be horrendous. On a controller, the mini-game for opening locked doors and chests almost feels impossible, making very easy locks feel like very hard ones instead. Stealth, in general, is extremely tough to pull off, as any sound will arouse the suspicion of guards or passers-by, so finding an alternative may often be the better option.
Saving has also been implemented in an unusual way. The game will automatically save when starting quests or upon reaching key plot moments, as well as when you sleep, but manual saves are scarce. That's because a specific beverage has to be consumed in order to do it and these aren't stocked in the bucket load. Alchemy is available, but again, it isn't always a viable option. Adding challenge is all well and good, but having half an hour of quest progress erased just because you didn't have any more Saviour Schnapps on you is just infuriating. Much to the community's delight, though, the developers have recently informed us that an update is in the works for both the saving and lockpicking functions. Let's hope so, because at the moment they are both unwanted nuisances.
You better hope you have a Saviour Schnapps handy. You don't? Well, tough.
Despite bugs that litter the game and a few frustrating mechanics, Kingdom Come
stays engaging. If you persist with a particularly challenging part of the game, finding a better route or finally emerging victorious may suddenly thwart any frustration you originally harboured towards it. Being annihilated by two impenetrable bandits had me despising the game completely, questioning whether it was worth my time at all, but once I discovered a solution that worked for me, my concerns dissipated and I was immersed in the world once again. That's what it does so brilliantly. It hooks you right back in if you soldier on. First impressions with Kingdom Come
will probably leave a sour taste in your mouth because everything sounds so mind-boggling, but 20 hours in, it feels worth it.
There are 49 achievements to be earned altogether in Kingdom Come
for the full 1,000 Gamerscore. There is a healthy mix of story related achievements as well as a few specific challenges. In true RPG fashion, decisions and missable quest achievements are scattered throughout the list as well, so you will need a couple of playthroughs in order to get them all. Completing all quests and finishing the game without killing anyone are probably the toughest from a completionist's standpoint, but the most unusual one is definitely the Virgin
achievement. Just as it sounds, you are required to complete the game without engaging in any of that
. Sounds easy enough? Well, let's just say I've well and truly failed to grab it on my first playthrough. Overall it's a creative list that's doable if you are dedicated to the game.Check out our The Best Xbox RPGs Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
SummaryKingdom Come: Deliverance
is the perfect example of a marmite game. Frustrating mechanics can and probably will deter some people. However, those who persist and train themselves to learn the fundamentals will find a gem underneath the initial muck that is the first couple of hours. Being a budget title, there is a slight lack of polish and a few technical issues will arise, but Warhorse has clearly mustered all its effort in creating an immersive world and engaging story. Henry fits the tone of the game very well and exploring the world can bring with it some truly marvelous moments. It has its share of flaws but if you can work around them and really get involved with what it has to offer, you will discover what is probably 2018's biggest surprise so far.
- Surprisingly engaging story and characters
- Highly immersive world
- Patience with many gameplay elements is justly rewarded
- A few incredibly irritating mechanics
- Technical issues regularly crop up
The reviewer spent approximately 25 hours exploring medieval Bohemia and braving the challenges that lie within. Just 9 of the game's 49 achievements were earned in the process. A physical copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.