Kingdom Come: Deliverance review

8.5

Great

Bohemian rhapsody

After a very successful campaign on Kickstarter, Warhorse Studios were given the final piece to their medieval puzzle and the financial push they needed to see their vision realised – a medieval romp that wasn’t diluted by tales of dragons and magic. I fell for its charms, backing the project in the early days of its campaign. Now, three years after launching that Kickstarter, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is out in the wilds, but will the promises of adventure and chivalry hold true…

There are many adventures to be had in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, each one can be tackled in a variety of ways and often stumbled upon. While tracking down some nightingales that had escaped from the nearby town of Rattay, I stumbled across a bandit camp. As far as I could see it I was faced with three options: a) Go steaming in with my sword raised b) Wait for the cover of night and sneak into the camp and kill the bandits in their sleep or c) Sneak in and poison their wine, letting them die a horrible death.

Your answer will almost certainly depend on what skills you have (and whether you have learnt how to brew poison). Each choice must be carefully considered and it’s this level of thought that goes into each encounter that drew me into Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s charms. This is no Witcher or Skyrim. You aren’t Conan the Barbarian. You are a simple Blacksmith’s son trying to learn the ways of Bohemia – and for the most part – Kingdom Come: Deliverance plays out like one huge tutorial, learning from your mistakes and gaining insight into new ways to tackle the situations before you.

This game is so much more than your typical stat based RPG. Every skill, every trait is earned – or rather – learned. Keeping on top of personal hygiene, eating periodically and sleeping all play a role in not only how the world perceives you, but also how you perform in that world – from socialising to combat. You even need to stay on top of wounds, treating cuts and replenishing health are essential if you want to see Henry’s story through to a conclusion.

At times it can be quite the juggling game and while it’s a far throw from a survival game – should you not keep on top of your wellbeing and tend to broken armour, you will soon be no better than the beggars that line the streets, although at times this can work in your favour. Looking like you just stepped out from a brawl means people will think twice before arguing with you.

There is no complex skill tree to navigate. Skills can be improved upon simply by using them. This can be open to manipulation and while I found a few ways to force my abilities to increase, it boiled down to practice makes perfect, although lockpicking… it’s like trying to pat your head with one hand and rub your tummy with the other.

While you won’t go marauding through the countryside, there are times where you will need to draw your sword and the combat is extremely tight. It is most reminiscent of the early Fight Night titles, where you accurately land blows to specific areas. Medieval dances of the sword are a lot more deadly, but the same principle applies. Choose an attack, pick an opening, and strike. Just like Fight Night, timing is key – especially with block and parry. A stamina bar holds you back from going full on button mash. Archery is initially hard to grasp, especially as there is no crosshair to help, but I persevered and became quite the dab hand at getting my shot on target first time.

Armour, while giving vital protection, can hinder your movement or worse, your field of view. Thankfully full-face helmets don’t impede your vision when you take up a bow, but your armour choices need to be carefully considered. In other RPGs, gear was usually discarded at a whim, based on whether it had better stats, but with Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you need to consider much more. Better armour is hefty and expensive to maintain – let that maintenance slip and it will eventually become useless – and lighter armour allows enemies to cut through to your health more easily. It all boils down to your playstyle and what you are currently questing.

While there is no magic, the craft of alchemy is prevalent in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, providing health and ability buffs. Potions work over time rather than giving an instant increase and there is no pausing combat so you can top up either. Just like your armour, your potion chugging also needs careful consideration.

The world itself, which in places is based on real locations, is wonderfully designed. It begs to be explored. It begs to be lived in and it begs to be believed. The land of Bohemia looks lush and vibrant, with great attention to detail; unfortunately the same can’t be said of the character models, which at times look vacant and robotic. They also have a plastic quality to skin textures, which is unusual when compared to the level of detail in clothing.

The story is your standard fare of revenge, so I became far more interested in the relationships Henry forged with several of the characters. The early story with Hans Capon has some hilarious moments, as do many other tales, which are neatly told. Despite the greater story, I was far too busy enjoying playing at knights on gallant quests!

The game isn’t without its bugs and texture pop in is a real issue. Distant textures fail to load making buildings look like a blurry mess, NPC’s clothing suddenly pops in as you get closer and sometimes their heads even fail to load. NPCs will also engage in conversations while they have their back to you, while others float above the ground. The most annoying bug is when quest markers fail to appear or items simply vanish. But bugs in open world games is nothing new and we have all seen far worse from some other well established titles…

The biggest issue I had with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was the save system – if you suffer a crash, or haven’t hit an auto save recently, hours can be lost and despite the developer’s reasoning for restricting the save system to sleeping in a bed or using an alcoholic drink called Saviour Snapps, it’s bloody annoying.

The biggest accolade I can give Kingdom Come: Deliverance is that at just over 100 hours of gameplay, I can hardly believe I’ve played it for this length of time. I have been on many adventures, sat through many cutscenes (and loading screens) and explored the vast countryside, yet I feel there’s so much more to be discovered.

While many games have dipped into history, few have done so with such tenacious appetite for being historically accurate, often falling victim to temptations of including magic and fantasy. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a brave step into producing something more akin to a period piece that manages to create enough action to keep you from wanting a more fantasy driven experience.

Indeed, Kingdom Come: Deliverance may be likened to a Bohemian life lesson rather than a fantasy RPG adventure – a sim if you will – but I for one, reveled in this new experience.

Thanks to Koch Media for supporting TiX

Good

  • The perfect medieval sim
  • Deep combat
  • Multiple solutions to quests

Bad

  • Steep learning curve
  • Iffy character models
  • Texture pop in is dreadful

Summary

While many games have dipped into history, few have done so with such tenacious appetite for being historically accurate, often falling victim to temptations of including magic and fantasy. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a brave step into producing something more akin to a period piece that manages to create enough action to keep you from wanting a more fantasy driven experience.
8.5

Great

I've been gaming for longer than I care to remember and spent four years writing for another XCN website leading a 10 strong team. Now I'm in charge of TiX alongside Dave Moran – I hope you enjoy what we do!