Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review
Hear ye, hear ye! King Charles IV has passed away! And now King Sigismund of Luxembourg is invading Bohemia to usurp Charles’s successor, razing our towns and causing senseless bloodshed! Has hope left our people?
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the new ambitious Action Historical RPG developed by Warhorse Studios, and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and XBox One on 13 February 2018. Many might think this is another new fantasy RPG with a medieval twist, but it’s a lot more than that. It is set in the historical Kingdom of Bohemia, when it was an Imperial State of the Holy Roman Empire. This game focuses on historical accuracy and realistic content, simulating in a sense what life was like in the 1400s. I’ve referred to this game as a Medieval simulator, because this game really goes the extra mile into being as realistic and historically accurate as possible without compromising the player’s enjoyment of the game. All the locations existed, a majority of the people in the game were real, and main events, such as the invasion, really happened. Warhorse Studios hired full-time historians to advise them about every detail, in relation to armour, weapons, town layouts, and even the types of vegetables that were being grown by the farmers in that area, and what kind of clothing they wore. As you can see, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a highly ambitious game. How did it fare?
The game kicks off with an intro cinematic, telling of the Holy Roman Empire, and of King Charles IV‘s rule that brought peace and happiness to the people of Bohemia. However, his rule was ended as a result of old age, and his son, Wenceslas IV, was set for the throne, but it was not to be. Wenceslas IV was an idle and irresponsible king, who decided he would much rather pursue more frivolous affairs, such as hunting and other pleasures of the court, rather than rule. As a result, other noblemen approached his half-brother Sigismund, and started an open revolt against the idle king, kidnapping Wenceslas IV, and forcing him to abdicate. Sigismund also took advantage of this situation and decided to invade Bohemia and take over the crown. Bohemia’s silver mines were rich in silver ore, which was also Sigismund’s aim from the beginning. Sigismund razed town’s who were still loyal to Wenceslas, and even killing the townsfolk with his mercenary army of Cumans.
The game kicks off in the town of Skalitz with your character Henry, the son of a blacksmith with a mysterious past. After some time, while assisting your father in the forging of a new sword for Sir Radzig Kobyla (which also serves as a tutorial period for the start of the game), King Sigismund arrives with his band of Cuman mercenaries, and razes your village. Henry’s father rushes into the town market to find your mother, fighting off a few of the mercenaries with major skill, but ultimately, both parents fall by the blade of Markvart von Auliz, a German knight who was in service of King Sigismund. Henry, having no other choice, attempts to retreat to the castle where many other survivors have gathered, but the gates have already closed. Sir Radzig yells to you and tells you to escape behind the castle, and make your way to the castle in Talmberg to warn them of this invasion, and be prepared in case they come for them next. Henry barely escapes with his life, and reaches Talmberg, warning Sir Divish and his friend Sir Hanush of Leipa, of the attack on Skalitz.
Later during the dark hours of the morning, the survivors make their way past Talmberg, using the cover of a rainstorm to head to Rattay. Henry, devastated that his parents were not given a proper burial, sneaks out of Talmberg to go back to Skalitz (against Sir Divish’s orders). Henry is quickly outnumbered by a band of strong bandits, looting the broken and burnt homes, and even rids Henry of the sword that his father forged for Sir Radzig. Before the killing blow can be hit, Theresa, an old friend of Henry’s and survivor of the Skalitz raid, distracts the bandits, allowing for Captain Robard to swoop in and rescue them from the bandits, as well as bury Henry’s parents on his behalf. You then wake up at a mill outside of Rattay, under the care of Theresa and her Uncle. Henry is tasked to pay back Theresa’s Uncle, and then goes to see Sir Radzig in Rattay’s castle. Henry resorts to asking Sir Radzig to be taken into his service and be trained in order to recover the sword that was stolen, and return it to Sir Radzig. Despite Henry’s bold request, Sir Radzig agrees, and your training begins.
As you can see above, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is incredibly story-rich, and retells history quite accurately, with exception to Henry and his family, of course. I like to think of it as experiencing history through the eyes of an avatar with a personality. Neither the story nor the gameplay gets in the way of each other, in my opinion, unless you’re not the type that enjoys dialogue that assists with story progression. Even though the game has a set story, you are still able to choose how you play. Even if you want to mess around and go on a murderous killing spree, you will still be able to complete the game’s quests and objectives regardless of what you do. The many choices you are able to make to complete many quests are incredible. One quest asked me to fetch some expensive wine from a Trader in Rattay for a noble woman as a gift for her cousin’s wedding, however, the Trader already gave it away as a prize that can be won in an Archery contest, so the objective had me choose between actually taking part in the Archery contest, or “finding another way” to obtain the wine. You could pick the lock of the chest containing the wine during the evening while the contest master was away, or pick the pocket of the winner of the archery contest. I actually won the archery contest, however, from what seems to have been a bug, I was told that I did not win the contest. So I decided to take what was rightfully mine. Fortunately despite the bug, Warhorse has made provision, giving you the ability to complete quests in a number of ways.
Combat requires quite a bit of skill, much like in real-life. Sword-fighting is already quite complicated, and the game emphasises this in its difficulty. When engaging in a duel, you lock on to your target, and your opponent is marked with a crosshair of five lines, and a middle section. This marks six locations that you are able to strike your opponent. You can switch to any of these lines and swing at your opponent, the middle section allows you to stab/jab at your opponent. There hasn’t been a single fight that I can say was easy. Every opponent feels like a different challenge. When being trained, you’re shown more advanced sword-fighting techniques, like precision blocks that allow for quick comeback strikes. Many times your opponent will respond with a comeback of their own after blocking such an attack, making for some incredibly intense fights. Becuase fighting is so difficult, the game encourages you to stealthily take out other members of a group if you are to engage more than one enemy. You can do so by means of a bow and arrow, or knocking out an enemy by sneaking up behind them and taking them out.
Archery is also incredibly difficult. The game does not provide you with a crosshair when using a bow and arrow. You are forced to aim using the direction in which your arrow is pointing, and keeping track of your character’s hand motions while he aims. While the bowstring is pulled, your stamina drains, and if you do not shoot or cancel the aim action, you will shoot prematurely. Despite the difficulty of using a bow and arrow, I still prefered archery in comparison to sword-fighting, because it still ended up being easier to use in a fight. There is a story-related quest you go on which helps you hone your use of a bow and arrow, but the game is very hard on you in this case, because you get tasked with hunting rabbits. I was majorly impressed with the mechanics of the combat. Even though it was difficult to master, it felt real. It was a realistic challenge, unlike many other fantasy games that has you start off with some kind of advantage. Here, you are the son of a blacksmith, with little to no skill, starting from scratch, out in the world facing all kinds of dangers. All that was needed was VR, and you would feel as if you were reliving history.
Sharpen Your Skills
Aside from the combat skills, you are also given other skills that you need to make use of in the course of the game, and will need to level up. The more you use your sword, the more it will level up, and the more perks you will be able to unlock, and the same happens with archery. But then comes speech skills, which improves with dialogue and speech skill checks. I decided to play the game with more points in my Charisma and Speech skills than in Strength and Agility, and it has helped me out of a bind a lot of times. Beyond these main skills, you will also have the following skills: Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, Stealth, Alchemy, Reading, Maintenance, Horseriding, etc. Each of these skills have their place and are useful at any point in the game, so it is important to level up these abilities as much as possible. Fortunately, once you reach the Mill in the beginning of the game, you will be able to level up Lockpicking and Pickpocketing faster than some of the other abilities, because Peshek, Theresa’s Uncle, gives you an Easy level chest to practice on until you are able to tackle Hard level chests and beyond. The same happens with Pickpocketing; Peshek allows you practice on him a couple times. You are also able to ask numerous NPCs to train you in certain skills, eg. an Armorsmith will be able to train you in Repair/Maintenance, which makes repairing weapons and armor easier and more successful.
Each skill has practical application. For example, with Alchemy, “one does not simply” choose a few ingredients, and press “Create Potion”. You have to go to a Trader or Apothecary, or go into the forests, and obtain the necessary ingredients. Afterwards, you need to go to an Alchemy station. You will then open up the Alchemy book and select the recipe you will be using to make a potion. You will then prepare the ingredient on the right shelf. The left shelf will always have the base ingredient available, such as Wine or Oil, etc. You then have to manually follow the instructions, taking ingredients and throwing them into the pot or grinding them with a mortar and pestle after you’ve poured the base ingredient into the pot. Depending on the intructions, you are also able to boil the concoction, and the Alchemy book will tell you how many turns of an hourglass the pot must boil for. Each hourglass turn lasts about 5 seconds. Some potions require a few turns at different intervals. Once complete, you will take a bottle, also automatically available at the Alchemy station, and pour your concoction inside. Depending on how well you followed the instructions, you will either fail and try again (or give up forever), or succeed and walk away proud of yourself.
Maintenance is also quite complicated, eg. using a sharpening stone to sharpen your blade manually instead of paying a Swordsmith to repair your equipment. The game gives out instructions for all of these, which is easy to understand, but difficult to apply. With practice, however, you get a hang of it, and eventually master these different skills. What also impressed me immensely was the attention to detail of the equipment. You have 16 armor slots, for all the various types of equipment you will be able to make use of in the game. The more of these slots you are able to fill, the better your Defense rating will get, and also, depending on the type of armor you equip, your Charisma rating and Conspicuousness rating. The higher your Conspicuousness rating, the more people will identify you as a Noble or a Knight. The lower the rating, the more people will see you as a Peasant, Commoner, or Bandit. If your armor is filthy or has blood on it, your Charisma will go lower as well, and people will comment about it, or even refuse to speak to you (much like in real life…) You can get your armor cleaned at a Bath House, and the service doesn’t cost a lot, fortunately, because you’ll likely need to use it a few times. If you aren’t near a Bath House, you will be able to wash yourself a little bit by using a Water Trough, but it is very limited in its cleaning ability. The sharpening stones will also clean blood off of your weapons!
Hearts and Crosses
There are also two romanceable characters in the game. Lady Stephanie, who happens to be Sir Divish‘s wife (a bit of a taboo option, I would say), and Theresa, the girl who rescued you (and who you are able to rescue during the raid on your town). She and Henry have known of each other since childhood as well. I think it’s obvious who deserves your love and affection, but to each their own I guess. Once you finish the “Courtship” quest with Theresa, you will find a scene where the two have a little bit of “extra fun” in the barnhouse at the Mill during a rainstorm. This is where the age rating comes in. There are a few more cinematics that one can consider “Adult”, so this game is definitely not for kiddies, or people under 18 as the Age rating has provided.
Despite my majorly impressed opinion on the game, there are some issues I have found. I mentioned above that there are bugs, and quite frankly, there are a few. Quests have been reported as bugged, and I have encountered these issues too, like in the beginning where you need to steal a guard’s outfit in the Armory at Talmberg, for some reason a group of 5 guards would stand in the exact same spot, graphically glitching through each other, until you go inside to force them to move and get out of the Armory. I spent an hour trying to seamlessly get the guards to exit the Armory, walk into the Armory once the coast was clear, pick the lock, and loot the chest without being caught, because after a guard left, another would enter almost 5 or 6 seconds later. I got lucky, and didn’t waste time in saving afterward. There were more bugs, such as graphical glitches, missing textures or assets until you reload a save, and slow rendering. Even on the PlayStation Pro, Xbox One X, and PC, there have been reports of slow texture rendering, even while walking past buildings. It can be quite an eyesore when there are a few well-rendered buildings, with two or three badly rendered ones inbetween.
Another, which was a very weird one, caused corpses to stand in a T-Pose (See above GIF), merely because I failed to fulfill an objective that didn’t come up, because I happened to knock out a bandit before he could kill off his wounded friend. Only when I redid the section where I find the bandits in the woods, and allowed the one to mercy-kill his friend, did everything return to normal, and I was even able to complete the quest, and have the next one added to my journal. So a simple objective not being met, practically broke the game. Even though there were these bugs, as you’ve seen, there are ways to get around them, and it won’t cause a total collapse of enjoyment, and with that being said, I will give the team some allowance, and also give credit where it is due, because most of the people who were developing this ambitious game were first-time developers, and if you take that into account, they actually did a great job, and now just need to fine-tune the rest of the issues. Some have come from a long time of creating mods for games, such as another popular fantasy RPG that everybody knows and loves. That game even had many bugs when it was released, both quest- and graphic-related, but look at it now. So I will look forward to the improvements that are likely underway. I unfortunately need to rate the game with the bugs in consideration.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a massively ambitious game, and the team at Warhorse has actually done a good job in succeeding in their ambitions… for the most part. They just need to fix a few graphic-issues, especially when it comes to rendering textures, and for assets to load properly. Aside from that, the graphics is relatively impressive, more so on PC than consoles, so those of you who are able to afford the intense hardware, you’ll be having a great time with the graphics. I don’t mind adequate graphics, as long as the textures and assets load properly and seamlessly. I absolutely loved the music. Medieval music is unique, and the team has captured the feel of the music to create the appropriate atmosphere for the game. The music helped with the immersion more than the graphics in some cases. The historical accuracy impressed me the most. It is no doubt that Warhorse had a massive project to deal with, and they did a good job, all things considered. I genuinely had a fantastic time playing this game, despite the bugs and glitches. There are loads of side quests to enjoy, and the main story quests are barrels of fun. If you do encounter bugs, you are able to work around them, but it would still be nice to not have to deal with them. That will come soon though, I am sure. There is even talks of there being more Kingdom Come games, and with the success of this one, it is most likely a guarantee that the ones that follow this will be even better. You can get your own copy on PS4 and XBox One for R825.00 from BTGames, and R589.00 on Steam for Microsoft Windows.