Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review
The Middle Ages has long served as inspiration for RPGs. More often than not that inspiration has been limited to a Fantasy realm. The influence is there in Fantasy, of course, however, there are but a few that have a real historical context. Kingdom Come: Deliverance aims to not only tell a historical tale but also have players interact with that world in an accurate way as well. We’re all used to playing the powerful hero in RPGs but how about the not so powerful son of a blacksmith?
The story in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is set in Bohemia. After the death of Charles the IV, his son Wenceslas IV inherited the throne. Unfortunately, his nickname, Wenceslas “The Idle”, was well earned and his half-brother Sigismund took advantage and kidnapped him. This left Sigismund free to loot and pillage Bohemia as he wished. Caught up in the chaos is Henry, the son of a blacksmith who finds himself facing down an unexpected raid of his hometown. Barely managing to escape with his life, Henry comes into the service of Lord Radzig Kobyla. However, this service will put Henry in the midst of the battle for the future of Bohemia.
Overall the scale of the story is quite grand and mostly unfolds in some rather exciting and occasionally unexpected ways. The cinematic scenes can be truly epic at times, aided by generally superb visuals. These moments will keep you going further and further, yet often times it’s those unexpected elements that are the most memorable. When’s the last time an RPG had you go throw crap at someone’s house? Who knew that gaining a priest’s trust involved: both of you drinking the night away, getting in a fistfight with authorities, ringing the church bells in the middle of the night, some hanky-panky with barmaids and then finally delivering a sermon for him the next morning, still drunk, while in your underwear? The kind of story Kingdom Come: Deliverance aims to tell can easily veer towards being a bore, but moments like these keep everything interesting.
“Most notably the beginning left a lot to be desired.”
It’s not an entirely perfect story either. Historically everything may be in order, but things teeter on the edge of dragging from time to time. Most notably the beginning left a lot to be desired. The dialog goes a long way to keep the story interesting and the world immersive. After the opening cred, ts characters do a reasonably good job of relaying information to you naturally without it sounding like a history lesson. In the opening act, however, many felt like they were merely name-dropping historical points you needed to know or just straight up giving you that lesson. It’s not the best of first impressions. It took me a good 7 hours to get through that first part to even see the opening credits, but after that things got much better.
That first part of the game though does do a good job highlighting some of the issues with Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Chief among them, why did it take me 7 hours to get through the very beginning? Essentially it all has to do with the game save mechanic. The game does save on its own, at the completion of a quest, after sleeping or with a savoir schnapps drink. But the first quest contains quite a few parts, including some long dialog and scenes in nearly all of them, not to mention a fight.
There is no time for sleeping and you can’t afford to buy the special “game-saving booze” either. It wouldn’t be bad if the game saved after each quest goal was completed, but it doesn’t, only after total completion and that means you need to make sure you have time to do it all in one sitting. Otherwise, it’s back to start again. The start of the game was really the only place that I had this issue. There was simply no way to save without completing everything. I still am not crazy about how the game is saved elsewhere, but it is far more manageable to do so later on.
Near the beginning, there is also a sense of some more of those problems that rear their ugly head. This time it’s more of a geometry problem. Once Henry gets to Talmberg there are plenty of tight walkways around the keep. Guards, of course, cause an issue on them as there isn’t room to get around them and they occasionally linger in doorways you’re trying to use. Then there is the odd spot here or there that should be passable but are not. One set of stairs just would not let me pass, no matter where I went or even jumped. Still no dice, I did finally manage by crouching though of all things to do in an open area of stairs. In a game world this big there are bound to be some spots like this missed, but this seemed like an area where it aught not happen. The beginning felt far rougher around the edges than the rest of the world though, something that came to light once I finally moved on.
“At first the fights seem as though they may grow dull and rather basic, but as proficiency grows, so too does your repertoire.”
Speaking of moving on, let’s talk about that authenticity the game strives for and it’s every man main character Henry. The son of a blacksmith is no soldier and the fighting system helps solidify that notion. It’s not just hack and slash, but rather an intricate dance of timing, positioning and aiming. At first, the fights seem as though they may grow dull and rather basic, but as proficiency grows, so too does your repertoire. While Henry does get better, he will still not be able to deal with every challenge alone, just like in real life taking on a gang of thugs solo is not such a great idea.
Stealth is one option to even some odds up if there is no back-up, the other is ranged attacks. Not being one for stealth I opted for range. Shooting a bow is no easy task in Kingdom Come: Deliverance but like all things, it does get easier with practice. To start, just hitting a target is no small achievement. The game does make it hard to get a real sense of exactly where your arrow is pointing on top of things. Plan on missing quite a lot for a while. An early game hunting trip offers up some good practice, so make full use of it.
That realism isn’t contained to just the combat either. Henry must eat and sleep just like a real boy would. I could take or leave those two things and still be alright if I’m honest. Tiredness though does have an effect on one other large aspect of the game and that is in the dialog. Perceptions matter, if you’re sleep or drunk you can get swindled trying to make a deal. Cleanliness matters too, it’s hard to impress a noble when you’re covered in blood, mud and sweat. There are a lot of variables involved and even if it might not seem at first that it’s deep, there are lots of layers beyond just what you say that matters.
With all the emphasis on realism, Kingdom Come needs to look and sound the part as well. Overall the visuals and sounds are superb. Many of the characters are downright stunning, especially in cut-scenes, but there is some unevenness. All characters are voiced quite well, but often the mouths don’t seem to sync up properly with what is said. Not all character models are created equally either, while not always noticeable when standing next to one that is highly polished it really stands out. Weapon sounds can be grand, the hard clash of iron on iron, but a wooden club also still makes the sound of a sword when clanging together. The tunes, on the other hand, are a pure delight. Rousing and fun, they help maintain the proper atmosphere and add to that overall immersion.
“The sense of scale, that awe of something you were not expecting to be so grand.”
Altogether Kingdom Come: Deliverance is quite the enjoyable epic journey, warts and all. When realism is the aim, it’s hard not to notice imperfections. We do live in the real world, so it’s hard not to compare. But all the little imperfections don’t keep this from being one heck of a great ride. The story alone is 50-hours of gameplay and overall there are around 100 hours of quests to complete. There is a lot there. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first time I played Elder Scrolls: Arena 20+ years ago. The sense of scale, that awe of something you were not expecting to be so grand. The games, of course, are light years apart, but there is that bit of a magic touch to the feeling while playing it that takes me back. If you are an RPG fan in the least, this is something well worth your time.
***PC code provided by the publisher***
- Unique combat
- Great visuals
- Some epic cinematics
- Poor Save system
- Lots of bugs