Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review
Warhorse hopes to tell a tale of betrayal and medieval politics with the release of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Is this a knight in shining armor sent to save you from your open world RPG woes, or a scoundrel stalking the shadows looking to pinch at your coin purse?
Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review
The first couple of hours in Kingdom Come: Deliverance set a fantastic tone. It provides a brief insight into the more peaceful aspects of living in the Late Middle Ages, all while introducing you to the games’ protagonist Henry. As his character development is fleshed out alongside other key characters, it provides a great foundation for the turbulent story that lies ahead. The narrative wastes very little time in exposing the player to the cut-throat world of the times, with love, loss and betrayal waiting at every turn.
A well-crafted story is complimented by one of the most impressively accurate videogame settings of recent times. From the clunking of a blacksmith hammer in the towns, to the howls of wolves and dogs that roam the woods at night, everything from visuals to audio feels realistically spot on and fully immerses you in a world of exploration and opportunity. Further aiding to the immersive nature of the environment are a number of mechanics designed to create a realistic living experience as the hero of this tall tale. Hunger, fatigue, stamina – all are aspects that Henry has to deal with on a regular basis. This forces the player to interact with certain aspects of play, such as buying goods from bakers and merchants – whereas other RPG’s simply have them in place for namesake.
Arguably one of the games most impressive aspects is interacting with the people of these rewarding lands. Going above and beyond what any other RPG has attempted, Warhorse has created one of the most socially accurate interaction systems ever seen in the medium. Everything from your characters’ personal hygiene to the color and fabric of your equipment influences how people react to your actions, requests, and demands. During one of my travels, I encountered a small group of bandits. Nursing wounds from a previous battle, I wasn’t overly prepared for an aggressive encounter, but this was one fight with an outcome I didn’t predict. As I approached the group, sword covered in blood and armor worn and damaged, all but one laid down their weapons instantly and surrendered as I approached. Needless to say, I slaughtered them like cattle but the fact they were open to surrendering was, well, cute.
This engaging system also works in the other direction. When attempting to persuade a guard to halt his stop and search, as my pockets were lined with stolen goods from various nobles pockets, my blood covered face and weapon did little to persuade him. However, some time later when the same guard approached, I was able to convince him I was of no threat. The only difference being on our second encounter I was head to toe in some of the most expensive and lavish garments the tailor had to offer. The social aspects of the game really create for a unique, player-driven experience in everything from simple encounters to complex quest lines with multiple outcomes. Never before has a player been given so much choice and such an array of tools to further influence the impact of each choice they make.
Sadly (or not, if you enjoy slicing up the locals), more often than not your clothes and hygiene aren’t always enough to resolve a situation, meaning battles are inevitable. Kingdom Come: Deliverance boasts realistic and strategic swordplay that rewards timing and skill over the mindless waving of a sword. There are no magic spells, no flaming swords…this is combat at its most basic level. However, it is executed in such a way that your first fight is equally as satisfying as your last. A combination of timed blocks, parries, grapples and directional sword swings make for intense duels that are both challenging and rewarding. Mounted combat and archery are also options, but ones I seldom took as both felt nothing more than an afterthought. It is disappointing for such vital aspects of combat in the era to be so lacking, but the swordplay more than makes up for their shortfalls.
I’d love nothing more than to end it there. A story that twists and bends through the late 1400s and the politics and betrayal that comes with it. A melee combat system that shines above all else that came before it, and a world that immerses like no other.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Despite all its strengths, the artistic accuracy, the near perfect execution of a world in this era, Kingdom Come: Deliverance falls way short of the mark. The game is plagued with technical issues, game-breaking bugs and frustrating quests that often forced me to reload a save file 3-4 hours old. I reached a point on my initial play through the game, about 10 hours in, where I was unable to interact with anything. I couldn’t speak to NPCs, rest, or eat. Eventually, I had little choice but to restart.
This was the first of many, many bugs I encountered. Kingdom Come: Deliverance features a unique saving system. The game automatically saves at certain points, such as when you sleep or complete an important story objective, but outside of that the only manual saving option requires you to have a specific item. One that can be quite rare and expensive at the start of your adventure. This feature has had a lot of negative press, but with the bugs aside, it’s a fantastic concept and one that other games in the genre should seek to improve. Not having the option to quick save before making character-defining choices forces players to live with the consequences of their actions. While I’m not sure this will appeal to all players, from a serial reloader whenever I’m caught breaking into a house, this was a very welcome change and a breath of fresh air. Innovation and change to such a “safe” mechanic that has been the industry standard for many years is ballsy and bold, and something the team should be greatly commended for attempting. Once again, however, it doesn’t do the game many favors with large gaps between saves and such frequent bugs.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance could have been a wonderful experience. A collection of features and mechanics come together to form something truly inspiring. Sadly it’s difficult to notice that with frequent crashes (don’t touch the cheese), game-breaking bugs, texture issues, animation woes, AI problems, broken quests, and near pointless mounted combat. Until patches have addressed these problems, I would suggest avoiding the PlayStation 4 version.