Kingdom Come: Deliverance – Review
PS4, XB1, PC
Kingdom Come: Deliverance. A crowdfunded, indie developed title set in a Medieval era Bohemia in 1403 such as this, is an enticing prospect because it’s looking to do something different. Unlike its contemporaries, Kingdom Come doesn’t attempt to leverage the worlds of fantasy or science fiction to make itself stand out, and in doing so stands out due to its incredible respect for its source material. While the average life-span through the 15th century was only about 30 years, I hope the legacy that Kingdom Come leaves is much longer – despite a number of faults, it shows us that realism can be just as engaging as the mystical.
1403 wasn’t a pleasant time, it was grimy, dirty, and an all-around depressing time to live in, if you even lasted all that long. Life was brutal, and it seems that the Kingdom Come development team at Warhorse Studios felt that it was only fair that we experienced that same sense of brutality, with keyboard/mouse or controller in hand. You assume the role of Henry, the son of a blacksmith, and one of many unfortunate victims of an attack on his hometown of Skalitz. Many political motivations drove this invasion but that’s not for you to worry about, you need to escape, and thankfully you do, allowing you to inform a neighbouring outpost and begin to pick up the pieces. At this point in most WRPGs you would’ve seen colossal dragons sweep in and destroy villages, wizards, warlocks or anthropomorphic aliens, but this scene drives home one single point; this is a gritty civil war, and there will be blood spilt – and so your adventure begins.
Realism is a core tenant of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and this is firstly highlighted by the setting but is best exemplified by a beautifully dark and oppressive world design. There’s little happiness to be found in Bohemia and you can sense it in the weary tones of the occupants as much as the sorrowful words they speak. Even whilst traversing the world you’ll be witness to some unspeakable acts of cruelty, or you’ll spot the plumes of smoke billowing from a burning village/building in the distance. You too are fighting for your life, necessitating the hunt for wildlife that could make for a wholesome meal, or scrappy encounters with guards or muggers, out to put you in an early grave. Bohemia isn’t a pleasant place but the culmination of world, visual and sound design artistry comes together to form a wonderfully immersive playing experience.
If you consider yourself to be fluent in combat courtesy of years of action or role-playing games, then Kingdom Come throws a bucket of cold water in your face. No matter your ability with a mouse or controller, everyone is back to square one, and survival is guaranteed to no-one. Henry’s skills with his fists, or with a weapon (both melee and ranged) will improve as you play, but the scaffolding that we’re all too used to simply isn’t present in Kingdom Come. The nature of the combat systems means that patience will be required as you learn the ins and outs of the combative dance you and your opponent are in, and without targeting reticles with bow in hand, even hitting a target from long distance is a challenge. As with real-life though, practice makes perfect and your skills (both your proficiency and your stats) will improve should you be prepared to commit the time in the Archery Range or Training Yard. Melee combat requires you to aim where you want to strike and block using the mouse/stick as dictated by the five points of the combat star, and provided a bug doesn’t emerge (which are depressingly too common), you’ll find yourself in some seriously pulsating encounters that could turn with even the slightest incorrect manoeuvre.
There are several subtle additions that make for a more realistic experience. Once such addition relates to when you’re tracking NPCs; they won’t be standing in a pre-defined place, they’ll be in the vicinity, but there may be something going on in the area that forces him/her elsewhere. The scavenger hunt to find the person you’re looking for is a challenge in and of itself. The games saving system, when paired with the difficulty of combat and prevalence of game breaking bugs mean that progression is regularly halted with opportunities to save your game being few and far between, while the cost to save when you wish is a steep one, and virtually unattainable for gamers in the early stages of their adventure.
There are a great many things to like about Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The world and environmental design is top tier, and with the support of fantastic voice-acting and combat, that (when fully functioning) plays like no other RPG becomes an enticing package. With ongoing support from the developers, Kingdom Come: Deliverance can quite easily become one of the premiere role-playing experiences and with a setting that few others have tackled will remain an enticing prospect for the months and years to come.