Deliver us from debate…
“Kingdom Come: Deliverance” is undergoing a bit of scrutiny thanks to the seemingly unpleasant politics and tastes of the game’s director. Politics aside, is the actual game any good?
Kingdom Come, unlike the vast majority of other RPGs that you may try and compare against, is not set in a fantasy world, but early 15th Century Bohemia, during a real-life civil war that split this backwater of the Holy Roman Empire for over a decade. Some of the writing and worldwide cast of voice actors occasionally remind you this is a modern game, but the one thing Warhorse have done superbly is to have built a believable world (depending on whether you think there would have been any people of colour in rural Bohemia at this time). NPCs go about their day in a (semi) realistic manner – trying to speak to a quest-giver at night will probably result in you finding them asleep, whilst people will react differently to you based on your outfit and current hygiene levels. You’ll also need to feed yourself, remember to sleep and wash, otherwise all kind of nasty in-game effects will take place.
The intro to the game (which still lasts a good few hours) serves to remind you about the cruelty and hardship of the feudal middle ages in Western Europe, which is full of downtrodden peasants, exploitative lords and vicious brigands and mercenaries. Poor protagonist Henry, son of the local blacksmith, sees his village destroyed, is beaten up by bandits, a childhood friend ravaged and more, all within the first couple of hours. You can criticize the game for being brutal, misogynistic, and racist, but so was the world at the time, and Kingdom Come pulls very few punches.
The same goes for the gameplay, which can be brutally difficult and extremely frustrating in equal measures. Henry is somewhat of a layabout, and as a result, his starting stats are appalling. He’s useless at talking, fighting, stealth, skulduggery and any other task you can think of. The only way to get better is to practice the skills, but you’ll quickly find out that this in itself is easier said than done. Fighting even one person is a tough ask, whilst taking on multiple combatants is a quick way to an early grave. The game also has a really awful save system, which is there to stop you gaming the systems, but makes forward progress impossible at points. The game saves when you sleep, at seemingly random checkpoints during quests, and you can have up to three manual saves. However, like a Resident Evil game of old, you can only save when you have the right resource (saviour schnapps). Unlike Resi though, the save booze is neither plentiful nor cheap, making early-game saves a luxury you can’t afford.
Combat is really interesting, with different attack and block moves, bonuses for timing, stamina. It’s complex, and almost like a 1st person Dark Souls in terms of the strategy and timing required (and the lethality). Archery is even more difficult, as your hands shake and there’s no target reticule to help aiming. To start with, the complexity is overwhelming. Eventually, with practice, and levelling, the game becomes somewhat more manageable, but I’d never say that you feel powerful, at any stage of the game.
Even the map isn’t as helpful as in other open-world RPGs. Thankfully, you have quest markers, but they often aren’t accurate enough, or require you to hunt around. Going off the beaten track will also often lead you into the clutches or bandits or wild animals, most of whom will attack upon sight. You’ll also need to take into account the time of day as to whether your target will even be in the marked location. If there’s a time marked in your journal – don’t be late! You might end up offending someone, or even missing the quest entirely as a result. This kind of consequence goes a long way towards building a living, breathing world, but with a dense and lengthy game such as Kingdom Come, where replaying the entire game won’t be high up many people’s agenda, missing out on some quests will be a frustration to many.
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