Medieval fantasy RPG’s aren’t a new concept; most of them feature magic, flying dragons, and a wide array of special abilities. There is a small corner of this genre sectioned for games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Kingdom Come: Deliverance bears a lot of similarities to titles like Skyrim and other titles in the Elder Scrolls franchise. Upon a closer look however, there are some far more intricate and detailed systems at play.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance roots itself deeply in the history of 15th century Bohemia. Players will take control of the son of a blacksmith who yearns for a more adventurous life. Henry, our protagonist, and his father complete a new sword for Sir Radzig Kobyla, who is one of the king’s men. Shortly after his arrival to Skalitz, the town is attacked by Cuman and Czech soldiers, embedding the country in a civil war.
One of Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s biggest strengths is its focus on historical accuracy and realism. Players won’t see dragons flying around in the sky, there won’t be guilds lurking in the shadows, and no vampires or other mythical creatures roam the landscape. Instead, players will find themselves in close range combat with bandits, enemy soldiers, and drunkards. Locations are vibrant, varied, and bustling with things to see and people to talk to.
Each location in Kingdom Come: Deliverance has a plethora of shops and people willing to give Henry tasks. Often times, my first objective upon getting to a new town was just to explore the area. On the map, anything that hasn’t been explored is populated with a question mark, and I made it my mission to get rid of every single one. After exploring a couple of towns, I realized that this wasn’t just because of my OCD of having question marks on the map, but each shop and shopkeeper has its own distinct personality. After leaving Skalitz, I stumbled across a merchant who needed various animal skins in order to complete his leatherworking craft. One guard wouldn’t let me leave a town (under Radzig’s orders) unless I procured a guard’s outfit and he could pretend he didn’t know it was me. These interactions with NPC’s brought real life to Kingdom Come: Deliverance, even without the fantasy elements most RPG’s are known for.
The exploration portion isn’t just about discovering new locations, it’s about fully exploring every nook and cranny of the locations already discovered. Each town in Kingdom Come: Deliverance has guard towers to explore, churches, barracks, everything players would expect to come across in 15th century Bohemia is on display. Some places aren’t meant for players to be in though, which is indicated by a notification that Henry is trespassing. These locations often have good items to loot, like arrows or food items, but if Henry is caught looting any of these locations, he is sent immediately to jail.
More often than not though, I found myself doing tasks that had nothing to do with any of my quests. Early on in my adventure, I spent hours just picking flowers. In turn, this leveled up my herbalism skill. After doing a little more research on the herbalism skill, I found out how important it was to do just about everything I could. The herbalism skill, as an example, was more important than I had initially thought. Early on, I didn’t have much money, and I learned I could sell some of the materials I was finding in the world for some cash. As I leveled up my herbalism skill, the area that I picked up items and flowers increased, meaning that I earned more for doing the same amount of work. When I sold these items, and bought more gear from merchants, this helped with my haggling skills, and even helped with my strength training when I squatted down to pick more flowers. There are a lot of deep systems at play in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and most of them aren’t mutually exclusive to one character stat. This is something not seen in most games, so having these interconnected systems shows the level of realism that Warhorse Studios was working toward.
Combat in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just as deep as the rest of the game, and honestly reminded me a lot of Ubisoft’s For Honor. As players control Henry, an icon appears over each enemy showing what direction he will be attacking from. There are two main types of attacks, a heavy attack and a thrust attack. In order to be successful during combat, both attacks must be used in conjunction with each other, as well as attacking from different angles using the targeting system. This was where I had the biggest difficulty with Kingdom Come: Deliverance. I often found myself unable to parry or attack seamlessly in the same way the NPC’s did. A lot of this came down to the base premise of Kingdom Come: Deliverance: train and learn. As Henry trains with various knights and fights bandits, his skills improve making fights more easily manageable.
There are a number of ailments that can be inflicted upon Henry as well. Taking damage in combat can cause bleeding damage, and not eating for too long can cause him to be hungry, while eating too much can cause him to become full. When Henry becomes too full he moves a bit more sluggishly and his stamina gets eaten up a little faster. It’s a weird consequence system, because while eating too much will cause players to not have to eat for a longer stretch of time, but there is a consequence to doing this. Most of the time I ended up preferring eating too much to not eating enough, that way if I was short on money or food I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a pot of food to eat from.
There are a few things that feel absent from Kingdom Come: Deliverance though. With such a large world, it is surprising that there aren’t large line battles included. Attacking castles could have used sieges, and the scale of the battles never seem to capture the scale of the world. Since the world is so massive, it’s also not a surprise that there are a large number of bugs and graphical glitches. One that sticks out to me happened about 8 or 9 hours into my journey. After awaking from an attack, a local who had spent time nursing me back to health was teaching me how to pick locks. After spending 25 minutes trying to pick a lock, I ran out of lockpicks. I wanted to continue on my journey, it didn’t matter if I didn’t know how to pick locks in the meantime, right? Wrong. My main quest giver was locked into his spot, and kept telling me to pick the lock, even though he didn’t have any more lockpicks to give me and I didn’t have any. Most of these issues were resolved with loading a previous save, but with how dense the content in Kingdom Come: Deliverance was, this was often frustrating.
Visually, Kingdom Come: Deliverance isn’t very striking. Poor facial expressions and stiff animations really remove players from what bills itself as an immersive experience. Some textures fail to load properly, and frame rate often suffers due to the detail of the world. I was playing on Xbox One X and even then, I felt a lot of the surfaces throughout fields and towns often seemed muddier than they should have been. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed in a later patch, because playing on a One X with these textures feels unacceptable.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is not an easy game, and it isn’t one that holds your hand. It begs to be learned through experience instead of tutorials. There are plenty of games that are difficult, but none of them have so many different intricate systems that play off one another. Most of the frustrations players will have with Kingdom Come: Deliverance will come from the lack of assistance that each system offers, but players will be rewarded with their time and dedication to every facet and system in Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy of the game provided by the publisher for that purpose.