Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the first project from the Czech developer Warhorse Studios and it’s an extremely bold project to announce themselves with. Made up of former 2K, Codemasters and Bohemia staff, Warhorse have made a huge game set in 13th century Bohemia which prides itself in it’s historical accuracy and in depth gameplay. Playing as Henry, the son of a Blacksmith in the town of Skalitz, Deliverance take you on a first person adventure as you’re forced to flee your home and avenge the dead you leave behind there after a brutal attack by Cuman and Czech soldiers.
Upon first impressions, Kingdom Come will make you feel like you’re playing Skyrim; albeit without the dragons; but you’d better get that out of your system quickly. There is no room here for running into battles, levelling up with magic potions or shouting dragons from the sky. Deliverance plays more like a simulation, with you having to take care to eat, regulate your stamina and sleeping pattern and most importantly, learn the skills that will help you survive the harsh reality of the besieged countryside. You’re given very little in the way of a tutorial, to make things even more difficult. There are a few things pop up on screen and an accessible codex do make things a little bit easier, but in the early stages of the game when you’re frantically searching for something to eat and somewhere to rest as your character is slowly losing the ability so see clearly you’ll be left wishing for a little bit more handholding than you’re offered. Without at least 10 hours to spend getting used to how this game works, you won’t have experienced enough of it to know if it’s for you or not. If spending that long learning a game sounds like a misery, then feel free to skip the rest of this review anyway as this is not going to be the game for you.
A lot of care has to be taken in doing most things as a result of this complexity. Even something as straight forward as trading can leave you wishing for an autosave system that doesn’t exist, as a lowball offer whilst haggling can turn the trader against you quicker than giving them an arrow to the knee. Likewise will being in the wrong parts of a castle or town. Stray into living quarters you shouldn’t be in and you’ll quickly be informed your actions aren’t appreciated. Once you have the lay of the land and know where your bed and nearest meal should be though, you can focus on travelling and combat. The combat is probably the hardest thing in the game to grasp. You will die while trying to get to grips with it, but don’t worry. The more you do it though, you’ll not only get the hang of it, but you’ll also level up. The sword fighting works similarly to For Honor, where you have to look at the stance and angles of your opponents strikes before throwing your own. It gives a nice sense of gravity to one on one encounters, but it doesn’t work as well when implemented into a situation with more than one enemy. Even with practice, I still feel beating more than two enemies at a time owes much more to luck than to skill. This is in no way a hack ‘n’ slash title, though.
With any good open world, we need a mode of transport and in Bohemia, we get around on horseback. Thankfully, for the most part, horse riding works well and controls as it should. I was able to put any little delays in turning or movements down to the horse rather than the game, whether that was intentional or not. I did encounter issues when mounting a horse while it was still in a stable, where I would glitch into the ceiling, but overall it’s actually a satisfying way to get around and allows you to see and experience the game world and your surroundings. There’s a fast travel system, which allows you to quickly get between unlocked locations. This is utilised through an absolutely beautiful map, which is designed like it was on a huge tapestry. It’s an absolutely glorious thing to look at and I can’t think of a game with a nicer looking map interface. Sadly, using the fast travel does prevent you from experiencing Bohemia in all of it’s glory. While the world doesn’t feel quite as vibrantly “alive” as games that are easy to compare it to such as Skyrim or The Witcher, there are still a lot of fun moments to be found just by exploring. I’ve encountered a bandit lying about his standing in society, as well as a rather cowardly knight. It may not be as vibrant a world, but everything in it seems to serve a purpose and have a place, which makes them more than an NPC you can quickly hack down for some easy loot.
Now, it’s not to say that everything is a heavily detailed medieval dream. With a low budget and small team behind it, Kingdom Come is slightly rough around the edges. There aren’t huge issues graphically, in fact most of the time the game looks quite pretty. Some of the character models are a little bit ugly, but they aren’t game-breaking by any means. Unfortunately, a few bugs are. I mentioned above an issue with getting on a horse in a stable, that took around 4 reloads to sort itself out. There are issues with clipping, NPCs are all have “Lydia syndrome” where they will want to stand in a doorway asking you why you’re bumping into them rather than just move. Another big issue is the save system. Aside from sleeping in a bed or hitting a story checkpoint, you have to take a particular drink to save the game. The issues here are that it can only be bought from vendors, it’s really expensive and it’s an alcoholic drink so you can not only become addicted to it, but it’ll also get you drunk. This is frustrating, especially considering how unforgiving the game can be at times. A “save and exit” patch has been announced at time of writing, so we’ll wait and see what happens with that.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an extremely bold title, although it’s got a number of flaws and a learning curve that may put a lot of people off. If you’re able to persevere and stick with it through it’s flaws, it’s a well written, extremely satisfying adventure.