Kingdom Come: Deliverance started its life as a Kickstarter project with hugely ambitious goals; to create a realistic Bohemia in the 1400s, complete with an engaging, living world, where the player takes over the role of a nobody and schemes and fights his way to the top. Many years later and Warhorse Studios has mostly delivered on that promise. I’m no historian, so I’m not going to comment on whether or not this game is historically accurate. Instead, I’m going to focus on whether or not Kingdom Come: Deliverance is fun to play and delivers a world that is immersive and enjoyable.
Sorry, I Got Distracted
The fact that is takes about four hours for the game to fully get underway is a sign of things to come. You play as Henry, son of a small village’s blacksmith, whose life changes in an instant as bad things happen to his family and the place he calls home. The story then takes Henry across the lands of Bohemia. Henry will interact with all manner of folk, from royalty to peasants and even shady characters. Once the story kicks off in earnest, the world is open to you.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance instantly reminded me of The Witcher 3 and Skyrim, some pretty lofty titles to live up to. The open nature of the game means that I get to decide where to go, what to do, and when to do it. There are a couple of notable differences in how Warhorse Studios has arranged for things to happen here, however. I appreciated the fact that I wasn’t overwhelmed by a plethora of quests and tasks. As I get more experienced in my gaming years – I’m getting old – I prefer to have more control over what I’m doing and not be buried underneath a pile of tasks. This is a good thing in Kingdom Come: Deliverance because quest givers will not always wait for you. If you accept a rescue mission and then dillydally around doing other things for days on end, that quest giver might just change their mind and get someone else to do it.
It’s a good thing I didn’t take on too many tasks because is it ever so easy to get distracted in this game. I’ve spent more time doing a single thing, like looking for a place to get my armor cleaned up, or learning how to read, than doing important jobs like avenging my parents’ deaths. There have been many nights that I ended the game asking myself “what did I actually get done tonight?”, only to realize that I spent hours just enjoying the world, the environment, and the game itself, without necessarily having any progress to show for. That’s a unique feature I don’t find in many games.
Beautiful Graphics, But Don’t Look Too Close
There are few games in this space that aren’t gorgeous to look at. Skyrim has always been a pretty game and its many mods have kept it on par with increasingly more powerful technology over the years. The Witcher 3 set new standards in gritty and beautiful scenery and characters. Kingdom Come: Deliverance doesn’t raise the bar as these other titles did, but its graphics engine seems to have the potential to be very serviceable. I’ve encountered plenty of moments where I sat back to enjoy the view, whether it’s a sunset or the facial textures of characters I’m speaking to.
The problem is that it’s not always very consistent. I played this on a pretty powerful PC and the performance level varied greatly. At times, a cinematic would run at 11 frames per second, which I fixed with a small tweak, while at other times, the frame rate was nice and steady, until it wasn’t anymore. This isn’t uncommon for a less developed graphics engine, but it can be a little frustrating. There are plenty of graphical glitches, from cows stuck in the ground, to people standing inside others entirely. None of these issues really detracted too much from the enjoyment of the game, however.
I quite enjoy being able to customize my character’s appearance in games like this, and the amount of clothing options available to Henry are excellent. Equipping over 10 different slots on your character, there are a huge number of options available to let you customize Henry and play the way you prefer to play. Best of all, these are not purely cosmetic changes. Every item will affect Henry’s stats, from the typical armor points, to how noisy and conspicuous he will appear. In fact, the world will react to Henry’s appearance. If you wear a full suit of plate armor, NPCs may be less likely to engage you in conflict, whereas if you’ve got blood splattered all over your chest, they may even offer you some more shady tasks to perform. What this really leads to is that you can easily spend many hours seeking out the perfect set of clothing for any given occasion. Fortunately, you can store items in a universal chest that is available everywhere Henry calls home.
Your visual appearance carries through to all cut scenes, something that always irks me when it’s missing in games. Just about every line of dialog is voiced, and done quite well for the most part. Don’t look too closely at the lip movements, though, or you may notice that things aren’t always in sync, but I do appreciate the effort that Warhorse Studios went through in getting everything recorded. It truly adds to the immersion when people speak to you, not just in major scenes, but even in the most random and irrelevant situations.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance does some things exceedingly well. The concepts of skills and perks related to each skill are nothing new. In fact, they’re the staple of any role-playing game. Not only is Henry’s skill tree vast, but it’s easy to understand and use. He makes progress in each skill area by performing the tasks associated with a particular skill. Ride horses a lot and you’ll find yourself becoming an equestrian expert in no time. Sneak around in shadows, picking every lock and sticking your fingers into every unsuspecting person’s purse, and you’ll soon be the biggest and baddest outlaw in Bohemia.
What Kingdom Come: Deliverance does so well is putting the cherry on top of well-established game mechanics. Sure, you’ll find skill books that Henry can read to improve his knowledge in certain areas. But you have to know how to read. Go and find out how to do that by talking to Scribes and spending some time just learning the prerequisite skill. Start crafting your own potions by becoming an alchemy expert, or master the art of blade sharpening. Before you know it, you’ve spent a week just improving the various skill options in the game, without even participating in the main quest line. Best of all, you’ll enjoy doing so.
Another example of a neat little addition to a standard game mechanic is how fast traveling is handled in the game. Once you’ve unlocked certain fast travel points on the map, you can ask Henry to do the legwork for you. Unless you’re overloaded, or in combat, or too tired. And the act of fast traveling isn’t just a magic teleportation where time advances. No, Henry will actually move along the map on the main roads, as time passes and hunger grows. You can be waylaid during these travels and may still need to act if bad things happen to you on the road, especially at night. This seems like a brilliant compromise for those that don’t like the concept of fast traveling in games like this.
Please, Sir, Don’t Make Me Fight You
One of Kingdom Come: Deliverance‘s selling points is its in-depth combat system. Whether you’re fighting to defend your lady’s honor, or you’re trying to take down a bunch of bandits in the woods, the game grants you precise control over how and where you attack, and I hate it. Look, I’m willing to accept that I’m just bad at it, but I wish there was an option to disable the advanced combat system and go to a hack ‘n slash mechanic. Perhaps it’s the fact that Henry starts off having no fighting skills whatsoever. Fine, that’s fair. I won’t pick a fight with random knights who will no doubt kick my ass. However, when the game’s main story line leaves me in a situation where I am facing multiple enemies who are better equipped and more skilled, I’m not a fan.
The combat feels awkward to me and I never feel like I’m in the fight at all. So I’ve resorted to just running away. That’s sometimes easier said than done because enemies seem to be able to follow you forever without losing stamina, so when Henry runs out of a breath, he gets a sword in the back. My only resolve now is to call my horse, try to get a large enough lead on my pursuers that I can circle back, mount the horse, and ride away like a coward. To the game’s credit, in several situations where I had to face enemies in this manner, I was able to get help from NPCs who then joined me in the fight and helped me succeed. Overall, however, I could do without that, and I wish that game developer’s would stop trying to turn my relaxing, immersive role-playing experience into a medieval contest of mouse accuracy and timely button pressing.
The Final Verdict
There’s no doubt that Kingdom Come: Deliverance has its issues. But I could probably spend another 50 hours in the game, just enjoying the world, completing quests while on the hunt for that perfect outfit so I can go sneaking into the private quarters of the monastery in the middle of the night and read forbidden books. Not to mention pursuing several romantic interests, while living out of an abandoned hut in the middle of the woods, hunting game for food. Point is, there is no shortage of things to do and the game is utterly enjoyable. Just don’t make me fight anyone. Technical glitches can be patched but the core mechanics of the game are solid and I would heartily recommend giving Kingdom Come: Deliverance a closer look if you suspect it might strike your fancy.