Kingdom Come: Deliverance
A mixed bag of excellent immersion and experience-ruining bugs
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a role-playing game from Czech development studio Warhorse Studios. It has been in development for over four years and was released on Steam earlier this month.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance was announced on Kickstarter back in 2014 after development studio Warhorse Studios was unable to attract publishers to invest in the title. On the funding platform the studio was able to collect 1.1 million pounds in addition to private funding to develop the game.
The game is set in a fictional version of Bohemia and is said to be historically accurate. The game's world features real-world locations, including villages, castles and dungeons, that are inhabited and roamed by common folk, swordsmen, and bandits, that all wear period-accurate armors and costumes.
In addition, the game features combat and fencing systems that are said to be based on historical events and that change depending on the skills your character develops.
In the game players play as blacksmith Henry living in the small village of Skalitz. His peaceful life is soon shattered when an army under the control of Sigismund of Luxembourg raids his village and burns it to the ground.
Henry is one of the few civilians that escapes the village. His parents were less fortunate and are eventually murdered. As the story advances fate drags Henry into the conflict when he joins the resistance to avenge the deaths of his parents.
Our main protagonist Henry is a role you are rigidly placed in with no character creation to speak of - and this is perfectly fine as long as it is done right.
Unfortunately, Henry has the personality of a doorknob and his every struggle is watered down because of that. This makes the story feel like it is force-feeding you a dramatic turn of events with a character who simply can't convey the depth of his struggles. More specifically, Henry's story is competently told, but it are his interactions with other characters, while authentic in prose, that are a consistent bore.
Other than that, players will find there are plenty of nuanced dialogues that, while they lead to largely the same story outcomes, are well written with the time and place in mind.
Side stories and quests sell the setting more than Henry's personal journey does. There is never a moment of aplomb that is convincing enough to support this monomyth-esque narrative. Overall the game's main storyline feels extremely unsatisfactory when compared to other role-playing games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which absolutely nailed story content.
Interestingly enough, it is the side content that pulls its weight with often comical outcomes, such as getting drunk with a priest. This is especially questionable when you consider that the main storyline is usually what carries a role-playing game into the stratosphere and yet here it can be considered average depending on how much you like Henry as a character.
Most of your time within the game is spent either traversing the open world for the next main quest or engaging in side content that varies from underwhelming fetch quests to tense stealth missions and duels with wandering knights.
The variety of content is palpable, but oftentimes it feels like the wide open spaces you walk or ride along could be put to better use. I didn't have much luck experiencing random encounters, unfortunately, and that may not be the case for everyone, but with a world this big there should definitely be a consistent system of encounters to test your strength, stealth skills where your articles of clothing make or break you, or even an advanced use of ranged combat, which didn't feel relevant with everyone using a sword and shield.
Speaking of swords and shields, the mechanics around their use are both brilliant and underwhelming for different reasons. The movement itself is realistically fluid and every feint, block, parry and sidestep feels authentic to what medieval duels were like.
However, passive movement feels overly stiff to force you to occupy a space close to the enemy. In addition, fighting multiple people at once is a mess up to a point where I start to wonder if the game should have been released in this state. This coupled with a broken heavy attack on release day make me feel as though the game needed more time in the oven.
Archery is intentionally difficult as there is no reticle to speak of. The rate at which your character improves at this skill mixes up just how difficult this is but in turn makes ranged combat mechanics feel inconsistent.
I found myself consistently frustrated with how a different bow or arrow can be a night and day difference in terms of effective range, which makes sense but due to the game's broken save game system you can't risk experimenting with how you land that killing blow without setting yourself back in progress, oftentimes significantly too.
The game's save game system is particularly noteworthy as its broken state will be a frequent source of frustration and inconvenience up to the point where game crashes will cause you to lose a significant chunk of progress, which is quite frankly unacceptable.
The save game system seems to be specifically designed to keep you from haphazardly approaching encounters. Saviour Schnapps is a relatively expensive drink that allows you to save on the spot when not in combat. The other way to save is to get a good night's sleep at your home location or an inn on your travels.
Fortunately, the development studio has already announced plans to tweak the game's save game system by allowing players to save their game from the main menu instead.
These issues likely have to do with the draw distance, but with a short loading window between conversations its questionable why this problem persists.
Other than that, the game's visuals are beautifully done, even on low settings. Every piece of environment feels sculpted to a level of detail only seen in very few games thus far.
However, poor optimization overshadows these visual feats. Had optimization been better this would have been a more widely appreciated aspect of the game.
To top it all off, the game features an above-average soundtrack that complements the experience on all counts, despite including some audio glitches here and there. As far as narrative engagement goes it serves its purpose very well and makes weak moments a bit stronger.
Its greatest use is when it starts to play when you explore the open world as it adds to the authenticity and never fails to immerse, as long as visual glitches stay far enough away.
Development studio Warhorse has done things with Kingdom Come: Deliverance that are unprecedented in the areas of graphical fidelity and sound effects. However, technical flaws, a sorely lacking protagonist and lacking narrative hold it back far more than should have been allowed.
I can't help but feel another month in development would have benefited the game immensely, but as it stands right now it doesn't hold a torch to other modern role-playing games that managed to keep game-breaking flaws under control.
Hardcore gamers looking for a medieval simulator should steer clear until losing an hour of progress from a crash becomes a non-issue. The market price is fair when considering the sheer amount of things to do but not in a glitch-filled package.