Kingdom Come: Deliverance is not an experience like your typical open-world roleplaying game and that fact needs to be accepted and respected before diving into the world of medieval Bohemia. While it shares similarities and themes with the renowned Elder Scrolls and Witcher series, the overall mechanics of the experience are very different and if you go into Kingdom Come expecting to be an acrobatic swordsman of unstoppable force and finesse, you’re going to be terribly disappointed; that misguided expectation is the exact reason for a lot of fuss about the game from the community you undoubtedly had heard in the last couple of days.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the flagship IP from Czech developer, Warhorse Studios; founded by Daniel Vávra — author of Mafia: City of Lost Heaven and Mafia II — brings players to the early 15th century, in the year 1403, and puts them in the shoes of Henry, the son of a blacksmith, in the humble silver mining village of Skalitz. Henry is a simple peasant living under the roof of his parents, helping his father forge a sword commissioned by King Wenceslaus’ hetman, Sir Radzig Kobyla. While Henry wishes to explore and see life outside of the village, his father insists that a quieter life is much safer, which illustrates Henry’s inexperience in most prominent features of the average roleplaying games. Henry can’t read, he doesn’t know how to use a bow or wield a sword, and has minimal knowledge of the world outside of Skalitz. But when a war for power descends on the quiet village, Henry is forced into a life he never imagined for himself, joining the service of Lord Radzig Kobyla and fighting in the resistance movement against Hungarian King Sigismund and restore the rightful King Wenceslaus IV to the throne.
It’s worth mentioning first and foremost that Kingdom Come: Deliverance features prominently, a very immersive feel and elements of realism, as well as historical accuracy. The setting brings players to the Kingdom of Bohemia, which is part of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire — now known as the Czech Republic — with some accessible locations in the region being Rattay and Sasau. Warhorse Studios worked with architects and historians during development to ensure period-accuracy by way of armors and clothing, combat techniques, and castles; the game world is absolutely well-crafted and the level of detail is astonishing.
When Warhorse Studios put their ideas into action for the development of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, they originally sought investors for the project, but were unsuccessful in their attempts until they made one successful pitch to a private investor, and secured funding to create a prototype. Warhorse used that prototype to secure funding from international investors, but did not generate the hype they intended. In 2014, they launched a Kickstarter campaign with the intention of raising GB£300,000, ten percent of their US$5 million budget, in order to show that there is an audience and demand for a game like Kingdom Come. When the campaign goal was exceeded in a single month, the Kickstarter campaign ended with a raised GB£1,106,371, and crowdfunding was continued through Warhorse Studios’ website, ultimately raising US$2,002,547 from a total of roughly 38,000 backers.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance shares similarities with some renowned roleplaying games such as dialogue choice and experience and leveling, but the way it’s approached is slightly different. With Henry’s roots as a humble peasant and ambitious dreams to make something of himself, he needs to learn and grow, naturally. However, gaining experience is not a universal or evenly distributed function. Henry must practice different abilities and statistics to improve them independently, while also increasing his overall main level. Such skills or abilities include combat — defense, warfare, sword, bow, etc. — and general — horsemanship, lockpicking, pickpocketing, drinking, reading, herbalism, and more. Each subsidiary of the leveling system has its own perks and can be obtained at certain intervals or milestones. Considering the fact that not all quests are time-sensitive, players can spend as much time as they’d like improving Henry’s skills and abilities outside of the main story.
Henry is an absolutely lovable character that I found myself growing incredibly fond of in the early hours of my experience with the game. Henry is a humble, honorable, and devout Christian that blesses himself before he blasphemes. Of course, your decisions shape the kind of person that Henry becomes; whether or not he maintains his honor, becomes a pickpocketing, lockpicking rogue, or something in between, is entirely up to you. Either way, his simple peasant lifestyle with his parents in Skalitz has taught him to not turn his nose at hard work, but his noble and ambitious goals of exploring the world around him and creating a meaningful life for himself is admirable, and I feel compelled to help him succeed. For me, it’s always been substantially easier to become immersed and lose myself in an open-world roleplaying game when I actually give a hoot about the character I’m playing as. It goes without saying that Henry has earned a place in my heart as one of my favorite characters of all time.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance also features a touch of realism in its mechanics, which requires Henry to sleep and eat in order to stay healthy, weapons and armor will degrade and require repair, and food and perishables spoil over time, rendering them unsafe to consume. With a well-designed day-and-night cycle, Henry’s needs are not excessive or cumbersome; instead, they’re sensible and rather intriguing. For instance, while I was out exploring and found myself wandering in a forest looking for herbs, Henry’s stomach grumbled and he mentioned that he should eat something; that’s when I realized I forgot to pack a snack for him. A little icon on the HUD indicated his level of hunger and showed me that he wasn’t famished, so he could function a tad longer. By the time I gathered the herbs I wanted and reached his lodgings, Henry was ready for a good meal and sated his appetite on bread, roasted chicken, and wine. Naturally, like my office goldfish, I care too much about Henry and overfed him. When you overeat, there is another icon on the HUD that displays the fact and the consequence is being a tad sluggish until Henry digests his food.
Some aspects of Kingdom Come: Deliverance can be tiresome and moderately frustrating including combat, lockpicking, and pickpocketing; interestingly enough, three features that a lot of people have harshly criticized since’s the game’s launch. Lockpicking is nowhere near as close as the mechanic in games like Elder Scrolls, Thief, or Fallout; instead, it’s substantially more tedious and at times, makes one want to avoid it altogether. It’s easy to learn, difficult to execute, and nearly impossible to master without adequate practice. The mechanic itself requires the use of both hands, kept steady, rotating both tools in order to keep the ‘sweet spot’ in the correct spot while turning the lock. However, any error will damage the lockpick and make noise, catching the attention of anyone nearby, and when the lockpick breaks, you’ll have effectively alerted anyone in the immediate vicinity. It would serve the game well to update the mechanic to be more accessible, and if I had it my way, it would be redone to draw inspiration from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Risen 3.
Pickpocketing is another tedious mechanic that is a lot simpler, but still lacks any kind of understandable algorithm for detection. When sneaking up on an NPC and activating them, you’re prompted to hold the appropriate button which starts a timer; the longer you hold it, the more likely they’ll detect you, but you’ll have more time to rummage in their pocket. Once you’re in, you have to move the cursor left or right to select an object in their inventory — usually hidden — and reveal it, select it, and then navigate back to the exit slot before the timer runs out. You’ll reach a point relatively early in the campaign that gives you the opportunity to learn and practice both lockpicking and pickpocketing, and trust me, you’ll need the practice. I think the mechanic could work if there was a clearer understanding of what will cause Henry to be detected so the player could approach a pickpocketing attempt appropriately, like the weight of his armor or how much noise he’s making.
Combat itself is rather well-executed and really incorporates Henry’s inexperience and places the burden on the shoulders of the player, calling for practice, persistence, and attention. It’s hardly cumbersome unless facing multiple enemies simultaneously, in which it may be better to just run away. It’s the duty of the player to learn when to block, stab, and slash based upon the enemy’s movements. You’re able to select a direction to attack from and the position of the enemy’s block is a clear indicator. The only downside to combat is when you get too close to your enemy and they execute a moderately irritating grapple manuever that you can’t seem to block, counter, or escape from. Henry is not a master swordsman, a furious combatant, or a renowned duelist; there’s no shame in running for the hills when outnumbered, especially when it comes down to Kingdom Come’s wonky save system.
The save system is arguably the most controversial aspect about the entire experience and whomever thought its mechanics was a good idea is out of their mind. Kingdom Come: Deliverance will auto-save at the beginning and end of quests, but the rest is up to you. There are no checkpoints and you are only able to save at will if Henry has an alcoholic drink in his inventory called Saviour Schnapps. Well, the issue with that is the fact that they’re incredibly hard to come by and when you do happen to find them, they cost a pretty penny; usually substantially more than the amount of coin Henry is carrying. You’re able to distill your own at some point when Henry is introduced to the world of alchemy, but even then, the process is a tad tedious and takes practice. You’ll also need the required ingredients, either harvested by your own hand or purchased from an herbalist or alchemist. Aside from that, you’re able to save by sleeping in a bed that Henry either owns or is provided, which is indeed a saving grace. However, with quests usually containing several different objectives involving travelling from here to there and back, there’s nothing worse than poor Henry running all over Hell’s half acre only to mess something up or fall in combat, and then having to replay the last hour. Your best bet is to simply remain open-minded and patient; despite having to replay segments due to needing to end a play session before the next available save point happened a few times, I still maintained my sanity.
One worthy mention is the in-game codex, which has always served a wonderful purpose in roleplaying games to essentially bring the player up to speed on the lore of the experience. The codex in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is absolutely the most rich and generous one that I’ve ever seen. The codex covers essentially all aspects of the 15th century, ranging from social status and the roles of citizens to the privilege of literacy and honorable behavior, and everything in between. As a matter of fact, I probably spent about an hour alone reading up on medieval lore, which is all historically accurate. I don’t remember learning this much about the medieval era in school.
Overall, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is, without a shadow of a doubt, a new favorite gem of mine. For the last six years or so, all I’ve wanted was a remaster of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or a new Elder Scrolls installment that was very reminiscent to it. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is essentially as close as I can get to having those prayers answered. It is a phenomenal experience all on its own, but its drawn inspirations from renowned classic roleplaying games are prominent and serve well. It’s also worth mentioning that there were some features promised in the Kickstarter campaign that are missing from the released version, including a playable female protagonist, a Tournament Mode (think of the Arena from Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) and a canine companion; it’s very possible that we’ll see these additions in future DLC offerings. With that being said, there are a few setbacks that should really be given some love, care, or even an overhaul; there was a 23GB day one patch that addressed a few issues, with Warhorse Studios promising more updates to address community concerns—there is some hope to be had that an already good experience can be elevated to a higher plane of excellence, and possibly help it make history as one of the best modern roleplaying experiences of its time.