I’ve been waiting for this game for a long, long time. But it’s been in development for even longer! Kingdom Come: Deliverance was originally pitched way back in 2009 and after some ups and downs managed to secure funding and have Warhorse Studios founded in 2011. Most games that take this long to make usually end up as horrible messes. But is this one of the rare exceptions? Lets find out.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes place in Medieval Bohemia (the modern day Czech Republic) during the age of the Holy Roman Empire. The player takes on the role of Henry, a blacksmith’s son, who gets swept up in a war for the crown that is ravaging the kingdom. When Henry’s village is attacked by the foreign invaders and burned to the ground he is left with nothing but a desire for revenge. As a simple commoner it’s not as easy as signing up for the next recruitment drive of Bohemian knights. Henry has to prove himself to be taken into the service of a loyal lord and get the chance to seek vengeance.
The first thing I have to say about the story is that it is incredibly compelling. Characters act like real human beings with actual motivation and reasonable emotional reactions. The voice acting, for the most part, is surprisingly good with the initial conversations between Henry and his father setting an excellent standard for the rest of the game. Mild spoilers ahead (I mean this stuff happens in the trailers) but the scene where Henry’s family is slaughtered was genuinely harrowing. For a game that’s set up to be an open world, open choices style of experience the main campaign’s story line is exceptionally well written and realised.
The only issues I had with the voice acting came with the lesser NPC’s where you can tell that the studio spent less money on the voice talent. It’s not terrible by any stretch and although there is a pretty wild inconsistency in accents the Holy Roman Empire was a big place that comprised a lot of different languages so it doesn’t bother me. I actually find Henry’s west country bumpkin accent quite endearing as it contrasts with the nobility’s more BBC styled English accents and supports the theme of his character being a low born, country boy.
The world itself is pretty huge with a great sense of scale attached. What I mean by that is that Henry starts out in a small village and the wider world is revealed in a very cleverly paced manner that allows the player to gain a growing sense of how big the world is and how small they are. You also get a sense of truly having lost everything after your village comes under attack and you have to flee. There is a grim quest line that sees you return to the charred, charnel house that your village has become and fight off the cut throats and looters in order to bury your parents. In these sequences you’re reminded that Henry really has nothing left at all except for his own two hands and a thirst for revenge.
The level of attention to historical accuracy in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is well documented but if you didn’t know, the team worked extensively with historians to make sure the game was as true to life as it could be. This results in a world that is incredibly well realised. There is a depth to every facet of the landscape that you explore which makes it feel truly ‘lived in’. The last time I felt this transported to another time and place was with Skyrim. I can’t compliment the game world any more lavishly than that.
The gameplay itself does not hold your hand very much. It’s not atrociously difficult but it does rely on you learning the mechanics and using them properly. The combat reminds me a lot of a supercharged version of Mount & Blade. After locking on to an enemy you have several directions from which you can direct your melee attacks. These can either be with fists, swords, axes or a variety of two handed polearms. Your opponent can block, parry or dodge these attacks (as can you) and the overall effect is a very dynamic and intense combat system that feels great when you get it right. Be warned though, it takes some getting used to and you’re probably going to get repeatedly pasted if you try and just brute force the fights with button mashing.
For an FPS game the archery is surprisingly nuanced and tricky to get to grips with. There isn’t any targeting reticule so you just have to practice with a bow until you learn how to judge where the shots will go. Horse riding is a lot easier to get to grips with and I found myself going quite fond of my valiant steed named ‘Pebbles’. There’s a whole host of extra mechanics to get involved with but the two that stick out the most for me are the pickpocketing and lockpicking because I’m a filthy knave. The pickpocketing is one of the cleverest takes on the mechanic I’ve ever seen. You essentially gamble with how long you rummage about in someone’s pocket by holding X to generate your timer. The more you gamble the more time you will get in the next part but it also makes you more likely to get caught. In the next section you need to move your cursor to the right slot, pick up the item then navigate back to the exit screen before your timer runs out. Superb.
The lockpicking on the other hand is an absolute nightmare. This is a system that was clearly designed for the PC and then painfully adapted to console controllers. You basically have to find the sweet spot with one analogue stick then turn the lock with the other. This would’nt be too bad if it wasn’t for the fact that the sweet spot moves as you rotate the lock. Rotating the analogue sticks together is incredibly unforgiving and made all the more frustrating by the fact that lockpicks break and are quite hard to actually get a hold of. I’m stuck on an early quest to rob an executioner of a fancy ring because I can’t find another lockpick. I’m sure more will turn up later on…
Graphically the game is superb. Half of this is down to the imaginative and beautiful natural landscapes that the team have envisioned for Medieval Bohemia but having the Cry Engine certainly helps! I realise this will be less of an issue on higher end PC’s but there is a lot of texture popping in this game and the loading screens, particularly before cut scenes take long enough for it to be quite jarring. The other issue I’ve noticed is the camera placement for conversations occasionally places you inside Henry’s skull but this is a reality of making an open world game of this scope.
Overall I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys action RPGs and can appreciate the supreme level of detail that went into the world building.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a fantastic debut game from Warhorse Studios. It’s a richly detailed and action packed world of high adventure and grim villainy. But for a few technical issues this is a superb experience.