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The RPG Files: Kingdom Come: Deliverance: Our Final Review

Columns By Christopher Coke on February 23, 2018

Kingdom Come: Deliverance: Our Final Review

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the kind of game I just adore. It’s a marriage between the open-world splendor of games like Skyrim with the deeply systems-based CRPGs like Pillars of Eternity. More than that, it presents a world that feels alive and real in a way that few games ever approach. At the same time, it has a tendency to spoil its own fun with too many bugs and quest lines that drag on to long. Last week, I shared my impressions of the first eight hours. Have things changed after nearly a dozen more hours? This is our final review of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

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We covered a lot of the basics in the first part of our review, so if you haven’t had the chance, take a minute and go read it here. Today, we’ll pick up where those eight hours left off and the impressions I’m left with having dove much deeper into the game.

To give a brief summary, what I found most impressive about the game was how well it recreated medieval life. It threw off the shackles of fantasy on the promise of the real life in 1403 being dramatic enough to tell its own engrossing tale. And, to Warhorse’s credit, they were right. The world they’ve presented is enrapturing. Exploring Bohemia in Kingdom Come is like stepping out of a time machine, such is their attention to detail. Small touches, like the need to visit a bathhouse (or at least soak yourself in a trough), before speaking to your betters, serving on the town guard, and utterly getting your ass kicked before you learn how to fight are the grounded counterpoints to the high fantasy escapades on a game like Skyrim. This is a game where you’re not roleplaying a hero, you’re commoner fuddling his way to vengeance.

If the game is remembered for anything, it will be its dedication to realism. The passion Warhorse Studios has for this piece of history is clear in every small detail: from the size and layout of towns and villages, to the minute details of hanging bells, sconces, and waste, to the horse plops on cobbled streets and ramshackle thatched roofs. Then there’s the wide and mostly empty wilds with woods better realized than any game yet made. Exploration is one of the greatest joys in the game and discovering the game’s inhabitants going about their daily lives immediately makes one begin to wonder about the non-video game realities these people must have lived through.

It also doesn’t hide the cruelty of this world. In the period the game is set, the Kingdom of Bohemia is beset by the armies of the king’s jealous brother, Sisimund. Scenic vistas often give way to burned villages and hanged men. Even when things aren’t as grisly, the dichotomy of the noblety and citizenry is fascinating.

The game is well written enough where you can really feel the class divide as Henry addresses royalty. One early quest stands out in my mind. You’re tasked with accompanying a spoiled noble on a hunting trip. As you meet him that morning, he’s in the stable next to two packed and groomed horses. Of course, being a peasant, I didn’t have my own and assumed the other horse was for me. The noble made me run behind him as he trotted all the way to the camp “as befit my station.”

For the most part, the game is well written and engaging, though it takes far too long to get over itself and let you loose into the world. Like I mentioned in the first part of this review, I spent the first eight hours in a tedious swap of playing and watching as characters drolled on and on. It took a solid ten hours of gameplay to really be free of this tedious loop. When it does let you loose, the game is much better for it. 

Kingdom Come is an open world game like many others. You take quests for different characters, head out into the world, get caught up in world events, and hopefully complete one or two others before returning to town. The world has fewer activities than the likes of Grand Theft Auto, but I always found it fun to come across a group of brigands in need of a good slicing. Sitting down at the pub for a game of Farkle at the end of the day was a bit of simple fun I definitely enjoyed too.

The game, in truth, is less about those side activities and more about surviving through narrative quests. Kingdom Come blends RPG and survival systems together seamlessly, and even adds touches of fighting game into the mix with its sword play. Like Elder Scrolls, your character carries a set of core stats (strength, agility, charisma, etc) that are built up with use and all contribute toward a “Main Level.” Every stat and skill has its own line of perks that can be unlocked with Perk Points earned from Main Levels.

These stats are incredibly important and can dramatically impact how your game plays out early on. If your strength stat is low, you’ll be able to carry less weight, which makes wearing metal armor more difficult. If your charisma is low, you’ll have a harder time talking your way out of situations. In my case, I found myself working hard to build up my charisma as surprisingly many situations can be talked through without the need for bloodshed.

When it does come time to battle, the game uses a deep combat system that rewards careful, strategic play. In combat, your reticle is replaced with a five point star. Moving your mouse in one of those directions with slash or stab from that angle. Properly timing a parry can stagger an opponent opening them up for attack. As you use different weapons, you’ll also unlock combos that can have devastating impact. They’re hard to pull off at first and I often found myself running out of stamina trying. Once you learn the rhythm of combat, though, the swordplay system in Kingdom Come is one of the most satisfying combat experiences I’ve had in a game.

When you’re not swinging steel, you’ll need to be managing the other parts of Henry’s life. He gets hungry quickly and needs fresh food to avoid food poisoning. Go without sleep for too long and his eyelids start to droop. Taking care of your wardrobe also makes a big difference. Since gear wears down over time, you’ll need to visit blacksmiths and tailors to have it repaired to avoid looking like Raggedy Andy to the nobility. Have sex and you’ll get an Alpha Male stat buff. Spend time in jail and you’ll get a punishing debuff.

For all of its good points, though, the game too often descends into tedium. Many quests seem to go on a bit too long. One in particular stands out from the rest (after virtually everything in the first eight hours). You’re tasked with posing as a monk. You’ll spend days inside the monastery, following the routines of monk-hood. Sure, it fits the quest, but it went on beyond the bounds of fun and just became boring.

Even exploring the world, as fun as it is, often leads you to the realization that there are huge swathes of Bohemia that are just empty. I always enjoyed taking the time because it’s all so well realized, but in terms of being engaging as a game? Not so much.

And, sadly, the game is still riddled with small bugs and saddled with poor performance. Even after the massive day one patch, the camera still couldn’t consistently settle on my character’s face in cutscenes. I spent one pivotal moment looking at the top of Henry’s bobbing head.


Not a bug, per se, but at nighttime Henry’s eyes can go a little… black.

When hunting with my bow and arrow, animals allow you to get ridiculously close, but actually aiming is downright terrible. It gets better over time but is never very good. Even more frustrating, the game would sometimes refuse to register hits, even when the arrow was sticking out the broadside of a deer. I have to wonder if animals let you get so close because there would be no way to hit them otherwise.

When it comes to performance, Kingdom Come has a long way to go. It’s not SLI enabled, but even on a 1080 Ti at 1440p and an i7-7700K at 4.5GHz, my FPS vascillated wildly at Ultra Settings. In towns, all of the AI would sap my CPU, dropping FPS into the mid 40s. In the wild, I would peak at about 70 FPS but usually hovered closer to 55-60. In dialogues, it would plummet into the mid-20s. Worse, even lowering settings to High or dropping to 1080p didn’t make the kind of improvement you would expect.

It’s not happening to everybody, and this game is gorgeous with everything turned up, but this just speaks to poor optimization and it hurts the experience. If you want the game to look like the screenshots and are running at a higher resolution, be prepared to need a beefy GPU or to settle for less.

Conclusion

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a game of juxtapositions: the rich and the poor, the beautiful and the horrible, great successes and disappointing failures. As a window into the Middle Ages, it’s a resounding, enthralling success. As a roleplaying game, it’s deep and engaging, blending old ideas with new to create something unique. As a video game? It’s rough around the edges.

Despite its shortcomings, I had a lot of fun with Kingdom Come. For those on the fence, I would wait for a patch or sale before diving in. For everyone else, be prepared for bugs and performance pitfalls. If you can get past that, however, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a diamond in the rough.


Final Score: 7.0


Pros

  • Wonderfully realized world
  • Takes its subject matter seriously
  • Stunning visuals
  • Deep progression systems

Cons

  • Quests can go on too long
  • Many remaining bugs

 

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.