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Warhorse Studio | Official Site
RPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 02/13/18)  | Pub:Warhorse Studio
Distribution:Download | Retail Price:$59.99 | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:n/a
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Kingdom Come: Deliverance - A Glimpse at Medieval Life

By Christopher Coke on February 13, 2018 | Columns | Comments

Kingdom Come: Deliverance - A Glimpse at Medieval Life

In Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you’re no hero. In fact, you’re pretty much a nobody: a blacksmith’s son who knows more about making a sword than wielding one. When disaster strikes, you run and so your quest for vengeance begins. Kingdom Come is a game that looks like Skyrim only if you squint because it drops the every bit of fantasy flair. It’s a game about existing under siege in the year 1403 and, as you’ll soon find out, you are not prepared.

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The first thing you should know is that thing game is big. Really big.  In fact, fellow reviewer, Chris Saxon, and I got together with Bill and decided we couldn’t provide a final score with only four days of play time. Adding to that, Warhorse recently deployed a massive 20GB day one patch that adds new world events, rebalances progression, tweaks combat and fixes swaths of bugs. As a result, what you’re reading today is a provisional review based on our time before this huge update. We’ll be back again next week to give you our final thoughts after the improvements.

Kingdom Come is set in the year 1403 in the Kingdom of Bohemia. The good king Charles IV has died, leaving his kingdom to his son, Wenceslaus IV. Seeing Wenceslaus care more for wine and women than ruling, Charles’ other son, Sigismund, kidnaps Wenceslaus and sets about oppressing the kingdom, enriching himself and pillaging the villages and strongholds.

And so it happens that our decidedly unheroic hero, Henry, finds his town ransacked and burned by Sigismund’s army. His parents are slaughtered in front of him and everything he knew of life is obliterated. Yet, Henry is not your average video game protagonist. He’s a blacksmith’s son with no special skills of his own. He’s useless in a fight and would rather drink with buddies than do more than dream about leaving his village. When the unthinkable happens, he runs for his life and barely makes it out alive.

As the game progresses, things change, as you might expect. Kingdom Come is a deep RPG with progression systems on top of progression systems. As I made my way through the first eight hours, the thought that kept coming into my head was how much the game seems to marry the Skyrim formula and older CRPGs to make something all its own. Its sprawling open world is experienced in the first person and the middle age trappings are immediately familiar.  At the same time, its open-ended dialogues can change the course of entire quests based on the stats you’re going in with. For the first time in ages, we have a AAA, first-person RPG that allows you to talk your way through situations instead of forcing you into fight or only presenting the illusion of choice.

Progressing your character is done through perks housed under main stats, weapon, and survival skills. Your core attributes - strength, agility, vitality - progress through use right away. Others, like armor maintenance, need to first be learned. A quick look through the skills gives you a good preview of what’s to come. After eight hours, I’ve yet to hunt, but seeing that there’s a whole skill tree for it, I already know I’ll be investing in it later.

There’s a depth to these systems that extends beyond the simple act of investing points. Of the skills I’ve unlocked so far, most require mini-games to successfully use. Pickpocketing, for example, involves holding a button behind your victim as you go deeper into their pockets toward the valuables hidden at the bottom. But no so fast, you also have to get out with the item as a timer ticks down. If you get caught, that person is guaranteed to run straight to the guard, landing you in jail or paying a hefty fine. Kingdom Come is one of the few games that makes using the skills its own motivator instead of the reward that comes after.

The same is true for combat, which can be downright hard. Warhorse has developed a complicated system that makes it difficult to slash your way through encounters. You can slash or stab in five different directions arranged in a star. Like real sword fighting (I imagine), you have to consider which way your enemy is guarding and expecting you to swing from. Perfectly timing a block or dodge opens up an opportunity to attack, but it’s not always that easy. The AI is fairly vicious and will exploit you more than it will let itself be exploited. Early enemies - as in, before you’re even taught how to block - are fairly easy, but after that it’s simple to get overwhelmed or stuck in a cycle of blocked attacks. Getting caught in a combo can open up a bleed that will kill you even after the fight is done, too, so it’s often not as simple as just living longer than the other guy.

As you progress with different weapons, you’ll unlock combos like the picture above. These can be game changers but require great timing and are tough to master. It’s an interesting injection of fighting game into this otherwise core RPG.

Throughout everything in Deliverance, there’s an emphasis on realism that’s striking. If you’re covered in blood, townspeople will react to you differently or run away. Not washing your clothes lowers your charisma and influence in conversation. Guards will randomly stop you if you look suspicious. You have to eat and sleep regularly, and if people catch you where you’re not supposed to be, they’re quick to run and get a guard. Spending time in jail is a literal timeout as a slow timer counts down days worth of hours.

But if the game is remembered for anything, it how incredibly well realized this world is. More than any game I can remember, Rattay feels like a place. There is such an incredible attention to detail; Warhorse wears its passion for this time period on its sleeve. You can and should get lost here just exploring and taking it all in. I’ve never experienced such an engrossing picture of human history. I went in worried about the developer’s insistence that they didn’t need fantasy trappings, just 16 square kilometers in 1403. I was wrong.

Can we talk for a second about the woods? Just indulge me here, because this game has the best woods in the history of video games. Yes, yes, I haven’t played every video game, but damn it, these woods feel real. They’re dense with foliage and the mix of light and shadow and volumetrics just makes me wish I could spend more time strolling through the trees.

Okay, aside over.

But for all of Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s successes, my time before the day one patch was dramatically held back from what it should have been, and this is one of the biggest reasons for this review being extended another week. There were simply far too many bugs, and I’ll need to go back and make sure they’ve been squashed before being confident in any review score. In my eight hours, I fell through the world once, crashed repeatedly after, out of the blue, the game refused to load past the splash screens, and had dialogues irretrievably broken when my character spawned in the wrong place. My fall through the world was actually because the game loaded me between walls on top of a building and forced me out the only way it knew how.

Here’s a dialogue with the camera square in my character’s head. I even had some of the Assassin’s Creed: Unity eyeballs going on, but couldn’t capture it in time:

Other times, Henry wouldn’t be in the scene at all and the camera would stare at a blank wall. Once, my character entered a dialogue inside the person I was talking with, leading to some weird doppleganger clipping whenever she was on screen. Chris, over at GameSpace, mentioned a pivotal cutscene that was wrecked when the screen stayed black the entire time.

Another issue that doesn’t seem to be addressed by the day one patch is performance. On a 1080 Ti, i7-7700K, and 64GB of DDR4 3200MHz RAM, I struggled to maintain 60FPS on anything above “high” settings at 1440p. In dialogues, the framerate would plummet into the 20s! The game is beautiful, but given the horsepower of my test system, this speaks to poor optimization.

And good gracious, the beginning is long winded. It took three hours before the opening credits rolled. I jokingly started calling it Kingdom Cutscene because it seemed like every few minutes you’d enter another cutscene, sometimes longer than the amount it let you play! This eases off after you’re set free in the world, but those opening hours can feel like a slog.

Yet, I’ve only scratched the surface with eight or so hours played. I’m told the main campaign is between 30-50 hours and adding the side quests easily extends playtime over the 100 hours mark. I’m not sure I’ll make it there, but I’ll be sinking in for another week to see how it develops.

The world Kingdom Come: Deliverance presents is amazing and the developer’s embrace of realism over fantasy is admirable. For now at least, the too-long beginning, frequent bugs, and lacking optimization drag down an otherwise great experience. Check back next week for our fully developed thoughts.


Provisional Score: 7.0/10


Pros

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

Cons

  • Cutscenes can be long-winded and too frequent
  • Many, many bugs (hopefully the day one patch will resolve)
  • Invisible wall syndrome
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.
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