Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: Don’t bring a dagger to a sword fight (2022)

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: Don’t bring a dagger to a sword fight (1)
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by Matt Becker Follow @HulkCrouton

Warhorse Studios attempts to immerse you in historical realism in Kingdom Come: Deliverance but bit off more than it could chew.

Title:Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Developer: Warhorse Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date:February 13, 2018

A neighboring small village was suddenly attacked by bandits, and no one seemed to understand what their motive is or who they even are. After some detective work, Henry (the player) learns one of the villagers might have actually been involved. You had even questioned him just a bit ago! But the other villagers said that he suddenly ran off, most likely with the nearby charcoal burners. Or at least, that’s what was supposed to happen. I walked by the questionable man’s house in the same village and lo and behold, there he was, casually filling up some water at the local well. I couldn’t interact with him at all, and my quest log never updated correctly. Just another typical play session of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

As a big fan of everything medieval, Kingdom Come: Deliverance has piqued my interest for quite a while. The game takes place during a war in Bohemia, a state of the Holy Roman Empire in the early 15th century, and strives to be as historically accurate as possible. Its selling point was its historical accuracy in that lots of the game mechanics are meant to simulate real life during the time period, from crafting to combat to health resource management. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and long development period, Warhorse Studios delivered quite a large-scale and ambitious game for such a small development team. Unfortunately, I think Kingdom Come needed to sit in the oven just a tad bit longer. It’s such an impressive game with interesting ideas and novel mechanics, but its overall lack of polish detracted from an otherwise enjoyable experience.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: Don’t bring a dagger to a sword fight (2)

Credit: Warhorse Studios

It ultimately took me a couple of hours to figure out how to progress the aforementioned quest. There were multiple ways to trigger certain quest events, and I had to find the exact sequence where it didn’t bug out and the questionablevillager actually did run away. I really wish this type of bug was a one-time occurrencein Kingdom Come: Deliverance. But in reality, this was the first of many bugs headed my way. The game had its fair share of small glitches typical of open world games: floating NPCs, clipping, z-fighting, and wild camera angles. But in my experience, it also had a disgusting number of bugs that actually disabled my ability to move forward in the game.

On three separate occasions, I ran into game-breaking bugs that resulted in substantial lost time. I had to reload previous save files and redo fairly long sections of the game. And these weren’t on side quests either. They were on main story quests that halted my progression without reloading. I felt like I was fighting the game half the time, trying to find the exact order I needed to do something in order to avoid a glitch. I can work around getting stuck on stairs, which happened on one particular staircase constantly. But when I lost hours of time because an NPC wouldn’t interact with me or the entire day-night cycle broke? That became extremely frustrating.

Kingdom Come‘s save mechanic only exacerbated this issue. Unlike most open-world RPG games, you cannot just save your game on demand. Either you have to go sleep in your bed or drink an alcoholicSavior Schnapps item. This prevents the common “save scumming” method of traversing through a game, and is an attempt to force you to face the consequences of your actions rather than just quick reload a save file. I actually quite like the concept, and overall found it an interesting mechanic. It’s not hard to make the Savior Schanpps potions, either, and I saved before big fights or interactions without issue. The problem was that I didn’t know when the game would bug out and break. I could save before I deliberately did something, but there’s no way of knowing when to save before an unexpected glitch happens.

I found this really disappointing because Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an extremely immersive game. I was thrust right into the raggedy slippers of a blacksmith’s son on aquest for revenge in a beautifully crafted, living and breathing world. Henry goes from a nobody to quite the resistance fighter as he gets sucked into the effort to restore Bohemia’s rightful king and fight off foreign mercenaries and bandits from destroying the land that he calls home. The story was filled with action, adventure, intrigue, and a surprising reveal. Though the ending was quite anticlimactic, the journey from uneducated peasant to skilled fighter was just fresh enough to keep my attention.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: Don’t bring a dagger to a sword fight (4)

Credit: Warhorse Studios

In so many games, you are almost superhuman from the get-go, able to kill enemies left and right with ease. But this is not a game where you are the epitome of hero. In Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you barely know how to use a sword, you cannot read, and you are equipped with just some rags and little-to-no money. And this translates well into the game. Similar to games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you gain skills the more you do something. You aren’t any good at sword fighting until you actually practice sword fighting.

The game’s realism really shows when it comes to combat, for better and for worse. The fighting controls are similar to games likeChivalry: Medieval Warfare, where timing is everything. Your sword swings actually take time and feel heavy. You have five different locations you can attack and have to use blocks, parries, and feints strategically to wear down your enemy. It’s a battle of attrition, carefully watching your stamina meter so as to not tire yourself out and become exposed to attacks. When fighting just one other person, this system worked pretty well, and while there is a bit of a learning curve, was generally enjoyable and challenging.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: Don’t bring a dagger to a sword fight (5)

Credit: Warhorse Studios

Fighting more than one person, though, seems near impossible without “cheating” the system. The target lock-on system is not the smoothest, and most of the time I found myself just hitting one enemy, then running away and repeating the process. Which, in a way, is realistic: getting ambushed by two heavily armed enemies and surviving wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Early on in the game, this makes sense since you are not a skilled fighter. But after putting all my ability points into Strength and wearing all plate armor, you would think fighting two people would be a bit more reasonable of a task. I found myself having to resort to a “kiting” methodology of fighting, running away, shooting arrows at their faces, until eventually, the enemies died.

Luckily, fighting wasn’t the only way to work through your problems. Kingdom Come: Deliverance uses a persuasion mechanic where you can use attributes such as your speech skills or charisma rating to persuade people to do what you want them to. The NPCs all react differently to Henry depending on a large number of factors. You can piss off entire towns if you get caught breaking the law too many times. I somehow managed to anger an entire village to the point where the innkeeper refused me a bed, though I am also unclear as to what I did to earn that lack of respect. NPCs also react to the clothes you are wearing and how dirty you are. Blood on your armor? Some villagers are afraid to approach you, so you better repair your armor at the blacksmith and clean up at the bathhouse. Wearing full plate armor and a visored helmet? Merchants refer to you as a knight. You can even don a monk’s robe and people question why you aren’t in the monastery.

Aesthetically, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a beautiful game. Developed with a modified version of the CryEngine, the world is stunning from top to bottom. I spent a decent amount of time just exploring the world and taking it all in, filling up my screenshots folder with wonderful views of Bohemia. It helps that the game is completely first-person with a minimal UI. The game’s music is also very well done, switching from joyful flutes when in town to a more serious and brisk string ballad when in combat. The map in itself is a wonderful piece of art that stimulated some serious nostalgia for Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

But with such beauty comes a price. Similar to how CryEngine’s paramount game Crysis put a toll on many gaming machines, Kingdom Come falls into a comparable trap. I have a dated but relatively high-end gaming PC, and for the most part, could run the game at a stable 50-60 frames per second after tweaking the graphics settings to medium. Relatively often, though, the game would hit rock bottom FPS to the point where I actually thought the game froze. Nothing ruins the moment during an epic raid on an enemy camp like a freezing screen every thirty seconds.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: Don’t bring a dagger to a sword fight (7)

Credit: Warhorse Studios

Despite these technical flaws, the world of Bohemia Warhorse Studios has crafted is truly immersive. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about having to micromanage every aspect of Henry’s life and looks, but ultimately it added to the game’s personality. I never felt like I was playing “meter maid” with his energy or hunger levels. Eventually, you unlock enough perks and skills that most of those mechanics aren’t all that intrusive. My only complaint is that the hour-glass “waiting” screen moves entirely too slow. I spent more time than I would have liked staring at that screen, waiting for the right time of day. But this is a minor complaint in an otherwise great implementation of how a day-night cycle should work in a game. Want to sneak around and steal? Wear all black and commit your crimes at night. Want to buy from merchants? Better wait until 9 a.m. when the shops are all open.

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Credit: Warhorse Studios

I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of playing through this living and breathing world that didn’t revolve solely around Henry. There are many quests that are time sensitive as well, adding to this feeling that the world moves regardless of what you do. If you don’t meet someone at a specified time, they aren’t going to wait for you. Life moves on, and you can choose how you interact with it. As long as you don’t experience a game breaking bug along the way, of course.

You can tell that Warband Studios poured its heart into this game, but the game lacks a lot of polish.

The more quests you complete, the more people recognize you and cheerily greet you visiting their town. And there is an insane amount to do in this game, from honorable deeds like helping defeat some pesky bandits to menial tasks like herb gathering to dishonest pickpocketing. The alchemy crafting system is one of the most intensive I’ve seen in a game, requiring numerous and precise steps to create a potion. This includes potions to put people asleep or poison them as well: your Henry can be as honorable or as naughty as you want him to. This includes paying visits to the “wenches” at the bathhouse, who provide more services than just your typical bath. Henry can court multiple women within the game and is very open when it comes to sexual activity. He even gains a post-coital, macho “Alpha Male” perk that buffs his charisma, which I found to be a cotentious and unnecessary addition.

In a game that supposedly prides itself on historical accuracy, it’s small things like that this that remind you that this is very much still a video game. Realism gets thrown out the window a bit when you can brew potions that make you see better in the dark or potions that completely curedrunkenness. Kingdom Come aims to be historically accurate, but its use of elements such as these deflate that feeling of realism. And this makes it all the more questionable when the game seemingly throws aside modern societal political correctness. The game’s portrayal of this time period is very much dominated by males, while women are essentially treated as second-hand citizens. I am no historian and cannot comment on the accuracy of this, but even the noble women in the game are often sexualized and portrayed as generally helpless.

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I would be remiss not to mention that this supposedly accurate portrayal of the era extends to the game’s treatment of racial diversity. The in-game codex has a few entries regarding foreigners in Bohemia and claims that very few foreigners visited the region during this era. Yet one of the main enemies in the game, the invading Turkish nomads, the Cumans, play a key part in the storyline.Are the Cuman accurately portrayed in the game? Should the game have included people like the Islamic Moors to be historically accurate? What are the sources of this information in the game’s codex? Obviously, I am not a historian. But when a game breaks its realism with “magic” potions, one can’t help but wonder what other historical accuracies were tainted.

Warhorse Studios has clearly put in a lot of research during the development of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, but I can’t help but raise some eyebrows when it comes to thequestionable views held by directory Daniel Vavra.Vavra claims there were “no black people in medieval Bohemia”,though varying historians and academics have said otherwise. But this is not a game made by a single person, and even if that person holds disreputable opinions, their individual influence on the historical accuracy of this game cannot be reasonably covered in full within this review. But there is nothing wrong with asking clarifying questions to gain a full and truthful point of view on the subject and is something I recommend you keep in mind if you choose to play Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

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That being said, from a pure gameplay perspective, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is quite an interesting and fresh take on open world RPGs. It’s filled to the brim with personality and immersive mechanics that bring you right back to the 15th century, as niche as that might be. But it’s also a technical nightmare filled with game breaking bugs and glitches. You can tell that Warband Studios poured its heart into this game, but the game lacks a lot of polish.Kingdom Come has a lot of interesting and unique ideas, but the execution of those ideas just wasn’t quite up to par. Future patches might help ease the pain a little, but in its current form, it’s hard to fully recommend.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: Don’t bring a dagger to a sword fight (10)

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Warhorse Studios

5

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an extremely immersive and ambitious open-world medieval RPG unlike any we’ve ever seen. But its attempts to remain engaging are ruined by a plethora of technical issues and an overall lack of polish. It’s a unique, niche experience that shows potential, but in the end it fails to deliver.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments.Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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