There hasn't been a shortage of open-world adventure games of late but Warhorse Studios brought to life a new action role-playing game (RPG) that tries to be a little more historically accurate than other fantasy-type titles, called Kingdom Come: Deliverance (KCD). The setting is the early Fifteenth Century, and the Holy Roman Empire is in a state of turmoil. The player is tasked with taking control of a lad called Henry, the son of a renown blacksmith, to find his way in the world.
Set in the Kingdom of Bohemia, part of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire — now known as the Czech Republic — Kingdom Come Deliverance is an ambitious project for such a small studio. It's a similar story to The Witcher (opens in new tab) series. The game is huge when one starts to explore the surroundings, which have been crafted to make each location feel different.
But it's not just the gameplay and visuals that help immerse the player in the open world. Warhorse Studios put aside the time to really hammer home the history lesson by adding in a codex where you'll likely spend a fair amount of time. This in-game wiki records every location you come across, updates on factions and points of interest.
The main plot revolves around Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Emporer, who dies in 1378 after many years of peace and prosperity. His eldest son, Wenceslaus IV, takes over and proves to be unfit for the position, which allows half-brother Sigismund of Luxembourg to muster a massive army and pillage the land after kidnapping Wenceslaus.
Interestingly, Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes a unique approach to character development. You don't have classes (since there's no magic), and character development is completely open. You get the choice of primary abilities during the initial dialog with a family member. After that, the game takes you through a few quick tutorials and you're thrust into war.
How you go about your day-to-day business in-game is entirely down to you. It's possible to complete the story or head off and spend countless hours wandering around. Just be sure to rest up, eat some food and carry some saving potions for your travels. You can't simply save the game everywhere, which will require you to carefully make plans and approach situations.
Dancing with swords
Combat is carried out a little differently to how other big RPGs handle taking down opponents. The game will auto-lock on enemies you're currently facing — but you can override this targeting system and run around or switch target — and directional control manipulates which direction and where on the enemy you will strike. It felt a little clunky at first but I grew accustomed to the mechanic.
Timing is everything, as is using block effectively. Usually, whoever has the highest armor and damage ratings would come out tops in RPGs, but in KCD it's all calculated, taking into account more factors. The game uses a physics-based impact system, which allows the developers to take into account the shape of armor pieces and how much protection they offer by covering up vulnerable sections of skin. If you leave your shoulders open and get hit by a sword there, it's going to hurt.
Healing in battle is forbidden. (Seriously, who believes a knight would be able to halt a fight, drink a potion and continue?) This makes combat a little more unforgiving as you attempt to dance around enemies, block incoming blows and land devastating swings yourself. It's something you'll need to grow accustomed to.
It's not all about combat, however. In fact, you can make some progress without swinging a sword. As well as having usual skills that affect combat, strength, and agility, conversation options are affected by a few stats, depending on how you wish to try and persuade someone. There's also a stealth system with pickpocketing and lockpicking. There are multiple ways to approach certain situations, which gives you the sense of control.
And NPCs can and will react to some of your actions, including quests. Say, for instance, you need to save someone from death. Should you take too long, that character will die. Side quests can progress without player input, so if you do not want to miss out on anything, be sure to prepare yourself ahead of time.
Bohemia is pretty
Kingdom Come: Deliverance will not win any awards for the best-looking game released in recent years, but it holds its own. Visual effects and lighting are well done, and the world generally feels lived in with poorer areas looking like somewhere you'd not like to end up at. The land may be an open one but you won't be able to go absolutely everywhere, nor will you be able to pick up and interact with every object in-game.
The UI reminds me of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with the papyrus-themed elements. When not in the character screen, a compass is displayed at the top, which handles points of interest, quests and other markers. Much like other RPGs, you have an inventory (with a weight limit), quest journal, map, and statistics, the latter which records and tracks your standing with different factions.
I encountered a few issues that caused the game to lock up at times, crash completely when attempting to enter into a conversation with an NPC, or have Windows reboot entirely — the latter only occurred once and could be an anomaly. Aside from those minor issues, performance is actually stable enough to not break the immersion. Rocking an Intel Core i5 and GTX 1070 allows you to turn up settings and enjoy a stable 60 frames per second (FPS).
One part I do not like about KCD is the transition between cutscenes, conversations and other instances, which is handled by fading to black. It breaks the flow a little. The popping in of textures and objects can also result in a somewhat unpleasant viewing experience while wandering around, more densely populated areas in particular. Even with the massive (around 20GB) day one patch installed — rocking version 1.2 — there are still many bugs and performance issues.
Should you buy Kingdom Come: Deliverance?
Like RPGs? Love games like Elder Scrolls and The Witcher? Chances are, you'll also love KCD. It's a game that attempts to take the tried and tested formula used by the big names in the industry and add a little factual history and mechanics to match the real world. It's an interesting experience that'll leave you with a smile on your face ... if you can overlook some glitches and some clunkiness.
- Vast open world.
- Interesting quests.
- Excellent dialog.
- Unique combat system.
- Amazing levels of immersion.
- A little clunky at times.
- Some voices are bizarrely matched.
- A few bugs and serious performance issues.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance's large open world is packed full of things to do in a setting many can relate to. It's by no means perfect, which is unfortunately down to the sheer scope of the project for such a small team of developers. Still, you're going to get many hours of entertainment from this game. It's available now for around $60.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the publisher. It was conducted on a PC running Windows 10 with an overclocked Intel Core i5-6600K, GTX 1070, and 16GB of RAM.