Warhorse Studios have realized their ambition of of creating an authentic-feeling medieval RPG that, unlike most historical themed action games or RPGs which feel the need to add elements of fantasy or nonsensical science fiction (I’m looking at you, Assassins Creed), goes for a much more grounded and realistic approach. And not only that, but it chooses for it’s setting an early 15th century Bohemia,which is rather obscure to most of us in the English speaking world. But Warhorse, under the helm of Daniel Vavra, have made this an accessible and fully compelling setting and adventure.
Like many RPGs and medieval stories, you start as a young man whose village gets attacked by a foreign enemy, slaughters the village and the parents of the protagonist. In this case, you are Henry, the son of a blacksmith and after the village is attacked, you set out on a quest for vengeance and to regain the sword forged by your father. It is a very typical set up. However, to the game’s credit, it takes its time and it is elevated to have a stronger emotional impact than one might expect.
Once the game starts to pick up, you meet plenty more compelling characters, my favourites of which are Hans Capon; a haughty young noble that is first at odds with Henry but soon become friends. The second is Father Godwin; a local priest with whom is part of a wonderful quest involving drunken escapades that require you to deliver his sermon for him the next morning. Theresa is also wonderful, a simple village girl who lived in the same village Henry did. She has a romance quest line associated with her that feels genuine. It really nice and uplifting. I do however wish there was more of it or that extended into the main quest line with at the very least dialogue that reflects the point you are at. There is also a hilarious side quest involving a witches sabbath that goes awry. And let us not forget Henry himself who is a rather ordinary, but likeable young man who has believable motivations. These are just some highlights, but the writing here is generally quite strong and so are most of the voice performances.
The low point for the quests would probably have to be the monastery infiltration, mainly because it is kind of tedious and annoying if your more rogueish skills are not up to snuff by that point in the game. It felt a little like Bully, minus the fun and ability to give wedgies or kiss girls.
If you have a decent computer, Kingdom Come: Deliverance looks astonishing. The forests are dense and luscious, some of the best I have ever seen in a game. Simply traveling through them either to explore or in between locations and questing is a serene pleasure, whether on foot or on horse. From the tall trees to the running creeks, clearings and hills, the Bohemian countryside presented here is serene, joyous and wonderful. Towns too are brilliantly realised and despite their relatively modest scale and architecture, feel much more lively and large than anything present in Skyrim. Characters, armour and weapons also possess an incredible attention to detail, not only from their fidelity, but also to the grit, grime, blood and wear and tear shown. I played at the high preset, although I had to turn down my resolution to 1080p. Simply put, the visuals of the game possess extraordinary technical quality that allows for the amazing mimetic aesthetic here. It is incredibly immersive, when it all works.
Yes, as you have probably heard by now, KC:D fits the “eurojank” descriptor quite well. It is plagued with technical issues. There’s clipping issues, weird shit like sometimes levitating during alchemy and some people have even experienced bugs that have made certain quests impossible to finish or corrupted their saves. Sometimes certain staircases are bizarrely difficult to surmount. Thankfully, in my approximately 60 hours I didn’t experience anything quite that game breaking. However, for me the worst was the pop-in issues that are frequent enough as to be incredibly distracting and immersion breaking. The performance too is quite poor. To play on medium-high, or high preset, I had to drop my resolution down to 1080p to get generally playable, but not ideal, performance on GTX 970. At 1440p, things were wildly inconsistent with some parts being playable, with the better performance being in wilderness areas rather than cities. In cutscenes too the frame rate dived to painful single digits and in towns it would be a “cinematic” 24fps or thereabouts. This would be more understandable if I tried going for the ultra preset on my setup, but on high or a medium-high mix at 1440p, it should not be so bad. So the game definitely needs some work on that front.
800 words and I haven’t even talked about how the game plays yet! To summarise, the game is an open world structure much like the Elder Scrolls series and The Witcher 3. The entire game, except for dialogue, is in first person. Combat lets you use primarily swords, axes or maces and it uses a sometimes fiddly lock on system. It is directionally based, with five directions plus a thrust and the ability to feint, parry and later on, riposte. As you level up, you can learn new combos as well. It is a system that in its fundamentals is actually quite intuitive, but at first it can feel a bit clunky and very weighty. However, the progression is excellent and you go from slow, clumsy scrub that can hardly handle one or two moderately armored bandits to death on two legs by the mid to late game that can singlehandeldy wipe out an encampment of five or six guys by yourself.. So for me it felt like the typical RPG combat progression and it is incredibly satisfying.
Archery is another facet of the game and, like the melee combat, can feel a bit awkward at the start, especially with the lack of cross hair. But with enough perseverance, it can be rather fun in its own right. Much like the Elder Scrolls games, leveling a skill works by doing, rather than the traditional RPG method of gaining xp and assigning points each level. But with this, an a lot of other elements of the game, will be rather familiar if you have played some of the bigger RPGs of recent years.
As for the save system that is often complained about,while not having a standard manual save (which has been fixed by the recent 1.3 patch), the save system of autosaves or requiring a particular item or using a bed isn’t terribly obtrusive. As for some other general things about the game: much ado has been made about how “hardcore” it is and, while it certainly offers a decent challenge, especially in the combat department, it’s not much more “hardcore” than the Witcher 3 is. The other controversy from some outlets and internet forums is the lack of racial diversity in the game, but those complaints are utter nonsense and I am glad to report that this game is free of irritating pandering to current hot button political issues and other such nonsense.
From start to finish, Kingdom Come: Deliverance was utterly captivating and has been just about the only game I have been playing the past few weeks. I was drawn into it’s serene and beautiful wilderness, the believable characters and the challenging combat. It is a brilliant debut effort from Warhorse Studios and is well worth playing, however it is firmly describable as eurojank, and so the present technical issues seriously hinder the game from achieving true greatness for the present time. Considering that the story also ends on a cliffhanger, I am eagerly awaiting some kind of expansion or sequel that concludes Henry’s story and draws us more into the medieval politics of the Holy Roman Empire.